Chiang Rai is the capital of Chiang Rai Province, Northern Thailand. The town proper has a population of around 62,000. It is the commercial centre of the Golden Triangle border region of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. It is an excellent base for exploring the region. Chiang Rai is essentially a service city for the surrounding province. The greater area has a relatively small population of 200,000 people, but also has a respected university and other civic facilities.
The character is distinctly Northern and is distinct from Chiang Mai to the south in various ways. The food is spicier and the ethnic composition includes a good percentage of hill tribes and Burmese exiles.
Public transport consists mainly of tuk-tuks and songthaews, plus a smaller number of taxis. The city itself can be explored on foot, but for trips into the province consider renting a car or a motorbike. Chiang Rai has a few cyclo-rickshaws, which can be a pleasant way to see the main sights if you want a fairly quick tour.