Chiang Rai is a unusual, creative metropolis in northern Thailand, providing a stunning variety of issues to see and do. Near the borders of each Laos and Myanmar, it’s an important base for visiting hill tribes, and for scenic mountain trekking (one of the adventurous issues to do in Chiang Mai!).
Town can also be dwelling to an unimaginable variety of lovely temples — from historic jewelled monuments to uncommon up to date artworks.
There are quite a few fascinating issues to do in Chiang Rai. That is undoubtedly one of many high places to visit in Thailand.
It’s doable to go to Chiang Rai for simply a few hours as a day journey from Chiang Mai, which is the larger and better-known metropolis in northern Thailand. It’s a 3-Four hour bus experience from Chiang Mai, alongside winding mountain roads.
Many individuals who go to Chiang Rai both come for the day or keep for one evening and pack in as many actions as doable on a 1-day group tour.
I believe this can be a mistake!
I stayed in Chiang Rai for over per week throughout my current trip to Thailand, and I nonetheless didn’t handle to see every little thing. I believe it’s an incredible metropolis that deserves to be included on each Northern Thailand travel itinerary.
Listed here are my high 21 issues to do in Chiang Rai:
1. Go to the White Temple
The epic White Temple, in any other case generally known as Wat Rong Khun, needed to be first on the listing. It’s undoubtedly one of the well-known issues to do in Chiang Rai, and on this case, its iconic standing is deserved. The White Temple is a sparkling-white trendy temple with an enormous variety of quirky, surreal touches. It’s a genuinely breathtaking sight, and I used to be shocked by simply how a lot I liked it.
The White Temple was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Aside from the well-known temple itself, there are different buildings and fascinating objects you possibly can stroll round, plus a gallery of bizarre work by the identical artist. It’s truly nonetheless a piece in progress, with surrounding buildings being constructed.
You could possibly simply spend a few hours taking within the small, stunning particulars that make up this lovely temple complicated — similar to probably the most lovely and disturbing No Smoking signal I’ve ever seen, or Keanu Reeves in his Matrix outfit painted onto the wall contained in the temple.
I’ve learn quite a lot of detrimental feedback concerning the White Temple. The most important criticism being that this well-known temple has develop into too crowded and touristy, which is true, but it surely’s nonetheless probably the greatest Chiang Rai points of interest.
You’ll completely have to barter the crowds and anticipate a spot within the hordes of vacationers crowding each inch of the temple to snap the right photograph.
The White Temple is certainly nonetheless price visiting, regardless of the variety of vacationers. You too can keep away from a few of the worst instances by visiting early within the day. Lots of people go to later within the day, on a day trip from Chiang Mai. So in the event you keep in a single day in Chiang Rai and make it to the temple very first thing within the morning you’ll have the perfect likelihood of getting an important expertise.
💵There’s an entrance price of 50 baht ($1.60) for foreigners to go to the White Temple.
✓ It’s necessary to notice that this can be a Buddhist temple, so costume accordingly (overlaying shoulders and knees).
📍60 หมู่ที่ 1 Phahonyothin Rd, Pa O Don Chai, Mueang Chiang Rai District. Discover the temple on the map, here.
🕰 Hours: 8am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday 8am – 5:30pm.
2. Discover the Black Home
Typically (incorrectly) known as the Black Temple, the Black Home is definitely a set of painted wood homes that includes artwork by Thai up to date artists, most notably its designer Thawan Duchanee.
Additionally known as the Baan Dam, the Black Home has the same surreal trendy vibe to the White Temple. Among the buildings do look very very similar to black temples, however there are a number of different weird buildings dotted round. Some resemble igloos, whereas there’s one big development that appears like a beached submarine.
After the pure glory of the White Temple, I’ve to confess that the Black Home didn’t fairly match up for me, but it surely was nonetheless an unimaginable attraction and I might undoubtedly advocate visiting. However, seeing it straight after the mesmerizing White Temple most likely didn’t do it any favours. It was additionally extra crowded than the White Temple.
💵The doorway price is 80 baht ($2.50).
🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday 9am – 5pm.
3. Go to The Blue Temple
Earlier than visiting Chiang Rai, I’d heard loads concerning the wonders of the White Temple and the Black Home, however for some motive, I’d by no means heard of the Blue Temple.
I’ve completely no thought why, as a result of this unimaginable trendy temple fully blew me away! It’s vibrantly colored, up to date and kitsch (however in a great way). The within can also be painted in unimaginable shiny patterns and hues.
