Chiang Rai was our 1st destination in our 15 days girls trip. It is the northern most city of Thailand, surround by mountains and river valleys. This is where the Golden Triangle is where the countries meet – Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.
Beautiful, traditional, simple and quaint. These are the four words I would use to describe the traditional city of Chiang Rai.
No of Days: 3 Days 3 Nights
We flew with Bangkok Airways to Chiang Rai (from Bangkok). It was a 2 hour flight and we were there in no time. We had a comfortable ride and reached on time. We were permitted to carry 20kgs check-in and 7 kgs cabin luggage, which was more than enough for us.
Once we reached the Chiang Rai International Airport, we took a taxi which was the fastest and easiest way to get to our hostel.
Direction: Turn left once you are in the arrivals hall and head all the way own to the end of the terminal. We paid a flat rate of 160 Baht for a 10-15 minute drive to our accommodation.
On the rest of the days as our hostel was centrally located in the city, everything was near by and at a walkable distance for instance the markets, clock tower etc. Therefore, we just chose to walk around instead. But on our last day we hired a scooty for 24 hours to explore Chiang Rai in our own way. Most of the magnificent locations are in the outskirts of Chiang Rai city and the best way was to get your own mode of transport.
These tips and tricks will help you get a better idea on everything related to sim, transport, forex etc.
Accommodation Review: Ti Amo Chiangrai Central, Chiang Rai
This was our first accommodation and we were so looking forward to crash after long travels from Mumbai to Chiang Rai. Ti Amol Hostel is centrally located right next to the Clock Tower (landmark monument) and the Night Bazaar and Saturday Market in Chiang Rai city. We reached the hostel in barely 15-20 mins from the airport. It truly wasn’t much.
We had booked for the Dulex Double Room and it was the best room in the hostel. Spacious + Hygenic with private balcony, toilet and bathroom. Also with daily housekeeping for no extra cost.
Two bottles of water were provided each day along with fresh breakfast in the morning comprising of toast, cereals, tea, coffee, fruits and sandwiches. They even made some fresh cheese toast sandwiches each morning in breakfast, which I absolutely loved! There is also a Jain-Indian restaurant right next door to the hostel for those who might be craving desi food.
Over all the hostel vibe was very comfortable and accessible. Nice people and everything was readily available with them. We had already pre-booked our tour, therefore we did not go through them. But, they have a scooty/motorbike renting place just next door, which was very helpful as we rented a scooty through them. The only hiccup was the bathroom would get clogged whilst you have a shower, otherwise nothing to pin point really. It was an outstanding stay. Value for money – I highly recommend it!
We had booked for an all inclusive private half day tour for two people. The tour included visiting White Temple, Black House and Blue Temple starting at 9 am in the morning. We were really looking forward to this tour as it comprised all the places we wanted to visit.
WHITE TEMPLE / Wat Rong Khun
This is the first location we visited. Stunning! Absolutely stunning! A never before seen temple for us. Wat Rong Khun is one of the the most further off temples from the city and it took us about 15-20 mins odd to reach there. This Buddhist temple was self-funded and built by Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. He is a famous artist not just in Thailand but across the world.
Tip: You will also come across his other work – the Clock Tower right next to the hostel. We could even see it from our balcony.
The White Temple is the artists depiction of heaven and hell as built by God. You’ll notice the journey of a person/soul from hell to heaven with the guidance of Buddha’s principles all through out the temple. You will see a mix of Gothic and Angelic structures everywhere. You will also notice the artist’s favourite movie characters painted on the inside wall of the temple like Kungu Fu Panda and more 😛
The architecture and the artistry involved in building Wat Rong Khun is spectacular. The mirror work on white painted structures is detailed and it beautifully reflects light in every direction. The temple glistens in sun light, it’s such a treat to explore it.
Following the White Temple, there is a Golden temple at the back of the White Temple, construction of which is yet to finished. It has been built for Lord Ganesh. It hosts a museum and a souvenir shop too.
In short, the White Temple/Wat Rong Khun is definitely worth visiting for the sheer grandeur of the structure and the artists work like you have never seen before. This place requires time as it’s huge, kindly bare that in mind. Coming early in the morning is advisable as later in the day it gets far too crowded with tourists. There is also an entry free to the temple, but it was in our tour. I’d definitely recommend this temple for a visit.
BLACK HOUSE / Baan Dam
This was our second location for the day, as it was on the same side of the city as the White Temple / Wat Rong Khun and we reached there in less than 15 mins or so.
OMG! Let’s start with that. Black house aka Baan Dam gives you an experiential Lanna-style Thai artistry in a modern home featuring works by Thawan Duchanee & other contemporary Thai artists. It is not a temple, but a house + workshop of the artist where he has created structures from wood, animal bones, animal skin etc.
