Chiang Saen National Museum: A Window into Chiang Rai's History453
BY The Bear Travelers

Chiang Saen National Museum: A Window into Chiang Rai's History

Chiang Saen is an ancient walled city on the Mekong River bank by the border between Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. It is full of ancient ruins and abundant history you may have never heard of.

Chiang Saen City Temple

Over there, we have a great museum to see, the Chiang Saen National Museum. It is the museum in the archaeological site exhibiting archaeology and historical arts associated with the settlement of the community before the historical period of Thailand.

Without further ado, let's look around the museum to see what it offers to explore.


The Bear Travel  Fun Fact!

Chiang Saen City is significant as a strategic outpost at the western bank of the Mekong River and the intersection with the Ruak River separating Thailand and Myanmar.



Journeying Back to the Ancient Times of Chiang Saen

Wat Phra that Pha Ngao Chiang Saen Archaeological Site Chiang Rai Thailandxa

Chiang Saen, a city located in Northern Thailand, has a rich historical background. It was established in the 14th century by King Saenphu (1325-1334) of the Lanna Kingdom. This city became a significant religious and cultural center, evident from the numerous ancient temple ruins scattered throughout the area.

During the 16th to 18th centuries, Chiang Saen was under Burmese rule until King Kawila of Lanna eventually recaptured it. Throughout the 19th century, the city faced turmoil as it became a strategic battleground in the conflicts between the Burmese and Siamese kingdoms. It wasn't until the late 19th century, during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, that the city was resettled and rebuilt.

Today, Chiang Saen is a charming city with approximately 50,000 residents. Its historical significance is reflected in the many temple ruins within and outside the city walls, reminiscent of the ancient city of Ayutthaya, albeit on a smaller scale.



Discovering History at the National Museum in Chiang Saen

Chiang Saen City Temple in Chiang Rai

To uncover the intriguing history of Chiang Saen, step into the Chiang Saen National Museum, where you'll embark on a journey back in time. As you wander through the museum's two exhibition halls, you'll have the opportunity to connect the pieces of Chiang Saen's remarkable 15,000-year-old legacy.

The museum offers an outstanding overview of the city's history and the diverse cultures of the various ethnic groups in the region. Chiang Saen's significance as a sacred center also led to the development of its distinctive artistic style in depicting Buddha, and you'll find numerous examples of this unique style in the museum's collections.

Furthermore, the Chiang Saen National Museum is an ideal starting point for exploring the city, as several ancient ruins and historical sites are within walking distance. It provides visitors with a comprehensive understanding of Chiang Saen's rich heritage and place in northern Thailand's broader historical and cultural context.



Architectural Features of the Chiang Saen National Museum

Beautiful Panoramic View Chiang Rai Thailand

The Chiang Saen National Museum features two main parts of its exhibition:

  1. Main Exhibition Hall (Downstairs):

    • Chiang Saen History: This section provides insights into the history of Chiang Saen.

    • Pa Suk Temple's Molded Lime Pattern: Explore the artistry of the molded lime patterns at the Pa Suk Temple.

    • Lanna Buddha Statue Art in Chiang Saen: Delve into the unique artistic style of Lanna Buddha statues found in Chiang Saen.

    • Chiang Rai: Learn about the history and cultural significance of Chiang Rai.

    • Stone Inscription: Discover the importance of stone inscriptions in preserving historical records.

  2. Mezzanine Level:

    • Popular Archaeological Places in Chiang Saen: Explore well-known archaeological sites in Chiang Saen.

    • Archaeological Items in Chiang Saen and Chiang Rai (1957): This section showcases artifacts discovered in 1957, including Buddha statues, jewelry, pagodas, brick inscriptions, and bronze objects.


In addition to these two main sections, the museum also features a Complementary Exhibition with four parts:

  • Lanna Wares: Learn about Lanna pottery made from the Chiang Rai kiln.

  • Nationality Studies: Explore various aspects of the region's diverse ethnic communities, including their professions, traditional tools, and local instruments, as well as swords and weapons.


These exhibitions provide a comprehensive view of Chiang Saen's rich history, art, and culture, allowing visitors to appreciate the city's significant contributions to the heritage of northern Thailand.


The Bear Travel  Trivia

Chiang Saen National Museum compiled material information and stories related to culture, religion, and assumptions exhibited by ancient items and traditional Chiang Saen. 



Exploring the Surrounding Attractions of Chiang Saen Museum

Temples in Chiang Saen City

Chiang Saen is a city rich in history and archaeological significance, and there's much to explore in this ancient Thai city:

  1. Wat Chedi Luang: Visit this temple, which King Saenphu constructed to enshrine a relic believed to be a piece of the Buddha's sternum.

  2. Smaller Temple Ruins: Throughout the historical city, you'll find the remains of smaller temples, including Wat Phuak Phan Tong and Wat Roi Kho, which date back to the 16th century.