Often known as Wat Rong Seua Ten, the temple was solely accomplished in 2016 and I believe that’s why it isn’t as well-known as a few of Chiang Rai’s different extra well-known points of interest. I’m fairly sure that’s about to alter. Visiting the Blue Temple was truly considered one of my absolute favorite issues to do in Chiang Rai.
🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7am to 8pm
4. Have an Iced Drink at Betty Espresso – an important pit cease when testing all of the issues to do in Chiang Rai
I fell in love with this small, unassuming espresso store because of its nice iced coffees, and even higher decor. The colorful cafe is mainly a shrine to the cartoon character Betty Boop. Betty-themed posters and dolls cowl each inch of the house. It’s simply down the street from Wat Klang Wieng, which makes it a really perfect quirky relaxation cease between temple hopping. Click here for directions.
5. Dodge Monkeys on the Monkey Temple
Often known as the Fish Cave Temple or Wat Tham Pla, the monkey temple is protected by a dramatic staircase with 7-headed Nagas (legendary serpents) and is totally overrun with monkeys. They’re truly fairly menacing and are identified to leap on unsuspecting vacationers and snatch their issues, so go to at your individual danger!
The monkey cave is a brief drive from Chiang Rai and also you’ll want a automotive or scooter to go to. I didn’t lease a bike in Chiang Rai however there are a number of motorbike rental outlets close to the central clock tower.
The fee will rely on the kind of bike you’re in search of. Usually it’s about 200 baht ($6 USD) per day. Though loads of travellers experience scooters and motorbikes in Thailand, bear in mind that visitors will be extraordinarily hectic. Should you’re in an accident your travel insurance might not cowl you in the event you don’t have a bike license.
Alternatively, you possibly can negotiate a value for a return journey with a automotive or motorcycle taxi driver, or be part of a gaggle tour – extra on this under.
💵 Free entrance.
📍 Deal with: Click here for instructions.
6. Feast On Thai Treats at The Night time Market
The Chiang Rai evening market isn’t the largest I’ve ever seen, however there are a bunch of unimaginable meals stalls serving up northern Thai specialities like Khao Soi, a completely scrumptious curried noodle dish with a particular flavour you possibly can’t get wherever else. This is among the top foods in Thailand.
The evening market in Chiang Rai is quieter and extra enjoyable than some other Thai evening market I’ve skilled (and I’ve been to rather a lot!) so this can be a great spot for stocking up on souvenirs. To not point out, a go to right here is among the finest issues to do in Chiang Rai for foodies.
🕰 Hours: Saturday from 4:30pm to 12:30am
7. Go Temple Hopping in Chiang Rai’s City Centre
Whereas the well-known trendy temples are on Chiang Rai’s outskirts, the previous metropolis itself can also be dwelling to quite a few spectacular older temples, a few of that are well-known in their very own proper and have a much more sacred place in Thai historical past than the surrealist up to date upstarts talked about above.
If temple hopping is your factor, you may spend hours strolling by way of Chiang Rai’s metropolis centre, taking in some unimaginable structure. Two of my favourites are Wat Klang Wieng and Wat Ming Meuang, a 13th-century temple lined in iridescent crystals, and Wat Phra Singh with its spectacular golden spires.
8. Go to Wat Phra Kaew
Probably the most well-known historic temple in Chiang Rai might be Wat Phra Kaew. This lovely however small temple as soon as housed the revered Emerald Buddha, which is now within the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Legend has it that the Emerald Buddha was hidden in a chedi (dome-shaped shrine), and was found after the chedi was struck by lightning. Though the statue has been moved to Bangkok, you possibly can see a reproduction in Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai.
9. Watch the Clock Tower Gentle Present
Chiang Rai’s ornate clock tower was designed by the identical artist who created the well-known White Temple. It’s set in a not-very-attractive busy visitors intersection. Though it’s intricate and spectacular so far as clock towers go, I wasn’t blown away after I first noticed it, surrounded by honking visitors below a cloudy sky.
That stated, after darkish the clock tower turns into the location of a vibrant gentle present, flashing totally different colors in time to music. It feels as if the entire city (and definitely all the vacationers in residence) end up to observe the spectacle, and it’s truly a enjoyable expertise. This is among the hottest issues to do in Chiang Mai when the solar goes down.
✓ I like to recommend having a snack or drink at one of many eating places or cafes that line the streets on this space. A number of have out of doors tables with entrance row seats.
🕰 Hours: Day by day at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm.
10. Have a Drink at Cat Bar
Chiang Rai shouldn’t be an enormous occasion city — actually, I discovered it fairly quiet, although I visited in January, in peak vacationer season. Even so, there was an important vibe at Cat Bar. It looks like quaint dive bar, with a pool desk, low lighting and rock tunes. Click here for directions.
