In recent years, Chiang Rai has become an alternative to the hectic and touristy destination of Chiang Mai, but also a great place to chill out and rest for a while.
From Mae Sot‘s bus terminal – just under three kilometres from the town centre – catch the GreenBus to Mueang Chiang Rai (Chiang Rai for short). Minibuses are also available and can be faster but also more expensive than the GreenBus.
The uneventful (always good in Asia) eight-hour journey travels through lovely lush vistas as you ascend to Chiang Rai.
Arriving in the early evening, the next leg of the journey is by waving down a passing Songthaew to finally meander to your booked accommodation.
Where to sleep
Chiang Rai is catching up to Chiang Mai not just for the number but also types of accommodation on offer that suits every budget.
Chayadol Boutique Resort
Initially booking 699 Moo 24, Kornrat Village for three nights, loved it so much that stayed for six nights, although wanting to stay another three nights, the resort was fully booked, so on the move again.
The Chayadol provides a large clean modern room (king-size bed), toiletries, serviced daily, AC, balcony, water, fridge, and a great-sized area to store big backpacks. A great clean pool area and also a gym await guests. A good breakfast is served with a selection of Thai and western food. Very friendly and helpful staff make your stay perfect.
This resort has many local tourists stay as well as foreigners, so it books up very quickly, especially on weekends. Although a little out of the city centre at approximately a 45-minute walk, the area is lovely and quiet with the added benefit of not hearing the city’s noise.
At the time of writing in August 2014, the Chayadol resort organised a scooter hire for you at around USD$6 per day, which is a reasonable price. Also offered, are many different types of tours around Chiang Rai and the surrounding area, although these are geared more toward tourists or wealthy locals so a little pricey for our budget.
Baan Norn Plearn Guest House
Stayed at this great guest house on 382 Banpaprakan Rd. T. Wiang Mueang for three nights and so glad as Baan Norn Plearn Guest House has a lovely vibe.
Well located to town and many local eateries, this very homely guest house exudes a great ambience and good service from all staff. Our deluxe room is serviced daily and includes toiletries and water. Coffee and tea can be made throughout the day in the guest house’s common area. The wi-fi works in the room and in the common area, which is always a bonus.
The breakfast is amazing and the best in Thailand so far! Very good quality, fresh, and delicious. You can even whip up your own eggs the way you like here as a 2-burner portable hotplate and utensils are laid out.
Although Chayadol offers a laundry service, as with many hotels it is much cheaper to do your own.
There are pay washing machines (20B or 30B) along the street next to the Chayadol. To get to the machines, turn right at the front entrance, then left onto the long road, and keep walking until you stumble upon pay machines.
Where to eat
Tried several coffee shops but was not too impressed as most are overpriced, especially for the quality. One thing I have noticed here is that the food is definitely spicier if that’s at all possible in Thailand.
Although I don’t know the name of the restaurant, make sure you try this wonderful female-run local restaurant about a 10-minute walk from Chayadol. At the resort’s front entrance, turn right then right again, and walk uphill past big homes. The restaurant is on your right and you can experience delicious and traditional Thai food at a very cheap price. Many locals eat at this restaurant, which also offers a takeaway service.
The reason for all the directions is that many TripAdvisor reviews comment that Chayadol’s location is too far from anywhere and yes, it is far from western-style restaurants. Although, when taking the time to walk around the area, you will find everything you need within the resort’s vicinity. Including, many small local restaurants that serve scrumptious food at much cheaper prices.
Check out this coffee shop on Baanpa Pragarn Road for reasonably-priced coffee, although I have had much better in Thailand. The very comfy decor and very friendly staff, make this an easy place to stop for a while.
Night Bazaar and Food Court
Frequenting this area on a couple of evenings, you can pick up cheap delicious local meals and treats.
One night, a huge crowd danced the night away and the older gent in the pink hat was dancing like there was no tomorrow – so great to see him enjoying life!
Apart from all the usual goods, you can buy in your typical plaza, the food here is pretty cheap and delicious.
Eating here a couple of times, the ground floor offers the best-valued meals – many locals also eat here.
Extensive selection of local and western food at varying prices offering something for everyone. The great atmosphere and music are conducive to spending more time at the Connect. Try the mixed berry juice as it is delicious and won’t break the bank. Opposite the Old Bus Terminal in the city centre, this cute little cafe is bustling with foreign tourists.
What to see?
Don’t forget to pop over to part 2 of Chiang Rai where I share a few sites to see while in this city.
Crossing the border from Thailand to Laos
If you find yourself in Chiang Rai and want to cross the border overland into Laos (Huay Xai, Bokeo), you can only buy the international bus ticket on the actual day of travel. You will not be sold a ticket beforehand so save yourself time, angst, and petrol as this is non-negotiable at the ticket office.
The bus leaves from the International bus station, which is around three kilometres south of Chiang Rai.