The northern city of Chiang Rai, Thailand, is a bustling place of more than 200,000 people. Its main function for travelers is as a base for trips to visit local hill tribes, embark on elephant treks and tour the famous Golden Triangle area, where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet at the Mekong River, about 12 mi/19 km away.
Chiang Rai has several interesting temples, but Wat Phra Kaew, where the Emerald Buddha was first discovered, is the best known. Legend says the 2,000-year-old Buddha was covered in plaster for safe-keeping from the Burmese, and then forgotten for hundreds of years. It wasn't until lightning cracked its disguise that the gem statue (which is, in fact, Jade) was rediscovered and moved to its current location at the Wat Phra Kaew temple in Bangkok.
There are also two opium-related museums in Chiang Rai: the House of Opium and the Hall of Opium. Both chronicle the Golden Triangle's infamous drug trade. The city also has a lively night market, a smaller but more interesting affair than the more touristy night market in Chiang Mai.
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