A one-road town on the banks of the Mekong River, Chiang Saen was home to the future King Mengrai, who built a citadel here in the 12th century. Two ancient chedis are all that remain standing to remind the visitor of Chiang Saen's ancient glory, but government-financed excavation is gradually uncovering evidence of the citadel. The ancient flooring and walls that have been exposed are providing tantalizing clues about one of the region's first royal palaces. Little of the citadel survived the incursion by the Burmese in 1588, and the remaining fragments were ravaged by fire when the last of the Burmese were ousted in 1786.
The embarkation point for river trips to Myanmar, Laos, and China, Chiang Saen is being developed as a major Mekong River port.