There are a shocking variety of issues to see and do in Chiang Rai, a unusual, inventive metropolis in northern Thailand. Near the borders of each Laos and Myanmar, it’s an ideal base for visiting hill tribes and for scenic mountain trekking (one of the vital adventurous issues to do in Chiang Mai!).
Chiang Rai can be dwelling to an unimaginable variety of lovely temples — from historic jewelled monuments to uncommon modern artworks.
I stayed in Chiang Rai for over per week throughout my current journey to Thailand, and I nonetheless didn’t handle to see every little thing. I believe it’s an incredible metropolis that deserves to be included on each northern Thailand journey itinerary.
21 Superior Issues to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand
There are quite a few fascinating issues to do in Chiang Rai. That is positively one of many high locations to go to in Thailand.
It’s attainable to go to Chiang Rai for simply a few hours on a day journey from Chiang Mai, which is the larger and better-known metropolis in northern Thailand. It’s a 3-4 hour bus journey from Chiang Mai on winding mountain roads.
Many individuals who go to both come for the day or keep for just one night time, and so they attempt to pack in as many Chiang Rai actions as attainable on a 1-day group tour.
Excursions might be a good suggestion in case you’re brief on time. However in case you’re not, there are such a lot of cool issues to do in Chiang Rai that it’s positively value staying a number of days. Or keep a full week, like I did.
Listed below are my high 21 issues to do in Chiang Rai.
1. Go to the White Temple
The epic White Temple, also referred to as Wat Rong Khun, needed to be first on the listing. It’s positively one of the vital well-known issues to do in Chiang Rai, and on this case, its iconic standing is deserved.
The White Temple is a sparkling-white fashionable temple with an enormous variety of surreal touches. It’s a genuinely breathtaking sight, and I used to be shocked by simply how a lot I liked it.
The White Temple was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Aside from the well-known temple itself, there are different buildings and fascinating objects you may stroll round, plus a gallery of bizarre work by the identical artist. It’s truly a piece in progress, with surrounding buildings nonetheless being constructed.
You would simply spend a few hours taking within the small, shocking particulars that make up this lovely temple complicated — equivalent to essentially the most lovely and disturbing No Smoking signal I’ve ever seen, or Keanu Reeves in his Matrix outfit painted onto the wall contained in the temple.
I’ve learn a whole lot of unfavorable feedback concerning the White Temple. The largest grievance is that this well-known temple has change into too crowded and touristy, which is true, but it surely’s nonetheless among the finest Chiang Rai sights.
You’ll have to barter the crowds and await a niche within the hordes of vacationers crowding each inch of the temple to snap the right picture.
The White Temple is unquestionably nonetheless value visiting, regardless of the variety of vacationers. You may keep away from among the worst occasions by visiting early within the day. Lots of people go to later within the day on a day journey from Chiang Mai. So in case you keep in a single day in Chiang Rai and make it to the temple very first thing within the morning you’ll have the most effective probability of getting an ideal expertise.
💵There’s an entrance price of fifty baht ($1.60) for foreigners to go to the White Temple.
✓ It’s necessary to notice that this can be a Buddhist temple, so costume accordingly (protecting shoulders and knees).
📍Tackle: 60 หมู่ที่ 1 Phahonyothin Rd, Pa O Don Chai, Mueang Chiang Rai District. Discover the temple on the map right here.
🕰 Hours: 8am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday 8am – 5:30pm.
2. Discover the Black Home
Additionally referred to as the Baan Dam, the Black Home has the same surreal and fashionable vibe because the White Temple. Among the buildings do look very very similar to black temples, however there are a number of different weird buildings dotted round. Some resemble igloos, whereas there’s one big development that appears like a beached submarine.
After the pure glory of the White Temple, I’ve to confess that the Black Home didn’t fairly match up for me, but it surely was nonetheless an unimaginable Chiang Rai attraction and I positively suggest visiting. However, seeing it straight after the mesmerizing White Temple in all probability didn’t do it any favours. It was additionally extra crowded than the White Temple.
💵The doorway price is 80 baht ($2.50).
🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday 9am – 5pm.
3. Go to the Blue Temple
Visiting the Blue Temple was considered one of my absolute favorite issues to do in Chiang Rai.
Earlier than visiting Chiang Rai, I’d heard loads concerning the wonders of the White Temple and the Black Home, however for some purpose, I’d by no means heard of the Blue Temple.