11. Go to the Northern Most Level of Thailand
Chiang Rai is thus far north that it’s solely a brief drive (round 20 miles) from Thailand’s northernmost level. You possibly can truly go to this level — it’s marked with a signpost and intersects with the Myanmar border.
There’s a bridge becoming a member of the 2 international locations and you may watch individuals crossing into Myanmar. There are additionally a number of eating places and outlets promoting jewelry and ornaments made (allegedly) from Myanmar jade.
12. Go to the Tree High Journey Park
Take a treetop cover stroll 30 metres above the bottom at Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang Backyard. You possibly can count on rope bridges, swings and big zip traces, all in lovely pure environment.
The backyard is within the northern a part of the Chiang Rai area, close to the border with Myanmar, so it’s an important attraction to pair with the following few issues to do in Chiang Rai.
📍 Deal with: Huai Khrai, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai
💵 Tickets price 150 Thai baht (round $4.50 USD) for each adults and youngsters.
13. Survey Three Nations from the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is the spot the place Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet — and the place the Mekong and Ruak Rivers intersect. You possibly can stand on a balcony excessive on a hilltop, looking at breathtaking views of the rivers and land under.
Down under the lookout level is a big golden Buddha statue overlooking the Mekong River, and up the hill above it’s an historical ruined temple.
The Golden Triangle is round 50km from Chiang Rai, however there are a number of different locations of curiosity within the neighborhood, so it’s a preferred cease on a day trip taking in the perfect issues to do in and round Chiang Rai.
14. Study About Opium’s Turbulent Historical past on the Corridor of Opium Museum
Positioned subsequent to the Golden Triangle, the Corridor of Opium is a small museum with an exhibition specializing in the opium commerce. The Golden Triangle space was traditionally identified for poppy cultivation and opium commerce and smuggling, and the Corridor of Opium traces this historical past, together with the commerce’s in poor health results on the area.
📍 Deal with: Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
🕰 Hours: 8:30am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday
💵 200 baht ($6.40)
15. Go to a Hill Tribe Village
The hills and mountains round Chiang Rai are dotted with hill tribe villages. The individuals in these villages are sometimes nomadic tribes from exterior Thailand and embody the well-known “lengthy neck” Karen hilltop tribes. These teams traditionally got here to Thailand from Myanmar, and the ladies might put on brass rings round their necks.
For my part, in the event you resolve to go to a hill tribe village, it’s necessary to fastidiously contemplate the expertise you’re reserving and ensure it’s moral. Among the hill tribe visits, particularly these included as an “attraction” on low cost whistle-stop day journeys, might be seen as exploitative.
16. Go Mountain Trekking (one of the adventurous issues to do in Chiang Rai)
Chiang Rai is among the most well-known areas of Thailand for trekking, and lots of routes take within the forests, waterfalls and rivers of the Lum Nam Kok National Park. Most treks take at the least a few days to finish and contain a country homestay in a hilltop village.
It’s straightforward to guide day treks, or multi-night treks together with in a single day homestays, by way of a number of of the journey companies that line the central vacationer streets of Chiang Rai. Sadly, although, a few of the packages embody elephant driving, so verify this earlier than you guide. Notice: Goats On The Street doesn’t condone animal tourism or any actions to do with animals in captivity. Do your half to be a responsible traveller and say “no” to elephant driving.
Travellers extremely advocate Lanna Trek. The fee for a 2-day, 1-night trek is 2,800 Thai baht ($84 USD) per particular person for teams of 2-Three individuals. A non-public tour prices extra and greater teams are barely cheaper.
17. Get Near Nature at Singha Park
Singha Park is a picturesque park within the Chiang Rai countryside, a number of components of that are a working farm. It’s truly owned by the Singha Beer firm, however the focus is on nature and sustainability, quite than consuming. There are strolling and biking routes, tea plantations, fruit orchards, zip lining and an journey rope course. Click here for directions.
18. Go Stalactite-Recognizing on the Chiang Dao Cave
Chiang Dao is definitely a few hours’ drive from Chiang Rai, however nonetheless shut sufficient for a straightforward day journey. The primary attraction is the mountain of Doi Chiang Dao, with Chiang Dao Cave at its base. One of many deepest limestone caves in Thailand, the Chiang Dao Cave options stalactites and crystal formations.
💵 Entrance to the caves prices 40 Thai baht ($1.20 USD) however because the caves are huge and poorly lit, you’ll most likely want to rent a neighborhood information and lease a flashlight to correctly discover them, which shall be one other 150-200 baht ($4.50 – $6).