Thawan Duchanee, the artist came from nothing and built an empire through his art. His art pieces are still sold for millions of dollars. In his name there is a scholarship for art students who are talented and have a unique touch.
The wood work here is mind blowing! But, it gives you a feeling of going back in time into the tribal world or some pre-historic era. Lots of crocodile skins, animal horns, bear skins, anaconda skin, skulls etc. Some used as artefacts, some used to make furniture and what not. After a point of seeing so many bones, skins, skulls and even display of objects resembling sexual organs it got a bit too much for us.
The main house, where his ashes are stored is majestic and so is some of his artwork there. But on the whole, the Black House isn’t for the faint hearted or for any animal lover. Although it is said that the artist used skin and bones of dead animals/animals from slaughter houses, I just could not bare to see crocodile skins and elephant skeletons anymore.
If you are someone who enjoys such art, then it is definitely a must visit place for you. The concept of Black House is distinct and unique, but sadly not high up on my wish list. After a point we just wanted to leave, cause we were so tired of seeing the repetition all around. Think of this place as the kingdom of Khal Drogo of the Dothraki Tribe from Game of Thrones. It is exactly that! David Benioff and D. B. Weiss should have considered this location for HBO’ GOT. No kidding!
There is an entrance fee for the Black House/Baan Dam, the same was included in our tour. This place is not high on my recommendation list, however if it’s your taste then go for it!
Blue Temple / Wat Rong Suer Tean
Best saved for the last I guess? Blue Temple aka Wat Rong Suer Tean is located on the other side ie. the opposite side of the city from the Black House. It took our 20-30 mins to reach there. Blue Temple is located close to the city, so that’s good for people who might just want to visit here only.
Blue Temple as the name suggests is a blue (and yellow) coloured Buddhist temple. It was built by one of the artists who had assisted in building the White Temple. It is a temple that is still under construction. There is not much to the history of this temple as it’s not a commercialised place, rather an actual new temple where people to pray.
It’s very peaceful and you’ll see monks doing their rounds. There is a majestic white statute of Lord Buddha with the story of Lord Buddha drawn all over the walls. Wat Rong Suer Tean is an very beautiful temple with its beautiful blue colour themed art work. The colour combination and the grandeur of it all captivates you like no other. The outside is beautiful and intricate and the inside is even more breath taking filled with gorgeous paintings.
I would highly recommend to visit the Blue Temple. You’ll miss out on a wonderful memory, if you don’t go here.
Tip: I had heard a lot about the coconut ice-cream you get near this temple but I completely forgot about it. May be you can give it a try whilst you are there and click some fantastic pictures!
This was the end of our tour. We had our own english speaking tour guide, a driver and the private car – Honda CityZX in our case. It was a one on one tour and our tour guide was nice and friendly, however he didn’t go much into the history of the places but provided decent time and recommended locations to click pictures. It was a comfortable tour on the whole with hotel pick up & drop off. We completed all the three locations in time. He also dropped us to a nice Italian restaurant called Da Vinci near the Night Market to have some authentic Italian lunch as we were starving by the end of it all.
It was a definite value for money as we had our own private vehicle and everything was tailor made to us. Extremely comfortable. I highly recommend this tour too.
Oh La La! What a day this was! Haha.. Exploring Chiang Rai to going to the Chiang Rai International Airport at 10pm on an almost empty tank to pay for our flight fare to Chiang Mai + coming back to the city without any navigation and my phone dying. What a day!
Anyhow, as you all are well aware of my endeavour to learn how to ride a scooty, after training myself and getting a license – cut to – I’m riding solo (without a trainer) on foreign land with my mother on the back seat. What an adventure! We rented a scooty for 24 hours from the same place next to our hostel (I don’t remember the name) and we both ie. my mom and me left on the scooty to explore Chiang Rai.
We didn’t want to do the Golden Triangle or the Tea Plantations etc. cause lets be honest we’ve seen plenty of them in India. We further wanted to explore the Thai Culture in Chiang Rai and explore some good food on the way. So, we short listed 4 temples/locations which we wanted to visit –
Approximately 6km north of Chiang Rai on the road to Mai Sai and Myanmar lies this spectacular temple perched on a hillside with Chinese Pagoda and a huge white statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and Kindness overlooking the valley. We arrived in the morning, therefore only local people were there. Praying and offering rice puff packets in the temple.
The first thing you see is the huge impressive structure of Guan Yin perched in the hillside admits the green valley of Chiang Rai. Such a magnificent and glorious sight. The two giant dragons on the sides of the stairs leading to the temple are unbelievably huge (symbolic of something I am sure!). The temple itself is at a great height and you get to see a panoramic view of the valley. Breathtaking indeed!