  3. Wat Pa Sak: Just a short 200-meter walk from the main city gate, this historic site features the ruins of seven structures, including a revered chedi from the mid-14th century.

  4. Chiang Saen Lake: Explore the beautiful Chiang Saen Lake, known for bird-watching, particularly waterfowl and waders that migrate here between November and February.

  5. Wat Phra That Chom Kitti: Climb the 350-step mythical naga serpent staircase to reach the forest hill temples of Wat Phra That Chom Kitti. The temple's chedi is believed to contain a relic of Buddha's hair, and the panoramic views from the hilltop are spectacular.

  6. Markets: Chiang Saen boasts various markets, including the nightly Walking Street Market, where you can interact with locals and savor delicious local dishes by the Mekong River.

Chiang Saen's proximity to the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos converge, adds to its historical and archaeological importance. Whether exploring its ancient temples, enjoying the lake's natural beauty, or immersing yourself in local markets, Chiang Saen offers a unique glimpse into Thailand's rich cultural heritage.



Why Visit the Chiang Saen National Museum in Chiang Rai?

Mountain Laos Views Ban Doi Sa Ngo Chiang Saen Chiang Rai Thailand This Includes View Golden Triangle that Spans Thailand Laos Myanmar

Chiang Saen National Museum, situated in the old town of Chiang Saen, offers a treasure trove of artifacts and cultural insights:

  1. Chiang Saen-style Bronze Buddha Image: One of the museum's highlights is a well-known Chiang Saen-style bronze Buddha image, showcasing the distinctive artistic heritage of the region.

  2. Inscription Stones: The museum displays stone inscriptions from Phayao and Chiang Saen, providing historical context and insights into the region's past.

  3. Hill Tribe Artifacts: Visitors can explore artifacts from various hill tribes, including the Thai Yai, Thai Lu, and others. These artifacts range from musical instruments to ornaments and even opium-smoking paraphernalia.

  4. Archaeological and Historical Exhibits: The museum houses archaeological finds, ancient tools, and historical artifacts, shedding light on the community's history in Chiang Saen, dating back to prehistoric times. It includes stone tools, terrazzo tools, Buddha statues, stucco sculptures, and stone inscriptions.

  5. Art and Culture: The museum serves as a hub for learning about the local arts and culture, offering art training for youth and organizing special exhibitions. It's a place where you can discover the history, art, and heritage of the Chiang Saen region.


From ancient tools to intricate art pieces, Chiang Saen National Museum is a window into the rich tapestry of this historic region. Whether you're interested in the artistic heritage, the history of hill tribes, or the archaeological finds of Chiang Saen, this museum offers valuable insights into the cultural heritage of Northern Thailand.



How to Visit Chiang Saen National Museum in Chiang Rai?

Mekong River Chiang Saen District Chiang Rai Province Thailand

Visiting Chiang Saen National Museum is an enriching experience, offering insights into the region's history, art, and culture. To get there, you can consider the following transportation options:

By Private Car:

  • If you prefer driving, you can take a private car from Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok). The route to Chiang Saen involves using Highway Route 32 to connect to Chiang Rai.
  • The total distance is approximately 830 kilometers. It's a scenic drive, and you can plan stops to explore different parts of Thailand.


By Public Transportation:

  • Those who opt for public transportation can take a bus from Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (Bangkok) to Chiang Rai—head to the Mo Chit 2 bus terminal on Kampangpetch 2 road in Bangkok.
  • Buses connecting Bangkok and Chiang Rai are available daily, with multiple daily departures.
  • The journey typically takes around 9-10 hours, so choosing a schedule that suits your travel preferences is advisable.


No matter which mode of transportation you choose, once you arrive in Chiang Saen, the National Museum is easily accessible within the historic town. Make the most of your visit to the museum and explore the rich cultural heritage of this ancient region.


The Bear Travel  Did you know?

Chiang Saen National Museum was stabilized in 1957 as the National Museum of Chiang Saen Archaeological Site. 




Maps & More Information 


Chiang Saen Museum National Museum in Chiang Rai is under the Office of National Museums, Fine Arts Department, and the Ministry of Culture. It compiles antiques from the ancient city of Chiang Saen and nearby areas. According to Lanna's history, Chiang Saen is an ancient city in the upper northern region. The museum brings out the Buddha images in Lanna art, aged between the 16th and 23rd Buddhist centuries, and antiques from the ancient city of Chiang Saen.


Chiang Saen National Museum - A Window into Chiang Rai's History


Business Address

73FH+9PX, Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai 57150

Business Hours

09:00 - 16:00  |  Wednesday to Sunday

Phone Number

+66 (0) 53-777-102

Email Address


Chiang Saen National Museum


20.2707736, 100.0181971



Written by
The Bear Travelers

Hi! We're The Bear Travelers, passionate about exploring the world with friends, family, and loved ones. Join us on our spectacular journey as we dive into chosen destinations and share unforgettable experiences, capturing the essence of travel through engaging posts.


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