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Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016

Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand

GPS waypoint: 19°54'25.8"N 99°49'51.4"E
Location: Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai (district), Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

Chiang Rai City
Chiang Rai is the biggest working city in Northern Thailand that offers urban amenities plus a lot of nature. At 390m above sea level, it's nestled on a mountainous terrain with the outdoors and numerous trekking possibilities. It serves as the hub for neighboring small cities like Mae Sai, Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong on the Golden Triangle. I've heard many great things about this place that prompted me to come back to Thailand. With roughly 6 days, I set about to explore this destination.

Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand
enjoying Pad Thai by the Clock Tower

The International Bus from Huay Xai to Chiang Rai
From Huay Xai, Laos, there is an international bus that took me all the way to Chiang Rai, Thailand (B225). Crossing borders on the same bus is a lot of convenience, cheaper, and it saved me a lot of transfers. If not for that, I would have taken a tuk-tuk from Huay Xai to the Friendship Bridge (B100), take the shuttle bus to cross into Thailand (B25), take another tuk-tuk (or songthaew) to Chiang Khong (B60) for the bus to Chiang Rai (B200+). From the Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 2, it was a blue songthaew ride to the city center (B15). A tuk-tuk driver was charging me B170!

Suknirand Hotel, Chiang Rai, ThailandHotel Accommodation
My first lodging was at Big Butter Hostel. It's more like a homestay with the owners living in the house. It was clean, they were friendly but too far away from the city center. Besides, during the low season, dorm beds can be had for B100 and they were still charging B180. I stayed only one day and moved to Suknirand Hotel, which is centrally located - the moment I walk out of the hotel, the city is right before me. The Clock Tower is literally just steps away. It's an old hotel but kept clean at all times.

Food and Coffee
Like most of Thailand, food here is everywhere and cheap. Even locals eat out instead of bothering to do marketing and cooking. You can get fine-dining places but street food or spartan restos are perhaps the best for value. Coffee houses are also aplenty from Doi Chang, Yoddoi Coffee, Cat in a Cup to Pankhon Coffee - they are clustered around the Clock Tower area.

I wrote to a few yoga studios offering to teach free classes. One agreed, but it was 40 kms away. I met-up with Nalinee, a local I met in Huay Xai just a few days ago. We had coffee and the talk somehow came to yoga where I invited her to join me on my morning yoga in a nearby park. As her first time, I'm glad it was a one-on-one teaching. Beginners need more attention. More importantly, I can set her thinking on the important basics that are usually not addressed anymore in yoga studios - the breath, the mental focus, the non-reaction, the safety edge and of course, the alignment. She was a fast study and promising. She would join me daily until my last day in Chiang Rai.

Night Bazaar
It's low season so the wide open space for eating were hardly full. There were 2 stages, presumably one for the locals with vaudeville skits in Thai. The other stage plays a cultural show and a folk singer playing popular English tunes. The eating and dining happens in a wide open alfresco space. The general ambience is wholesome and festive. The market wares aren't that different from the other Thai markets - traditional clothing, hill tribe clothing, touristy souvenirs, etc. They close at 11pm.

White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
Under the heat of the scorching sun, I rode a rented bicycle 13.1 kms south of the Clock Tower to the Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple. It is Chiang Rai's crowd drawer. Unlike most gilded temples in Thailand, this one is immaculately white, some sections plastered with a mosaic of small broken mirrors to provide that reflective presence that makes it glow even in broad daylight. The place is pretty intense with more ornate and elaborately designed buildings under construction. It's a massive undertaking that is scheduled to be finished in 2070. It's a must-see for its uniqueness. (read blog)

Ending Thoughts
I think the magic of Chiang Rai is how it provides urban amenities in a cityscape while nestled within a countryside setting. You get the best of both worlds. It's a big city in the north but not too far away are the mountains with all the trekking possibilities and home to numerous hill tribe communities. The people are friendly like most of Thailand and price of food and lodging is very reasonable. It's not everyday you find a special place like this.

--- TheLoneRider

Next stop: Phan District, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai, Thailand

tourist attractions in Chiang Rai - attractions
location markers

hotels in Chiang Rai - hotel
at the Huay Xai bus terminal for the international bus to Chiang Rai it was scorching hot. It got a little cooler already when I took this picture the fabled Clock Tower at the very heart of Chiang Rai at Big Butter Hostel...nice people but it was too far from the main drag
I just call them the casino buses since they usually cater to casinos patrons crossing borders to gamble Chiang Rai comes alive at night Night Bazaar activities wooden riddles and puzzles
seems like Hmong footwear live entertainment at the Night Bazaar the locals section of the Night Bazaar - the entertainment is in Thai English songs at the Farang (foreigner) section
ad hoc roadside kitchen...they only stay here a few hours and they're gone nothing like roadside breakfast to start your day street coffee, omelette with all the works...B55 meeting new friends from Israel - Karmi and Alice
reunited with Nalinee....a Chiang Rai local I met in Huay Xai, Laos Nalinee joined me for my morning yoga - she's a fast study Nalinee and her mother treats me to breakfast...yummy !!! Pad Thai dinner by the Clock Tower
light and sound spectacle at the Clock Tower on the hour merchandise at the Saturday Walking Street Market Thais love to shop and eat even the most mundane things have something interesting in them
folk singers entertain you at the Walking Street Market popsicle anyone? B5 only you eat the leaves on this one...the whole thing was a sensory overload on the palate - sweet, astringent, crunchy, etc. at the White Temple
chilling out in the garden of Suknirand Hotel meeting up with new friends from Couchsurfing - Noy and Friz lady selling sweets cultural show at the Night Bazaar
Suknirand Hotel

