Chiang Rai, a beautiful city in Northern Thailand, is the underrated neighbour of Chiang Mai. While tourists and expats have been flocking to Chiang Mai for many years, Chiang Rai has only been getting the attention it deserves quite recently. And we love to see it! Thanks to its natural beauty, awesome historical attractions, and mouthwatering local dishes, the laid-back city is well worth visiting. If you’re not sure what to do and see in Chiang Rai, then this article is for you. Below, we’ve compiled the best places to visit and things to do in the Northern Thai city.
1. Explore the famous White Temple
The White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, is undoubtedly the most famous tourist attraction in Chiang Rai. The dazzling all-white temple is not an ancient temple. It’s a piece of art built with a temple in mind, designed by the Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. As you explore the temple, you’ll be left in awe by its intricate carving and detailed ornamentation. It’s a very unique temple that combines classic Thai architecture with contemporary elements. Although the temple is simply breathtaking any time of day, it especially sparkles on a sunny day.
Be sure to see the inside and walk around the ground instead of just snapping a picture of the temple’s exterior. Everything is impressive, you won’t regret spending your time here. Many visitors only come to Chiang Rai to see this temple, so be prepared for a crowd. If you want to escape the swarm of tourists, come early in the day. Also, be sure to wear modest clothing or bring a shawl with you.
2. Visit the vibrant Blue Temple
The Blue Temple is a little less popular than the White Temple, but it’s absolutely a must-visit. Also known as Wat Rong Sear Tean, the temple will blow you away with its vibrant colours of vivid blue on the walls and bright yellow on the roof. Both the outside and the inside of the temple are designed with careful attention to detail. Outside, you’ll find many blue statues like guards and dragons, each one as intricate as the other. Inside, there’s a glorious giant white Buddha.
Like the White Temple, The Blue Temple is not an ancient temple. Still, it has a long history and is very important. Therefore, you should always be respectful.
3. Go for a refreshing dip at the Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall
Note: Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall is closed during the rainy season
Wondering what to do in Chiang Rai to satisfy your need for a nature fix? Then you should explore the waterfalls near the city. One of the best to visit is the Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall. The waterfall is hidden inside a bamboo forest, and you’ll need to walk for around 30 minutes to get there. The walk is pretty easy, but it can be slippery, so be sure to wear good shoes and watch your step. The lush bamboo forest is an experience in itself, and as you’re approaching the waterfall, you’ll hear it before you actually see it.
Standing at 70 metres, it’s the tallest in the area. Moreover, the force of the water is intense, so make sure to bring waterproof gear for your gadgets to protect them from the spray. Don’t forget to bring swimming clothes as well if you want to enjoy a refreshing dip in the pool underneath the waterfall.
4. Taste delicious food at The Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
The Chiang Rai night bazaar might not be as big as those in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. However, it’s still a great place to visit, especially if you want to sample authentic Northern Thai delicacies like Khao Soi (curry noodle soup) and Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage). In addition to scrumptious food, you can find many stands selling all kinds of souvenirs, from clothes and jewellery to wooden objects. Several tribes from the surrounding mountains also sell their handicrafts here. You can even get relaxing Thai massages and foot massages for an affordable price, too. Furthermore, the night bazaar often gets livelier later in the evening with live music and dancing.
5. Breathe the fresh air in Doi Mae Salong
If you love tea and you want to relax among lush greenery, then you shouldn’t miss Doi Mae Salong. Situated in northwestern Chiang Rai and only 6 kilometres from Myanmar, it’s home to numerous ethnic villages, as well as fruit, coffee, and tea plantations. You can hike up the mountain to enjoy incredible scenery and breathe fresh air. Make sure to visit tea houses and try Yunnan food while you’re here as well. Furthermore, you can visit the Padong Long Neck Hill Tribe and learn about their culture if you take a tour.
The most popular time to visit Doi Mae Salong is between December and February. During these months, the hills are alive with flower blossoms. Prepare warm clothes if you’re planning to visit since the temperature can be very low, especially at the top.
Whether you’re visiting Chiang Rai for a day trip or you’re staying for a few days, be sure to add these incredible attractions to your itinerary.
Want to sample Northern Thai food while you’re there? Check out our article on the delicious Northern Thai food you shouldn’t miss.
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