Chasing Temples in Chiang Rai – What to See & Do
Chiang Rai is a little gem of Northern Thailand often overlooked by tourists visiting this part of the country, in favour to the more popular and bigger Chiang Mai. However, the charm of this small & beautiful city is well worth exploring. It has a unique relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals. Chiang Rai also have many great value accommodations, delicious food and some of the most amazing temples we have ever seen. Read on to find out why you should definitely include Chiang Rai in your itinerary of Thailand.
Temples in Chiang Rai You Must See
Visit The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, is a Buddhist temple in Thailand. This unconventional temple is surprisingly new. It was design and funded in 1997 by local Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and is still unfinished and constantly being completed & renovated as in 2014 the temple was damaged by an earthquake.
Symbolism is visible in each detail of the temple. The bridge of rebirth crossing over hundreds of outreaching hands symbolises unrestrained desire. While the gate of heaven guarded by 2 creatures Death and Rahu, who decide the fate of the dead.
Usbot is the name of the principal building. Walls inside the temple are decorated in what one might call a “crazy, eclectic & psychedelic” style. There are murals of Michael Jackson, Terminator, Minions, Pokemon and Harry Potter just to name a few.
↬ Note : It’s forbidden to take pictures inside.
This is a temple like no other.
↬ Fact : We have to admit: visiting the White Temples was the main reason we travelled to Chiang Rai. We saw pictures of this temple all over instagram and we read about it. It looked so magical and rich on the photographs we just had to see for ourselves. Trust us: it’s even more mesmerising in real ?
There are other impressive buildings on the site. Attracting attention 2 golden structures. To our biggest surprise it turned out that one is a museum and the other…toilets ?
There are many misleading information on the web about the opening time of the White Temple. We ended up waiting for an hour on the site as we read wrong info.
The actual opening time is: 8AM- 5.30 PM
Ticket Price: 50 BATH (1,5 EUR)
See The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seua Ten)
The Blue Temple is rather small but nevertheless an astonishing and unique site. The temple exterior and interior are painted in an eye-catching blue with overlays of gold embellishments. Inside of the temple, you will find a huge statue of a White Buddha in sitting position surrounded by contemporary Buddhist art in a modern style. It’s truly another unique place to visit.
↬ Note : The temple is not that popular with tourists. There isn’t a specified opening time, but you should not encounter crowds at any time. It’s also free.
Pass by The Clock Tower
The Chiang Rai Clock Tower is one of the towns most unique attractions after the temples. This elaborate clock stands out thanks to its golden structure & unique artistry. The Clock has been built by the same artist that designed The White Temple Chalermchai Kositpipat.
↬ TIP : The Clock is very impressive at night time, during a light projection show which occurs at 7 PM, 8 PM and 9 PM each evening.
Explore the Black House (Baan Dam)
The Black House is one of the weirdest, most unusual and surreal places to visit. The Black House is the creation of a local artist from Chiang Rai Thawan Duchanee and it doesn’t have a religious significance like temples do. The place feels secluded and mysterious.
Climb The Wat Huay Pla Kang, The Dragon Temple
This temple is visible for afar, thanks to the large white statue representing the goddess of Mercy. Wat Huay Pla Kung is a wonderful place to visit because of its impressive staircase with huge dragon heads leading up to the statue. There are 3 other structures on the side, a 9-tier pagoda that you can climb and a small, yet unique white hall.
↬ Note : Take an elevator up to the top of the statue to admire the views and unique wall carvings on the top floors. The elevator fee is 40 bath (1,2 EUR). You can also help the monks from those temples by buying a kilo of rice for them.
What to do
Eat as a local
Thai cusine is one of the best in the world. The flavours are unique and dishes are made with fresh ingredients. Head to the food market for a dinner and choose your plate out of a variety of vegetables, meat and fish. Even if the evening was hot, we saw many locals enjoying a hot pot and decided to do the same. The food was unbelievable. For 150 bath (4,5 EUR) we got a hot pot for 2 people with vegetables and shrimps. Mega yummy ?
Play with cats at Cat Cafe
Yet another unique and fun place to pass by! You can have lunch or just a coffee and relax petting friendly and super cute cats.
↬ TIP : The pineapple rice at Cat Cafe was definitely the best of our trip! And it costs only 90 bath (2,5 EUR).
Relax at Da Coffee House
A beautiful cafe set by the river. It’s a great place to stop by after visiting the Blue Temple.
Shop at the Night Market
You can find absolutely everything at the market. From cosmetics to clothing and souvenirs. The prices in Chiang Rai were very competitive comparing to markets in other parts of Thailand. Martyna bought there a beautiful hand-made bag for 500 bath (15 EUR). We found same type of bags in Chiang Mai and on the islands for at least double the price.
↬ TIP : Do not forget to bargain! Be polite and propose a price lower than you are willing to pay. The seller will lower his and then you can raise yours to find a middle ground, satisfying both sides.
Explore the Golden Triangle by Motorbike or on a Tour
The Golden Triangle is the area on the boarders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos. Historically, it was connected to the opium and heroin trades (thus ‘golden’). Nowadays, its just a stunning road leading through beautiful mountain landscapes, the hill-tribe villages and historical towns of Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong.
You can visit the Golden Triangle with a tour or by renting a motorbike / car. If driving by yourself, take precautions and do not drive off the main roads. Some areas can be dangerous because of the still ongoing drug trades. Alternatively, there is public bus that departs from Chiang Rai bus station to Mae Sai. From there, you’ll need to hop on a blue song-theaw (pick-up truck) to the Golden Triangle.
Getting to Chiang Rai
Getting to Chiang Rai is rather easy. There is small but well functioning airport that operates direct flights from Bangkok and other major cities. Arriving by bus from Chiang Mai is another option. The trip takes 4 h and ticket costs 180 bath (5 EUR).
Getting around Chiang Rai
The easiest way to get around is by renting a scooter. There are many scooter rentals in the city. You can also ask at your hotel about a scooter for rent. It costs 200 bath (6 EUR) for 1 day of rent. Usually you will be asked to either leave a caution or your passport to assure the rental.
↬ Note : Always ask for a helmet and check the scooter before leaving the shop. Take video or pictures of any existing scratches.
Make sure to get your International Driving license before driving a scooter or any vehicle in Thailand. Check with the local authorities in your country how to apply for the permit before your departure.
Alternatively you can hop on a tuk-tuk to take you anywhere within the city. For further or more comfortable rides take Grab. Grab is like Uber except of this that you can pay with cash for the trips. It’s easy, convenient and fairly priced.
Where to eat
The Night Market: the best place for dinner in Chiang Rai after chasing temples all day. The food is authentic, delicious and really cheap.
CAT ‘n’ a CUP Cat Cafe: fun place for lunch. The food is delicious and the cool possibility to play with cats!
Where to stay
There are many very cute hotel boutique that are affordable in Chiang Rai, here are our 2 favorites.
↬ Find all the hotels in Chiang Rai on booking.com