19. Go Chasing Waterfalls
Surrounded by lakes and mountains, Chiang Rai is a perfect spot for waterfall chasing. Don’t miss the Khun Korn Waterfall, which at 70 metres is the very best waterfall within the area and probably the greatest issues to do in Chiang Rai.
It’s round a 30-minute stroll by way of a forest to get to the bottom of the waterfall, and you may swim if you get there. Ensure you deliver comfy strolling sneakers and swimming garments, plus waterproof gear on your cellphone and digicam to guard them from the spray.
📍Deal with: Highway 1208, Mae Kon, 57000 Mueang Chiang Rai
20. Take a Dip in a Scorching Spring
The Chiang Rai area is dwelling to quite a few pure sizzling springs set in lovely scenic environment. Try Huay Mak Lium Scorching Spring, Pong Phra Bat Hot Spring and Fang Hot Spring (though, this one is a couple of 2-hour drive from Chiang Rai).
Soaking in a sizzling spring is certainly one of many high issues to do in Chiang Rai through the cooler winter months. Entry prices from round 20-50 baht ($0.60 – $1.50) relying on the spring.
21. Take the Gradual Boat to Laos
Okay, so maybe this isn’t precisely probably the greatest issues to do in Chiang Rai, however the metropolis is the jumping-off level for travelling by land or boat from northern Thailand to Laos.
To expertise the gradual boat to Luang Prabang from Thailand, you first have to take a bus from Chiang Rai to the border, then catch a ship that sails alongside the Mekong River and finally takes you to Luang Prabang. The journey takes two days, together with an in a single day keep on the midway level.
You possibly can guide a journey package deal by way of a journey company in Chiang Rai, a few of which embody the bus journey to the border and an in a single day keep in Chiang Khong (the Thai border city), in addition to the boat cruise.
Alternatively, you possibly can take a bus to Chiang Khong your self, cross the border into Laos and purchase tickets for the boat journey there. That is the cheaper however much less easy possibility. Mekong Smile Cruise affords a package deal together with pick-up from Chiang Rai, lodge and a cease on the Pak Ou Caves for 200 USD. Study extra concerning the journey in this post.
Easy methods to See and Do All the things When You’re Quick on Time
Lots of people who go to Chiang Rai keep just for a few days. Despite the fact that I stayed for longer than that, I used to be nonetheless overwhelmed by the sheer variety of issues to do in Chiang Rai.
I wasn’t certain how I may match every little thing in, particularly since virtually all of Chiang Rai’s high points of interest are fairly far-flung. The White Temple, Blue Temple and Black Home are all on the outskirts of Chiang Rai, however many of the different points of interest are even farther away.
If you wish to journey independently, it’s totally doable to see all of Chiang Rai’s points of interest by yourself. You possibly can catch a bus to a few of the nearer sights such because the White Temple, rent a driver for a day, or experience a scooter.
However since the perfect issues to do cowl such a large space, in the event you actually need to slot in all the high issues to do in Chiang Rai in simply a few days, that is one vacation spot the place joining a group tour actually does make sense.
Aside from hill tribe trekking and visiting a homestay within the mountains, which might take a number of days and must be organized individually, many of the different points of interest work nicely as a part of a (very busy!) day journey. Should you select to guide a day tour with a gaggle in a shared minibus, that is additionally the most cost effective approach to get round Chiang Rai and see its foremost sights in a short while.
If you stroll down Chiang Rai’s foremost streets, you’ll see quite a few journey companies providing day journeys, every cramming a completely loopy variety of points of interest into at some point. These whistle-stop excursions are very easy to search out and guide, and nice worth. A lot of the ones I noticed included transport, choose up and drop off at your lodge, plus lunch. All of them price round 1000 baht ($30).
Take note of the excursions or actions you guide in Chiang Rai to make sure you get an expertise you’re comfy with. Some journey companies in Chiang Rai don’t method the excursions they supply ethically — such because the hill tribe go to the place persons are handled very very similar to animals in a zoo. And sadly, many corporations nonetheless supply elephant rides as nicely.
That stated, general I had an unimaginable time and will certainly return to expertise extra of the superb issues to do in Chiang Rai.
Now You Know What To Do in Chiang Rai!
For me, probably the most thrilling half about visiting Chiang Rai was town’s creative spirit — the truth that in such a small metropolis, so many unimaginable up to date temples have sprung up in just some years. And I particularly loved the way in which these surreal artworks stood subsequent to superb, historic monuments. Ensure you additionally expertise extra of the area’s pure magnificence with some waterfall hopping and hill treks! For such a small place, there are quite a few enjoyable issues to do in Chiang Rai. Joyful travels!
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