Suknirand Hotel

Location: 424/1. Banphaprakarn Rd., Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand
Coordinates: 19°54'24.0"N 99°49'48.1"E
Tel: (053) 711.055, 711.801, 712.036, 713.702
Fax: (053) 713.701
Features: clean and affordable hotel near Clock Tower

Chiang Rai FYI / Tips

  • the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located around the Clock Tower area
  • it's not beneath the elites to eat street food (but I suspect that's all over Thailand, not just Chiang Rai)

How to Get to Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai being a big city, nearly all cities and towns connect to it by bus or plane (no trains though).

  1. if you are dropped-off at the Bus Terminal 2 Station (the new one), you need to take a blue songthaew to the old Bus Station (B15) which is in the heart of the city. If you checked-in near the Clock Tower, chances are, you can just walk it from the old bus station to your hotel. Otherwise, you may have to ride another blue songthaew from the old bus station to your hotel. If you take the tuk-tuk from the new Bus Station, you may be charged something like B170 to be taken to a hotel not walking distance from the old bus station

Things to do, Places to go in Chiang Rai

  1. Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple - designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the construction commenced in 1997 with 2070 estimated completion date. This is probably Chiang Rai's most visited tourist attraction (read blog)
  2. Baan Dam - Black House Museum - a macabre repertoire of Thawan Duchanee, a Chiang Rai artist who expresses his art around the dark side of humanity. 9am - 5pm w/ 12-1pm siesta, free
  3. Night Bazaar - a night market on foot for clothes, food and tourist merchandise. 2 sound stages for cultural shows and live music. One stage is in Thai while the other stage seems for tourists - cultural dance, English music, etc. Big open spaces for eating and drinking, open until about 11pm
  4. Saturday Night Walking Street - similar to Night Bazaar with its food stalls and merchandising, but the stalls are lined up on the streets
  5. Clock Tower - this is an iconic landmark in the heart of Chiang Rai where most of the tourist hotels, restos and recreation areas are clustered. Minor audio and light display at 7,8 and 9pm
  6. Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) - this is the original spot where the Emerald Buddha was first discovered in 1434 when lightning hit a chedi and revealed the Buddha within. The original Buddha has been moved to several locations through its history and finally rests in Bangkok. What resides in Chiang Rai is a jade replica
  7. Singha Park - almost 13km2 in size and 450m elevation, the park houses an assortment of entertaining and recreational facilities - rock climbing, zip lining, view point scenery, tour of tea plantation, bike tours, animal park, etc.
  8. Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park - B200 fee, opens 8:30am. Great garden, natural setting, abundant Teak wood carvings on display, quiet, gallery, museum pieces, etc.

