Northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai offers a more relaxed and chilled destination than neighbouring Chiang Mai…
…although Chiang Rai is also steadily becoming a popular haunt for locals and foreigners.
In this part 2 of Chiang Rai, I share a few sights with you from a three-month journey through Thailand in 2014. Part 1 – Chilling in Chiang Rai – shares how to get to Chiang Rai from Mae Sot by bus, where to eat and sleep.
Where is Chiang Rai?
Founded in 1262, Mueang Chiang Rai (or just Chiang Rai) is Thailand’s most northern city and is around 839 kilometres from Bangkok.
Chiang Rai is a border city and travellers are using this town more as a stepping stone to cross into Laos. Moreso than the more touristy and expensive Chiang Mai.
Why Chiang Rai?
Sadly, Chiang Rai is the last stop-off after three months of amazing and fascinating overland travel from the south to the north of Thailand, with some challenging volunteering thrown in for good measure.
Finally reaching this almost border town, the next country to explore is Laos, which I haven’t visited since 1989 and readying myself for massive changes.
What to see
Essentially, northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai is a service city for the surrounding province but is also renowned for its hill tribes living in the mountainous terrain, and accessible by trekking.
The city also serves the Golden Triangle border region – Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos – in the past, renowned as a lucrative opium trading hub.
Hiring a bike for a couple of days to see Chiang Rai’s sights although only see snippets. This is due to getting lost on a winding pot-holed almost shell-holed dirt track – luckily all this before the afternoon torrential deluge of rain, which ended in a small bike accident.
Somehow missing this temple after avidly looking for the temple in the pouring rain on the bike, see the temple from a distance whilst whizzing by in traffic, which ended in a bike accident – read below.
The temple is around 14-kilometres south of the city and I hear it’s worthwhile visiting, next time.
Khun Korn Waterfall
Riding up to the entrance gate, everything is closed for this waterfall. Mental note to self, many things are closed for the low (wet) season in Thailand.
Apparently, you can swim here as the water is crystal clear in this picturesque and tranquil setting – another time perhaps…
Travellers rave about this park owned by Singha Beer (Thailand’s signature beer) as the best tourist attraction in the region as animal feeding is offered, a coffee shop, a tea plantation, and free farm shuttle buses.
Riding past this park and stopping only for a few minutes, we didn’t really fancy going in as the park appears to be probably more fun for a family with children.
Unfortunately, on the day of trying to find the ever-illusive White Temple, a little accident on our scooter occurred.
In thunderous torrential rain on the return trip to the resort and right in the middle of the city during peak-hour – traffic-it’s always peak hour in Thailand – the inevitable happens…
The old hand slipped on the accelerator and bang, we accelerated into the back of a utility truck with a loud thud.
Both parties pull over and understandably, the Indian guy is quite annoyed at the mere tiny dent in his car, although our bike shows a little more damage. The front of the metal basket is pushed in and also the bike sustained some scratches – not there on hiring the bike. Visions of dishing out buckets of cash to the hire company flash through my mind, as I have heard that often tourists are ripped off severely when an accident occurs.
After some heated words back and forth then acknowledging we are in the wrong, we apologise. Really, this is all the other driver wanted and then we both continued in different directions on our merry way. I hear that if we were locals, the driver probably would have taken the accident further and claimed on insurance. But, it’s probably much too hard to pursue such a minor issue when foreigners are involved – whew!
Using a little muscle power, the basket is pushed back into its relative original shape and the bike returned without any issues…very lucky on this day.
Day trip to Doi Mae Salong
If you feel like a day’s break or longer from Chiang Rai to somewhere a little quieter and cooler, then Doi Mae Salong (or just Mae Salong) is a great day trip. The catch is to make sure that you have your transport sorted out before you leave Chiang Rai to avoid a lucrative scam.
Mae Salong is a small town with a village feel, with an early history centring on the Golden Triangle’s opium trade.
Today, however, the trade is mostly in tea and not opium. Mae Salong is also home to many of the Akha Hill tribe, which these days make money hawking on the streets.
Check part 1 of Chiang Rai for detailed information on where to eat and stay while visiting this relaxed city, but also how to get to Chiang Rai by bus, if you happen to find yourself in Mae Sot.