I’ve completely no thought why, as a result of this unimaginable fashionable temple utterly blew me away! It’s vibrantly colored, modern and kitsch (however in a great way). The within can be painted in extremely vivid patterns and hues.
Often known as Wat Rong Seua Ten, the temple was solely accomplished in 2016 and I believe that’s why it isn’t as well-known as among the extra well-known Chiang Rai sights. I’m fairly sure that’s about to alter.
🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7am to 8pm
4. Have an Iced Drink at Betty Espresso – an ideal pit cease when testing all of the issues to do in Chiang Rai
I fell in love with Betty Espresso, a small, unassuming espresso store, due to its nice iced coffees and even higher decor.
The colorful cafe is mainly a shrine to the cartoon character Betty Boop. Betty-themed posters and dolls cowl each inch of the house. It’s simply down the street from Wat Klang Wieng, which makes it an excellent quirky relaxation cease whereas temple hopping. Click on right here for instructions.
Tackle: WR6M+45W, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand
5. Dodge Monkeys on the Monkey Temple
The monkey temple, also referred to as the Fish Cave Temple or Wat Tham Pla, is protected by a dramatic staircase with 7-headed Nagas (legendary serpents).
It’s completely overrun with monkeys. They’re truly fairly menacing and are recognized to leap on unsuspecting vacationers to grab their issues, so go to at your personal threat!
The monkey cave is a brief drive from Chiang Rai and also you’ll want a automobile or scooter to go to. I didn’t hire a bike in Chiang Rai however there are a number of motorbike rental outlets close to the central clock tower.
The associated fee is determined by the kind of bike you’re on the lookout for. Sometimes it’s about 200 baht ($6 USD) per day. Though loads of travellers journey scooters and motorbikes in Thailand, remember that visitors might be extraordinarily hectic. In case you’re in an accident your journey insurance coverage might not cowl you in case you don’t have a bike license.
Alternatively, you may negotiate a value for a return journey with a automobile or bike taxi driver, or be part of a gaggle tour – extra on this under.
💵 Free entrance.
Tackle: ถ้ำลิง วัด ถ้ำปลา Pong Ngam, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai, 57130, Thailand
See Additionally: Price of Residing in Thailand – A Information for Expats, Travellers & Digital Nomads
6. Feast on Thai Treats on the Evening Market
The Chiang Rai night time market isn’t the largest I’ve seen, however there are many unimaginable meals stalls serving up northern Thai specialities.
One in every of my favorites is Khao Soi, a completely scrumptious curried noodle dish with a particular flavour you may’t discover wherever else. This is among the high meals in Thailand.
The night time market in Chiang Rai is quieter and extra stress-free than every other Thai night time market I’ve skilled (and I’ve been to lots!) so this can be a great spot for stocking up on souvenirs. And naturally, a go to right here is among the finest issues to do in Chiang Rai for foodies.
🕰 Hours: Saturday from 4:30pm to 12:30am
7. Go Temple Hopping in Chiang Rai’s City Centre
Whereas the well-known fashionable temples are on Chiang Rai’s outskirts, the outdated metropolis itself can be dwelling to quite a lot of spectacular older temples, a few of that are well-known in their very own proper and have a much more sacred place in Thai historical past than the surrealist modern upstarts talked about above.
If temple hopping is your factor, you would spend hours strolling by way of Chiang Rai’s metropolis centre, taking in some unimaginable structure. Two of my favourites are Wat Klang Wieng and Wat Ming Meuang, a Thirteenth-century temple coated in iridescent crystals, and Wat Phra Singh with its spectacular golden spires.
8. Go to Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew might be essentially the most well-known historic temple in Chiang Rai. This lovely however small temple as soon as housed the revered Emerald Buddha, which is now within the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Legend has it that the Emerald Buddha was hidden in a chedi (dome-shaped shrine) and was found after the chedi was struck by lightning. Though the statue has been moved to Bangkok, you may see a duplicate in Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai.
9. Watch the Clock Tower Gentle Present
Chiang Rai’s ornate clock tower was designed by the identical artist who created the well-known White Temple. It’s set in a busy and not-very-attractive visitors intersection.
Though it’s intricate and spectacular so far as clock towers go, I wasn’t blown away after I first noticed it, surrounded by honking visitors underneath a cloudy sky.
