Chaing Rai is the capitalof Chaing Rai province, Thailand’s most northern territory. It was once notorious as the center of the Golden Trangle (conjoining Thailand, Laos, Burma) where illegal drug trading flourished. Today the trade (most of it) is gone replaced by tourists. It’s a modest commercial hub with temples, street markets and curbside kitchens everywhere. The Mae Kok River runs along its north side, flowing from west to east and eventually merging with the Mekong River.
The night bazaar is a real slice-of-Thai-life and a good place to sample local food and entertainment. There is a small gay population, not a ‘community’ that does not demonstrate or make festivals. More tourist information can be read at Utopia-Asia and Purple Dragon (LGBT sites).