According to the well-known myth, Chiang Saen was a hidden ancient city named Yonok Nak Phan, existed over 2,000 years ago in the north of Chiang Rai. With the help from the Nagas (giant serpents), Chiang Rai’s King Singhanawat had founded the city, which later brought back lucks to the city. Yonok Nak Phan had to suffer from the destiny, making the city collapsed, flooded and was washed away from the earth. On the other hand, the scientific studies explained that the cause of the devastation was an earthquake that transformed the city to Chiang Saen Lake.
Apart from the story above, the evidence of the historical existence of Chiang Saen proves that the city was in the reign of King Meng Rai of the Lanna Kingdom and it was named under the ancient language Tai used by Burmese and Northern Thai. ‘Chiang’ means ‘dense city’ and ‘saen’ probably relates to King Meng Rai’s nephew, King Saen Phu, who served as the third king of Chiang Saen after King Meng Rai. King Saen Phu had ordered Chiang Sean the capital city from 1327-1341 before his son, King Kham Fu took over the reign.
When Chiang Saen experienced a decline, it was no longer a capital city but there was still the great expansion on the Buddhism through many governors as seen from the ruins discovered—75 temples within the city and 66 outside Chiang Saen, which all certified the Chiang Sean civilization under the influence of Buddhism. Later in 1557, many cities including Chiang Mai and Chiang Saen were invaded by the Burmese, following by troops from Ayutthaya.
The charming Chiang Saen is located among the convergence of Thailand, Burma and Laos and sits next to the beautiful and peaceful Mekhong River. It’s rich with the natural beauty and many cultural heritages waiting for you to explore. With its long history, Chiang Saen is an ideal place for you learn the history through the impressive stuccos, craftwork and Buddha images which the characters and techniques are influenced from Lanka, Sukhothai and Ayutthaya arts.
Travelling to Chiang Saen
By car: Chiang Saen is 30 kilometers from Mae Chan District and you can travel through the Highway No. 1016. Otherwise if you travel from the municipality, take the Highway No. 100 then take a right into the Highway No. 1016 and drive for 30 kilometers.
Rental car: The most convenient way is to rent a car in the municipality then drive to Chiang Saen but you can also opt for the motorbike as it would be easier riding due to the condition of the roads.
Bus: You can hop on the buses from Chiang Rai anywhere and it costs only B20 for one-way trip. The travelling time is unpredictable depending on the traffic and the stops the buses make, which could be from 45 minutes to two hours. For those who travel from Chiang Mai needs to ask for the buses that drive through the ‘new route’ (Sai Mai) with the less stops and it will take about 4-5 hours while the old route would take more than 9 hours.