That mentioned, after darkish the clock tower turns into the positioning of a vibrant mild present, flashing totally different colors in time to music. It feels as if the entire city (and positively all the vacationers) end up to observe the spectacle, and it’s truly a enjoyable expertise. This is among the hottest issues to do in Chiang Mai when the solar goes down.
✓ I like to recommend having a snack or drink at one of many eating places or cafes that line the streets on this space. A number of have outside tables with entrance row seats.
🕰 Hours: Each day at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm.
See Additionally: Mae Hong Son Loop – A Information for Travellers
10. Have a Drink at Cat Bar
The Cat Bar is an efficient quaint dive bar, with a pool desk, low lighting and rock tunes.
Chiang Rai isn’t an enormous celebration city — actually, I discovered it fairly quiet, though I visited in January, in peak vacationer season. Even so, there was an ideal vibe at Cat Bar. Click on right here for instructions.
Tackle: WR4J+JH3, Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Street, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand
11. Go to the Northernmost Level of Thailand
Thailand’s northernmost level is only a brief 20-mile drive from Chiang Rai. You may truly go to this spot — it’s marked with an ornate signal subsequent to the Myanmar border.
There’s a bridge becoming a member of the 2 international locations and you may watch individuals crossing into Myanmar. There are additionally a number of eating places and outlets promoting jewelry and ornaments made (allegedly) from Myanmar jade.
12. Go to the Tree High Journey Park
The Doi Tung Tree High Stroll and Zipline is the place to take a treetop cover stroll 30 metres above the bottom. It has rope bridges, swings and big ziplines, all in lovely pure environment.
It’s a part of the massive Mae Fah Luang Backyard, which is filled with tropical flowers. I actually loved strolling across the backyard in any case the thrill of the ropes and ziplines.
The backyard is within the northern a part of the Chiang Rai area, close to the border with Myanmar, so it’s an ideal attraction to pair with the following few issues to do in Chiang Rai.
📍 Tackle: Huai Khrai, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai
💵 Tickets value 150 Thai baht (round $4.50 USD) for each adults and youngsters.
13. Survey Three International locations from the Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle is on the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, although it’s higher often called the spot the place Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet.
You may stand on a balcony excessive on a hilltop, searching at breathtaking views of the rivers and land under.
Down under the lookout level is a huge golden Buddha statue overlooking the Mekong River, and an historical ruined temple is up the hill above it.
The Golden Triangle is round 50km from Chiang Rai, and there are a number of different locations of curiosity within the neighborhood, so it’s a well-liked cease on a day journey taking in the most effective issues to do in and round Chiang Rai.
See Additionally: Issues to Do in Koh Tao – High 21 Issues You Don’t Need to Miss
14. Study About Opium’s Turbulent Historical past on the Corridor of Opium Museum
Positioned subsequent to the Golden Triangle, the Corridor of Opium is a small museum with an exhibition concerning the opium commerce.
The Golden Triangle space was traditionally recognized for poppy cultivation and opium commerce and smuggling, and the Corridor of Opium traces this historical past, together with the commerce’s unwell results on the area.
📍 Tackle: Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
🕰 Hours: 8:30am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday
💵 200 baht ($6.40)
15. Go to a Hill Tribe Village
Hill tribe villages are discovered all around the hills and mountains surrounding Chiang Rai. The individuals in these villages are sometimes a part of nomadic tribes from outdoors Thailand and embody the well-known “lengthy neck” Karen hilltop tribes. These teams traditionally got here to Thailand from Myanmar, and the ladies might put on brass rings round their necks.
For my part, in case you resolve to go to a hill tribe village, it’s necessary to fastidiously contemplate the expertise you’re reserving and ensure it’s moral. Among the hill tribe visits, particularly these included as an “attraction” on low-cost whistle-stop day journeys, could possibly be seen as exploitative.
A great, non-disruptive possibility is to keep away from a gaggle tour and go along with only a information. On this non-public tour you’ll go to a number of small cities within the Golden Triangle and the Akha hill tribe. It additionally makes a cease on the Corridor of Opium. It’s an effective way to get off the overwhelmed path in northern Thailand.
16. Go Mountain Trekking (one of the vital adventurous issues to do in Chiang Rai)
Chiang Rai is among the most well-known areas of Thailand for trekking, and lots of routes take within the forests, waterfalls and rivers of the Lum Nam Kok Nationwide Park. Most treks take not less than a few days to finish and contain a country homestay in a hilltop village.
