Nov 26-28, 2019
Revisiting Chiang Rai
Location: Chiang Rai, Thailand
It has been 3.5 years since I visited Chiang Rai. The memories of my 5-day stay in Chiang Rai were blurry at best. While doing a visa run to Tachileik, Myanmar, I took a 2-night stay in Chiang Rai before heading back to Chiang Mai. It wasn't so much about seeing Chiang Rai again, but to simply break the 4.5-hour trip and be somewhere away from Chiang Mai for a change.
It was already past 5pm when I left Black House and there was no more public transport to Chiang Rai proper. I hitched a ride, and a lovely Thai lady, Nim, gave me a lift. I am aware of the Thai people's generosity, but a lady giving a ride to a complete stranger and a man, took me by surprise. We had a leisurely talk along the way. Another act of kindness was when she dropped me off my hostel, despite going out of her way. Time and time again, I am amazed at the Thais. I have benefitted from their kindness since the early days I had been traveling to Thailand. I have already lost count. Thais are genuinely special people.
While booking my lodging from Agoda, I made a mistake and booked a hostel 2-kms away from the center. But I'm glad I did. The folks were friendly and giving. The place itself was kept clean and orderly. At only $4/night, it was a steal, especially with their 'included' banana pancake and waffle breakfast. Grace was like her namesake, a very gracious host. It was also a farang (foreigner) haven where travelers share travel tales. And they lend out their bicycles free to guests - so the distance from the center wasn't an issue. I would highly recommend this place and this is where I will be booking my future stays in Chiang Rai.
I met up with Squeek - a body-inked/purple-haired/nose-ringed/ex-bike messenger from Ireland, who sports a Hasidic sideburn. We hung out for creamy century egg congee, thought-provoking conversation and aimless walk-about. She was fun and animated. We decided to meet up in Chiang Mai when she commences her Thai massage course.
I am somehow drawn to people on the fringes of the grid. Despite my white button-down shirts, my self-image is one such closet maverick. I live my regular life vicariously through their lenses. With her, I felt like a monk coming out of a cave from a 3-year meditation retreat, putting on my black leather jacket with MC colors while a wild pack of 200 bad-ass bikers thunder their engines. And then I snap out of it!
Colorful Chiang Rai
With just one full day in Chiang Rai, there wasn't much time to do a lot, but I managed to stop by the Black House, which I wasn't able to do the last time, as I was only able to visit the White Temple. I also learned that there was now the Blue Temple - something that wasn't there the last time. Hmmm...it seems that Chiang Rai is getting cleverly colorful with its touristic theme.
I visited the iconic Clock Tower again, rummaged through the night bazaar, wandered into the wet market and simply enjoyed walking around the city, nibbling on street food and watching some free cultural shows. Sometimes, Squeek would be with me, but mostly, I was by myself. It was a joy to feel like I was traveling again.
I didn't realize how much I needed that break until I took it. I now return back to Chiang Mai, back to my slice of paradise at Nawa Saraan Hotel, and back to my routine of bread, coffee and friends.
--- Gigit (TheLoneRider)
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
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Next stop: Visiting the Black House of Chiang Rai
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).
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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
- Saturday Night Walking Street - similar to Night Bazaar with its food stalls and merchandising, but the stalls are lined up on the streets
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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 Indexbackpacker 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
Chiang Rai Blogs by TheLoneRider
- Visiting the Blue Temple Nov 27, 2019
- Visiting the Black House of Chiang Rai Nov 26, 2019
- Revisiting Chiang Rai Nov 26-28, 2019
- Exploring Chiang Rai, Thailand May 11-16, 2016
- Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) May 15, 2016
Travel Tips for Thailand
How to Get a 60-Day Thai Tourist Visa and then Extend by another 30 Days
- Bring the following to the Thai embassy:
a) proof of money (bank statement will suffice)
b) flight booking to Thailand
c) onward flight back to your country from Thailand
d) filled-in tourist visa form
e) 2 passport pictures
f) hotel booking in Thailand (they didn't ask me for this but better be safe)
g) passport with at least 6 months validity
- After handing over all the documents, they will ask you to come pick your passport with the visa the following day from 4 to 5pm. That's it!
- NOTE: after 2 successful attempts, I was already questioned the 3rd time.
60-Day Thai Tourist Visa
NOTE: There is no need to go back to your country to get the Thai tourist visa. Any major city with a Thai Embassy will do. Apparently there is also no need to have an invitation from a Thai establishment to justify the visa.
- bring the following to the Immigration Office:
a) passport (make sure your Tourist Visa hasn't expired yet)
b) Baht 1900
c) photocopy of your passport + visa duration date stamp + TM6 card (white immigration card) and sign all the copies
d) completed TM7 visa extension form (available at the Immigration Office)
e) one 4cmx6cm passport picture
- submit the above to the Front Desk. They will give you a stub with your number on it. Take a seat and wait for your number to be called
- when your number is called, your picture will be taken. Then go back to your seat. They will call you again.
- when they call you again, they'll give you your passport with your extended visa. That's it!
- when there are no lines, the whole process can take only 10 minutes
NOTE: When your 60-day visa is close to expiry and you want to extend your stay. No need to leave Thailand.
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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Visiting the Black House of Chiang Rai
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