It is not easy being Chiang Rai. The city is mostly disregarded in favour of Chiang Mai, the nearby capital of the North, and often overlooked on the Chiang Mai – Laos border crossing trail. It might only be a mountain that separates Chiang Mai from Chiang Rai but the effect is immense. Almost no travellers, a very laidback vibe, slow mornings, quiet nights, and unspoiled natural surroundings.
What to do in Chiang Rai?
In Chiang Rai you can truly beat the crowds. We suggest you go experience this laid-back northern city on a weekend break from Chiang Mai or perhaps on your way further north. In just a few days you’ll be able to cover some of the most interesting spots.
Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun, also known as The White Temple, is probably top of the to-do-list for most tourists in Chiang Rai and with good reason. Completely white and shiny, this temple looks like it’s frozen and glitters temptingly in the sun. Definitely worth a visit – it’s probably not like any temple you’ve seen before!
While the interior of the temple used to have impressive wall paintings featuring Spiderman, Superman and Michael Jackson, it has recently been repainted with golden tones and now closer resembles a typical Buddhist temple.
Baan Dam, or The Black House, is another very special attraction in Chiang Rai, also quite likely to be different from anything you’ve seen before. Imagine a green area with lots of black wooden houses with intricate carvings and filled with animal skulls, buffalo horns and rugs made from animal skins. Add beautiful fruit trees, various phalluses, and small horses dotted along the grass. The vibe at Baan Dam is something else, and while in Chiang Rai this so-called “museum” should be one of your stops.
Singha Park is perfect for a leisurely bike ride and an afternoon in beautiful surroundings with a calm feeling to it. As you arrive at the park you are instantly met by the sight of a huge golden Singha lion statue. Bike around the huge area on the designated bike paths or jump on the free shuttle bus to visit the in-park petting zoo with friendly giraffes and zebras, have a look at the tea plantations, enjoy the fresh air and perhaps sample some of the signature tea or fruit drinks.
Besides these points of interest you’ll also have plenty of time to stop by the clock tower in the city center, stroll along one of the weekend markets or the night bazaar, and enjoy some delicious meals in one of Chiang Rai’s many little hidden eatery treasures.
Where to stay in Chiang Rai?
When it’s time to get some rest, Chiang Rai offers a nice variety of accommodation, right from hostels to fancy hotels. Go Beyond has hand-picked some favourites for you to enjoy:
A different kind of hostel experience with lots of atmosphere. It’s modern and minimalistic, and yet it clearly implements Thai elements and produce. The location is good and you can get lots of useful travel tips from the friendly staff.
A comfy hotel with a deep blue tiled swimming pool which provides the perfect opportunity to dive in after a long day of explorations. The rooms are modern with nice balconies, the staff is friendly, and the central location superb.
Above and beyond your average hotel experience. This hotel is situated right on the Kok River, has an infinity pool, and is surrounded by lush nature. If you want to splash out and spoil yourself, The Legend is the place to stay!