It’s simple to guide day treks or multi-night treks with in a single day homestays by way of a number of of the journey businesses that line the central vacationer streets of Chiang Rai. Sadly, although, among the packages embody elephant driving, so verify this earlier than you guide.
Be aware: Goats On The Street doesn’t condone animal tourism or any actions to do with animals in captivity. Do your half to be a accountable traveller and say “no” to elephant driving.
An alternative choice is to guide a trekking tour on-line. On this tour, you’ll hike 15 kilometres within the jungle, seeing waterfalls, sizzling springs, and a tea plantation. You’ll even have a scrumptious lunch cooked in bamboo.
Travellers additionally extremely suggest Lanna Trek. The associated fee for a 2-day, 1-night trek is 2,800 Thai baht ($84 USD) per individual for teams of 2-3 individuals. A non-public tour prices extra and greater teams are barely cheaper.
17. Get Near Nature at Singha Park
Singha Park is a picturesque park within the Chiang Rai countryside, a number of components of that are a working farm.
It’s owned by the Singha Beer firm, however the focus is on nature and sustainability, not consuming beer. There are strolling and biking routes, tea plantations, fruit orchards, ziplines and an journey rope course.
There’s a very good restaurant too, which I spent some time in, stress-free in any case of these actions. Click on right here for instructions.
Tackle: 99 Moo 1, Mae Korn, Amphoe Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand
18. Go Stalactite-Recognizing on the Chiang Dao Cave
Chiang Dao Cave is a few hours’ drive from Chiang Rai, but it surely’s nonetheless shut sufficient for a simple day journey.
The primary attraction is the mountain of Doi Chiang Dao, with Chiang Dao Cave at its base. One of many deepest limestone caves in Thailand, the Chiang Dao Cave options stalactites and crystal formations.
💵 Entrance to the caves prices 40 Thai baht ($1.20 USD) however for the reason that caves are huge and poorly lit, you’ll in all probability want to rent a neighborhood information and hire a flashlight to correctly discover them, which might be one other 150-200 baht ($4.50-6).
Tackle: 273 หมู่ 5 Chiang Dao, Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai, 50170, Thailand
19. Go Chasing Waterfalls
At 70 metres, the Khun Korn Waterfall is the best waterfall within the area. Swimming underneath its highly effective water is among the finest issues to do in Chiang Rai. I spent what felt like hours within the water there.
It’s round a 30-minute stroll by way of a forest to get to the bottom of the waterfall, and you may swim if you get there. Ensure you deliver snug strolling sneakers and swimming garments, plus waterproof gear to your telephone and digital camera to guard them from the spray.
Tackle: Freeway 1208, Mae Kon, Mueang Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand
20. Take a Dip in a Scorching Spring
The Chiang Rai area is dwelling to quite a lot of pure sizzling springs set in lovely scenic environment. Take a look at Huay Mak Lium Scorching Spring, Pong Phra Bat Scorching Spring and Fang Scorching Spring (though this one is a couple of 2-hour drive from Chiang Rai).
Soaking in a sizzling spring is unquestionably one of many high issues to do in Chiang Rai throughout the cooler winter months. Entry prices from round 20-50 baht ($0.60 – $1.50) relying on the spring.
21. Take the Gradual Boat to Laos
Okay, so maybe this isn’t precisely among the finest issues to do in Chiang Rai, however the metropolis is the jumping-off level for travelling by land or boat from northern Thailand to Laos.
To expertise the gradual boat to Luang Prabang from Thailand, you first have to take a bus from Chiang Rai to the border, then catch a ship that sails alongside the Mekong River and ultimately takes you to Luang Prabang. The journey takes two days, together with an in a single day keep on the midway level.
You may guide a journey bundle by way of a journey company in Chiang Rai, a few of which embody the bus journey to the border and an in a single day keep in Chiang Khong (the Thai border city), in addition to the boat cruise.
Alternatively, you may take a bus to Chiang Khong your self, cross the border into Laos and purchase tickets for the boat journey there. That is the cheaper however much less clean possibility. Mekong Smile Cruise presents a bundle together with pick-up from Chiang Rai, resort and a cease on the Pak Ou Caves for 200 USD. Study extra concerning the journey in this submit.
