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Notes on the Geography of Thailand: Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is the much smaller neighbor of Chiang Mai, which is roughly 100 miles to its southwest. Chiang Rai is close to the Mekong, however, as well as to Laos and Burma, and an airport handles daily jet flights from Bangkok.

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Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 1

Once again, as in Bangkok, the Thais are working hard to display Thai culture.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 2

The guide books, firmly in the death-grip of Karl Baedeker, send you without fail to this meticulously maintained stupa.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 3

It's odd seeing a brand new old building.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 4

Chiang Rai's old market has not yet been upgraded for tourists. When it is, these cheap fabrics will be gone--available only in malls outside town. 

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 5

Eventually this old-market shop will be indoors.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 6

Modern cities need lots of mobility--and here that means motorscooters. Chiang Rai is motor-scooter heaven, partly because public transportation is poor and partly because people have enough money to buy these machines.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 7

A fresh shipment.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 8

The big boys are here, too: Adidas, Fuji, and (sharp eyes!) Pizza Hut.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 9

Chiang Rai's enclosed mall.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 10

Haagen-Dazs, Del Monte--all the standard brands are on the shelf, along with plenty of rice and tropical produce. Such hypermarkets are estimated to handle about a tenth of Thailand's total retail sales. Tesco is here, along with Carrefour and Germany's Makro. Market analysts say that 100,000 people are needed to support such a store in France; in Thailand, where incomes are lower, the number is probably a million.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 11

"What flavor of yogurt did you say?"

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 12

Chiang Rai's top hotel, viewed from a respectful distance.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 13

The city's sex district is known as Patpong, same as in Bangkok. It's a quiet place by day.

Thailand: Chiang Rai picture 14

No holds barred.

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The sign says that the food here doesn't lead to pregnancy. But the context of the joke is no joke; neither are the condoms on every table, offered as a very serious suggestion.

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