King Mengrai of Ngoen Yang near present-day Chiang Saen founded Chiang Rai in 1263. The story goes that he was chasing down an errant prize elephant and finally recaptured it at the foot of Doi Tong. Taking this as a good sign, he founded the city here. About 30 years later he went on to found Chiang Mai further south.
A statue of King Mengrai, in front of his tomb.
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Chiang Rai was once a walled city like Chiang Mai, but in the nineteenth century the walls were pulled down on the advice of a Dutch engineer who believed they were bad for public health. 'Restricted the flow of fresh air' was apparently the justification. A few years ago, in order to make the city more interesting for tourists, the city fathers tried to reconstruct part of the wall, but it turned out there was no archaeological or archival evidence of what the walls looked like.