Easy methods to See and Do Every part When You’re Quick on Time
Lots of people who go to Chiang Rai keep just for a few days. Regardless that I stayed for longer than that, I used to be nonetheless overwhelmed by the sheer variety of issues to do in Chiang Rai.
I wasn’t positive how I may match every little thing in, particularly since nearly all the finest Chiang Rai sights are fairly far-flung. The White Temple, Blue Temple and Black Home are all on the outskirts of Chiang Rai, and many of the different sights are even farther away.
If you wish to journey independently, it’s solely attainable to see all the finest Chiang Rai sights by yourself. You may catch a bus to among the nearer sights such because the White Temple, rent a driver for a day, or journey a scooter.
However since the most effective issues to do in Chiang Rai cowl such a large space, in case you actually need to do all of it in simply a few days, that is one vacation spot the place becoming a member of a gaggle tour actually does make sense.
Aside from hill tribe trekking and visiting a homestay within the mountains, which might take a number of days and must be organized individually, many of the different Chiang Rai sights are simple to see as a part of a (very busy!) day journey. In case you select to guide a day tour with a gaggle in a shared minibus, that is additionally the most cost effective solution to get round Chiang Rai and see its principal sights in a short while.
If you stroll down Chiang Rai’s principal streets, you’ll see quite a few journey businesses providing day journeys, every cramming a completely loopy variety of sights into in the future. These whistle-stop excursions are very easy to search out and guide, and are an ideal worth. A lot of the ones I noticed included transport, choose up and drop off at your resort, plus lunch. All of them value round 1000 baht ($30).
Take note of the excursions for Chiang Rai actions you guide to make sure you get an expertise you’re snug with. Some journey businesses in Chiang Rai don’t method the excursions they supply ethically — such because the hill tribe go to the place persons are handled very very similar to animals in a zoo. And sadly, many corporations nonetheless provide elephant rides as properly.
That mentioned, general I had an unimaginable time and will certainly return to expertise extra of the wonderful issues to do in Chiang Rai.
Easy methods to Get to Chiang Rai
In any other case, you’ll take a bus to get to Chiang Rai. From Chiang Mai it’s about 3.5 hours and from Bangkok the journey takes about 13 hours.
There’s no prepare to Chiang Rai, however there’s a prepare from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and from there you may take a bus onward to Chiang Rai.
To Luang Prabang in Laos, you’ll take buses and boats, first to the border city Chiang Khong in Thailand or Huay Xai in Laos, the place there are many boats ready. The journey takes two days.
A great website for checking bus and prepare schedules in Thailand and the remainder of Asia is 123go.asia.
FAQs About What to Do in Chiang Rai
Nonetheless have a query about all the good Chiang Rai actions? Listed below are solutions to some regularly requested questions on what to do in Chiang Rai.
I believe Chiang Rai is unquestionably value visiting. I stayed for per week! Some individuals come for less than in the future, however there are such a lot of issues to do in Chiang Rai that town deserves extra time.
Chiang Rai is understood for its temples, and two of essentially the most well-known are named after colours: the White Temple and the Blue Temple. Chiang Rai can be recognized for being Thailand’s gateway to the Golden Triangle and the numerous hill tribes in close by villages.
Each are good, and in case you go to Chiang Rai, you’ll in all probability find yourself visiting Chiang Mai anyway. To check them, merely put, Chiang Mai has extra cultural sights (temples, historical past, meals), and Chiang Rai has extra pure sights (with loads of tradition as properly).
I’d recommend a mixture of all the most effective Chiang Rai sights: go to a temple or two, go to sizzling springs or a cave, make a visit north to the Golden Triangle, and finish the day with a drink on the Cat Bar.
I spent per week and liked each minute of it. In case you don’t have that a lot time, nonetheless, you may see lots in two days.
Now You Know What to Do in Chiang Rai!
For me, essentially the most thrilling half about visiting Chiang Rai was town’s inventive spirit — the truth that in such a small metropolis, so many unimaginable modern temples have sprung up in just some years.
I particularly loved the best way these surreal artworks stood subsequent to wonderful historic monuments. Ensure you additionally expertise extra of the area’s pure magnificence with some waterfall hopping and hill treks! For such a small place, there are quite a few enjoyable issues to do in Chiang Rai. Pleased travels!
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