The city of Chiang Rai is a sleepy provincial town, but tourists continue to explore the area due to its pleasant atmosphere. It’s more relaxed and humble compared to the boisterous and vibrant Chiang Mai, but Chiang Rai does not fall short on historical and cultural attractions. Founded as the capital of the Mengrai Dynasty in 1262, the city remains to exude a strong Lanna identity. This can be seen mostly through the cuisine and temples, as well as the art, language, and music.
Unlike Chiang Mai, the city is still unable to offer nightlife and entertainment its sister town renowned is known for. That doesn’t mean that Chiang Rai isn’t worth exploring, however!
If you’re planning a trip to the sleepy town, here are some things you should know before visiting:
The famous Chiang Rai beach is actually a river known as the Mae Kok River. It’s a popular place for locals, mainly because it offers a robust fishing source. The murky brown water flows from Chiang Rai up to the Mekong in Laos. On top of the river are make-shift bamboo platforms, mostly serving food and beer for tourists. It’s an experience like no other and you can opt to watch the river with a cold beer by your side. Although it mostly remains underdeveloped, the riverside actually offers a few luxury hotels along the waterfront. To fully appreciate the Mae Kok River’s beauty, consider hiring a long tail boat and paddle across the riverbanks.
Although relatively new, the Wat Huai Pla Kung Temple is an absolute must-see. It’s a little far from the heart of Chiang Rai, about 6km north of the city. You can head here in the morning or by sunset—it doesn’t matter! The temple is visible at night, too, as the surroundings are built with heavy-duty lights, making the entire place seem like a magical floating island of light. You’ll be able to marvel at the view of a giant white Buddha statue sitting on a lotus leaf, and a golden Chinese Pagoda. There’s also a white Buddhist Temple to explore—with so many to see, make sure to bring your camera along!
Despite its name, the infrastructure isn’t really a temple—it’s a museum built in the shape of one. Its official name is the Baan Dam Museum, but many locals just call it the Black House. Most tours offer this stop as part of the schedules, but if you plan to visit it yourself, be warned—it’s quite difficult to find! The effort will be well worth it, however, as it’s a museum unlike any other. Unlike most museums around the world, the Black House does not contain dainty porcelain and paintings. It offers a display of thousands of animal bones instead, arranged in artist ways. Although macabre to an extent, you’ll be fascinated by the eclectic mix of animal parts and woods. There are chairs and tables made out of horns and animal skins. Table runners are made from crocodiles and snake skins, and other home decors are made from bones—you don’t see those every day, so it’s worth the visit!
If you wish to explore Chiang Rai at your own pace, the most affordable and convenient way to go around town is to hire a scooter. Plenty of establishments offer scooters for hire, usually just around 250 baht per day. There’s no need for an International Driving License, either, as all you need is your own—just make sure it has your photograph. If you do choose to rent a scooter, remember to wear your helmet!
Many people dream of going to Paris and Italy, but some of the best destinations are offered by sleepy towns like the Chiang Rai. It offers plenty of adventures you won’t get anywhere else, including their little river-beach. As you plan your trip to Thailand, keep Chiang Rai in mind! If you’re looking for a place to stay in Chiang Rai, The Riverie by Katathani is the best choice. We offer you excellent service, luxurious stays, and a taste of our unique heritage and culture. Book a room with us now!