Chiang Rai Cost Index

backpacker places (US$1 = Thai Baht 34.89 = Php 46.95 as of May 3, 2016)
  • B50 small bottle of Leo beer at The Night Bazaar (recommended)
  • B35 street Roti with banana, egg and chocolate
  • B40 papaya salad (Som Tam)
  • B30 street hot coffee
  • B40 pad thai at The Night Bazaar
  • B200 one hour massage
  • B50 bicycle rental, 24 hours at Chiang Rai Hotel. Other places charge between B70-B100/day
  • B30/k laundry service
  • B180 dorm bed in a fan room, shared toilet at Big Butter Hostel (too far away though)
  • B14 1.5 liter drinking water at 7-11
  • B500 Standard Room for 2 pax, a/c, ensuite bathroom, tv at Suknirand Hotel during low season (B600 for high season)
  • B150 dorm bed, a/c in May (low season) at Ti Amo Guest House
  1. Yoga Inversions at Now's Fitness Gym Sep 19, 2018
  2. Movie Review: Under Construction (2015) Sep 15, 2018
  3. Walking Tour of Little India Sep 15, 2018
  4. Vinyasa Yoga with Teacher That at Now's Fitness Sep 14, 2018
  5. Abs Workout with Teacher San at Now's Fitness Sep 13, 2018
  6. Exercise Ball Workout with Teacher Bie at Now's Fitness Sep 11, 2018
  7. Exploring the Amphawa Floating Market Sep 9, 2018
  8. Exploring the Tree-Engulfed Wat Bang Kung Temple Sep 9, 2018
  9. Parting of the Maeklong Railway Market with a Passing Train Sep 9, 2018
  10. Exploring Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Sep 9, 2018
  11. Horse Racing at the The Royal Bangkok Sports Club Sep 8, 2018
  12. Fight Class with Teacher San at Now's Fitness Sep 7, 2018
  13. Exploring the Bangkok Art Book Fair 2018 Sep 6, 2018
  14. Circuit Training with Mild at Now's Fitness Sep 5, 2018
  15. Gentle Flow Yoga with Nuch at Now's Fitness, Bangkok Sep 4, 2018
  16. A Yogi Lost in a Modern Gym - Now's Fitness Sep 3, 2018
  17. Abundance at On Nut, Bangkok Aug 30-Sep 1, 2018
  18. Outside Looking In Aug 29, 2018
  19. Back in Bangkok After 5 Weeks Aug 27, 2018
  20. 15 Days in Bangkok July 10-24, 2018
  21. Peoplescape: Bangkok July 10-24, 2018
  22. Hatha and Yantra Yoga Fusion July 10-24, 2018
  23. Revisiting Terminal 21 Mall, Bangkok July 23, 2018
  24. Rope Skipping, 4mins Full-on July 22, 2018
  25. Sunday Visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market July 17, 2018
  26. Fork on the Road: Abundance or Poverty by Choice? July 16, 2018
  27. Loving Bangkok All Over Again Feb 22-26, 2016
  28. Hotel Review: Adventure Hostel Bangkok July 11, 2018
  29. Hotel Review: Riva Surya Bangkok Oct 20, 2014
  30. Exploring the Shopping Malls of Bangkok Oct 6-20, 2014
  31. Bangkok's Street Food Delight Oct 6-20, 2014
  32. Bangkok Revisited 3 Oct 6-20, 2014
  33. A First Timer in Bangkok December 31, 2005 - January 3, 2006

  34. Chiang Khong
  35. Ten Days in Chiang Khong, Thailand Apr 30 - May 9, 2016

  36. Chiang Mai
  37. Mike Chong Aug 8, 2018
  38. An Intimate Conversation with my Universe in Chiang Mai Aug 8, 2018
  39. Kneaded and Pampered at Zira Spa Aug 4, 2018
  40. Savoring a Baht 3,500 Birds Nest Soup at Natural Bird Nest by Burapa Aug 3, 2018
  41. Yoga Exploration at The Yoga Tree with Gernot Aug 1, 2018
  42. Yoga In The Park - Chiang Mai July 31, 2018
  43. Yoga with Adam at Hidden House Yoga, Chiang Mai July 29, 2018
  44. 2 Weeks in Chiang Mai July 25 - Aug 7, 2018
  45. A First Timer in Chiang Mai Apr 9-23, 2016
  46. Dance Mandala in Chiang Mai at The Yoga Tree Apr 19, 2016
  47. Songkran Waterfight Festival in Chiang Mai Apr 13-15, 2016
  48. Border Crossing from Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Chiangmai (Thailand) April 9-10, 2016

  49. Chiang Rai
  50. Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016
  51. Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) May 15, 2016

  52. Chiang Saen
  53. Exploring Chiang Saen, Thailand Apr 28-30, 2016

  54. Mae Sai
  55. 4 Days in Mae Sai, Thailand Apr 25-28, 2016
  56. Border Crossing - Mae Sai (Thailand) to Tachileik (Myanmar) Apr 23, 2016

  57. Pai
  58. Exploring Pai, Thailand May 19-24, 2016
  59. Visiting the Land Split in Pai, Thailand May 23, 2016
  60. Trekking the Ridges of Pai Canyon May 23, 2016
  61. Climbing up the White Buddha (Wat Phra That Mae Yen) May 21, 2016

  62. Pak Chong
  63. Pak Chong (Thailand) En Route to Siem Reap (Cambodia) Mar 20-21, 2016
  64. Goodbye Thai Plum Village Mar 20, 2016
  65. Yoga at Thai Plum Village Mar 19, 2016
  66. Pond Picnic with the Monastics Mar 14, 2016
  67. Sentence Expansion Mar 12, 2016
  68. Alms Round of the Thai Plum Village Monastics Mar 10, 2016
  69. First Day of Teaching English at Thai Plum Village Mar 8, 2016
  70. Cyber Monk Redefined Mar 6, 2016
  71. Thai Plum Village, Day 6: Plum Village and Vipassana Mar 2, 2016
  72. Thai Plum Village, Day 5: Visa Snag Mar 1, 2016
  73. Plum Village, Day 4: Picnic with the Monastics on Lazy Monday Feb 29, 2016
  74. Plum Village, Day 2-3: Getting Settled Feb 27-28, 2016
  75. Plum Village, Day 1: Arrival Feb 26, 2016

  76. Phan District, Chiang Rai Province
  77. Yoga with Amm Prajna Pitchaya and the Sivananda yoga community of Phan May 16-18, 2016
  78. Visiting the Nam Lot and the Pha Khong Caves of Phan District May 18, 2016

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