Tip: There is a tourist bus also which takes you up and down from the temple. You can also go to the top of the statute for a fee of 30 Baht. We didn’t go for it because there was so much to explore.
Many people have confused the statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy and Kindness as the statute of Lord Buddha. But in actuallity this temple has been built by the Lanna-Chinese residents of Thailand as a symbol of their culture.
There’s also a multi floored impressive Pagoda and another large hall on the side. The Pagoda has Lord Buddha’s statues with बुद्धं शरणं गच्छामि। Buddham saranam gacchami playing in the background. Very peaceful vibrations at this temple, calming and positive. This is how wonderful it is!
No entrance fee for anyone. A definite must visit place if you are coming to Chiang Rai! Do not forget.
Just 10 minutes ride from the Clock Tower ie. our hostel is Wat Phra Sing. A small temple with an inbuilt complex and a monastery, situated in the heart of Chiang Rai city is a well kept secret adoring beautiful ancient details.
Wat Phra Sing is one of Chiang Rai’s oldest temples I believe. It was built in 1385 and was founded by the then King Mengrai in 1262. The main structures are of the Lanna style and they adorn intricate wood carvings through out the temple. The glowing statue of Lord Buddha in the temple felt real. The peace and tranquillity of the temple made got us relaxed and calm in no time (especially after riding around for so long in the afternoon heat). We noticed a chapel containing a footprint of the Buddha and Kuti/living quarters for monks around the temple too when we walked around it.
New construction is ongoing of another wing to the temple. The intricate glass artwork is always a treat to watch when it’s done in front of your eyes. So creative and unique.
Wat Phra Sing is the oldest original standing structure standing as on today in Northern Thailand. The gold plated Sinhalese style Chedi of the Wat Phra Sing stands behind the Viharn. It consists of a square base with small shrines on its sides that contain Buddha images and a spiral shaped top.
There is no entrance fee here. It’s a temple for worship and it’s definitely worth a visit if you are living in the city.
This was the original location of the Emerald Buddha, now housed in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo. This is the site of where the original Emarald Buddha was kept, before going to Laos for over 200 years, then eventually ended up in its present location in Bangkok. It is still an attractive and impressive temple in its own right, and well worth visiting for its intricate works and its location. You’ll see many monks here learning and performing their daily chores. The temple still hosts a lot of Buddha structures and a monastery. It beautiful and definitely worth the visit if you staying at the city centre.
We were actually headed to Wat Ming Mueang but accidentally landed up at Wat Mung Mueang (I hope I am spelling it right). They both were so close to each other, we just got confused with the navigation. But they both are two different Buddhist temples beautiful in their own right.
It was almost 6pm by the time we reached at the temple. Monks had just started chanting their prayers. Here’s a snippet for you –
We couldn’t help but admire the very beautiful 700 year old temple, built in the reign of King Mengrai the Great (1239-1311) and was called until 1970 Wat Chang Moop – “Temple of the Crouching Elephant”. It was renamed Wat Ming Muang, meaning the Auspicious Temple of the City and was granted Wisung Khama Sima (a royal granting of the land for monks to have the ordination hall or to do religious rites).
According to the ancient evidence and rumor, the founder of Wat Ming Muang was Chao Nang Talamae Sri, wife of King Mengrai and daughter of a Burmese King. This temple was a personal temple of Phra Nang Ming Uao Jom Muang, King Meng Rai’s mother. Wat Ming Mueang has an assembly hall with a design known as “Buddha’s eyebrows” To see a very beautiful bronze sculpture of the King Mengrai and his wife, the Queen Devi Usapayako. This is a really different from the other temples in the area, I recommend a visit without hesitation especially during the prayer time cause it felt so peaceful and healing. I can not begin to say.. . Go for it!
Verdict of 3 Days in Chiang Rai:
Three days in Chiang Rai were spectacular. The weather was hot! 33 Degree Celsius was the normal temperature post 10am and in the night it would come down to 17 Degrees. Extreme weather change I’d say.
We enjoyed our stay a lot! We covered everything from the night market, to saturday night market, many temples and more. We also had our fun scooty ride together.
The food was much of a problem for us vegetarians as we don’t even have egg. Therefore we were only enjoying Phad Thai, Spring Rolls and fruit juices. Coconut Ice-cream and Coconut water is your life line when you are there. Oh! And fresh fruits + fresh fruit juices are incredible.
I will be later listing vegetarian/eggetarian/vegan restaurant’s/cafe’s we visited during our stay. Stay tuned!
Everything was accessible in Chiang Rai and the people were sweet and helpful. Our hostel was perfect. We were on a budget, we knew what we were doing just as everything planned. 3 days went by quick. We didn’t do much shopping here, it was mainly food. On the whole, Chiang Rai is a beautiful city and perfect for relaxation or some off-road trails.