Chiang Saen Travel Guide

The laid-back, ancient town of Chiang Saen is located in northern Thailand, at the southernmost edge of the Golden Triangle, 60kms northeast of Chiang Rai. It combines tumbledown remains with Mekong River panoramas and is a base from where to discover the border area east of Mae Sai.

Most visitors come here on a daytrip from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai to spot the ruins of the town’s moat and walls along with various temples and defenses. The riverfront is usually full of boats due to Chiang Saen’s foremost trading with China’s Yunnan Province and, in increasing numbers, tourists who embark to see more of the river basin.

The National Museum houses some impressive Buddha images, architectural items rescued from the ruins, and rural artifacts. Next door is Wat Phra That Chedi Luang, the main temple, with its remarkable, overgrown octagonal chedi. For devoted temple explorers, there is an information center run by the Fine Arts Department opposite the museum.

The most imposing of Chiang Saen’s various temples is Wat Pa Sak, featuring laterite columns and restored brick buildings, while its central chedi displays some strikingly carved stucco decoration. A popular sight outside the town walls, the temple of Wat Prathart Doi Jom Gitti was built on the top of a hill in the 7th century and provides a superb view as distant as the Golden Triangle.

Getting There & Away

Frequent buses leave from Chiang Rai to Chiang Saen, with the journey taking around 1 hour. Chiang Rai Airport is a 1-hour, 30-minute flight from Bangkok, where international connections are abundant.

Things to Do

Chiang Saen Attractions

National Museum

Contains some imposing buddha images and items rescued from the town’s ruins.

Wat Chedi Luang

Was probably the town’s main temple 650 years ago and features an extraordinary chedi.

Wat Prathart Doi Jom Gitti

Set on top of a hill and offering fantastic panoramas.