Chiang Rai, Thailand – Is it really all it is Cracked up to be? – Asia Tour 2017

Chiang Rai, Thailand. Everybody you run into who has ever been to Thailand claims you MUST go here. Is it really all that great?

Bye bye Luang Prabang, Laos, Hallo Chang Rai, (photos here) located in Northern Thailand; not quite as trekked as the south, known for it’s limestone cliffs, the White Temple, pristine nature, elephant sanctuary, culinary delights and ancient long necked village tribes. Also, if you believe the travel hype, the place you must go!  Let’s find out if it is all it’s cracked up to be.

Wat Rong Khun / White Temple - Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun / White Temple

At 11 am, via the Night Bus from Laos, we finally arrived. If you need to know how to take the Nightmare Sleeping Bus from Luang Prabang to Chiang Rai, and what happened in between, you can read about it here.

The sun was shining, the roads were smoothly paved and washrooms were so much cleaner; these are the first things that stand out in stark contrast as we make our way into beautiful northern Thailand, as opposed to our previous destination of Laos.

Chiang Rai Tin Town Below Forest - Thailand
Chiang Rai Tin Town Below Forest

On arrival at the bus station, many smiling men politely offered their tuk tuk services. Mr. Manat offered his services for the best price of 100 baht and promptly took us to our hotel Baan Siri. We arrived very tired and in desperate need of a shower, but were firmly told no checkin until 2 pm.?  Not so happily, we deposited our luggage with them and headed out for the short walk to downtown.

Clocktower Street - Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Rd - Chiang Rai, Thailand
Clocktower Street – Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Road

First on our agenda was Thai SIM card which we found quickly at a 7-Eleven; one card was 300 baht (USD$8.75) for 7 days.  It seemed a little expensive, but not too bad if you need to be connected.  Hunger quickly overtook our need for sleep as we found a cute little cafe called Lumdee.

Pad Thai - Lumdee Menu Restaurant, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Pad Thai – Lumdee Restaurant

After our meal, we made the 20 minute walk back to our hotel, checked in and had a heavenly shower in our wet room.

Feeling wide awake after our showers, we decided to make the most of our time and instead of going to bed for a nap, we headed to the Saturday Night Market, also known as the Walking Street Market – not to be confused with the tourist Night Bazaar, which is every night. People often flippity say once you have seen one night market, you have seen them all, Wrong!  This Market was huge!  We walked, browsing for a few hours and I am certain we only saw a small portion of it! Filled with culinary delights, arts, crafts, clothing, electronics and so much more, it makes your head spin.

Banana Leaf Egg Boats - Night Market, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Banana Leaf Egg Boats – Night Market
Chiang Rai Saturday Night Market - Thailand
Chiang Rai Saturday Night Market

Instead of eating at the market, we went in search of a dining restaurant which eventually found us in Sawaddee.  This fabulous restaurant with excellent service was located on the second floor of a building overlooking the Night Bazaar, which made for entertaining views.

Tom Kha Gai Soup and Gai Nam Dang - Sawaddee Restaurant, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Tom Kha Gai Soup and Gai Nam Dang – Sawaddee Restaurant

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped by a hot pot open air restaurant for a beer & water because we saw a football game playing. It was still half full with locals drinking, eating and watching the game. Nobody understood any English, or did not let on if they did, but we, and they sure laughed a LOT!??.

The next day we got up early, ready to take on a full busy day of sight seeing. We walked for hours through and around the city observing temples, markets, the Mae Kok river and a beautiful resort.

River View from Dusit Resort - Chiang Rai, Thailand
River View from Dusit Resort

Link to a List of top things to do and a Temple Challenge!

After a very late lunch of 7-Eleven self made ramen noodles (almost free?), we ventured through a huge?indoor market which we accidentally wandered upon.  If you need anything cheap (great prices), this is the place.

Huge Indoor Market - Chiang Rai, Thailand
Huge Indoor / Outdoor Central Day Market

Mid afternoon we grabbed a **tuk tuk from hell for 150 baht to the White Temple / Wat Rong Khun. Our old driver horrified us during the 30 minute drive; every time he stopped, he would rev the engine of his junker and basically pop the clutch when taking off, practically dumping us out the back.? We learned to remind each other to hang on. His tongue was always hanging out, perhaps in concentration, but every time I tried to take a picture, he caught on and would pull it back in. ? The White Temple Wat Rong Khun was gorgeous; glittering silver and white. Definitely worth the hell ride!

**Alternatively according to Wikitravel, It's easy to get to the temple by public transport: there is a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus station (20 baht, 30 min; platform 8, but ask driver or counter). To get back, flag down a public bus or songthaew from the police station on the left side of the road leading back to the main highway.
Wat Rong Khun / White Temple - Chiang Rai, Thailand
Wat Rong Khun / White Temple

Our second and last evening, we wandered around the Night Bazaar, and had another fabulous dinner at Sawaddee.

Sunset Street View - Chiang Rai, Thailand
Sunset Street View

Sadly, we did not go visit the ⁉️ Elephant Sanctuary or the ⁉️ Long Necked Tribes, however, this was by choice and after a lot of discussion, due to our controversial feelings about it.  We do not judge anyone and in the end, to each their own – I am not saying do or don’t. Part of me knows I missed some great photo opportunities…

On our final day, we grabbed a taxi to the Green Line Bus Station for 60 baht (USD$1.75) and bought our tickets to our next destination Chiang Mai for 166 baht each (USD$4.85), leaving at 11:30am.  With time to kill and empty stomachs, we strolled up the street to Baan Chivit Mai Bakery and Restaurant – a feel good Bakery ??.

Club Sandwich with French Fries - BaanchivitMai Bakery and Restaurant, Chiang-Rai, Thailand
Club Sandwich with French Fries – BaanchivitMai Bakery and Restaurant

Goodbye Chiang Rai. Next stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Costs for 2 nights, 2 persons:
 Transportations: USD$10.50  Excluding transportation to and out of Chiang Rai
 Entertainment / Excursions: USD$0 (everything we did was free!)
 Lodging: USD$32
 Food and Drink: USD$40

Total Cost: (2 persons):  USD$82.50 or $41.25 per day

¹Baan Siri hotel is a short 10 minute fast walk (20 minute stroll) to downtown.

❗️Sample prices:
Small water – 10 baht (USD$0.30)
Coca Cola – 12 baht (USD$0.35)
Ice coffee – 40 baht (USD$1.20)
Chang Beer – 55 baht (USD$1.60)
Noodle or rice dishes can be bought for around 35 to 4o baht (USD$1.00+)

Oh, and to answer my question: Is it really all it is Cracked up to be? Yes and no – At first we couldn’t see past the fact that this was just a city and we had expected so much more.  The not so trekked path was overrun with backpackers! But, by the end of our time here, and in retrospect, Chiang Rai is definitely a place to visit! What do you think?

Use the comments section below to let us know about your experience, feelings or questions regarding this Northern treasure.

Links which you may find interesting:
 Chiang Rai Photos
.….⇒ Stay: Baan Siri Hotel
           …..⇒ Eat: Baan Chivit Mai Bakery & Restaurant
           …..⇒ Eat: Lumdee Cafe Restaurant
           …..⇒ Eat: Sawaddee Restaurant
…..⇒ Sleeping Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai
…..⇒ Top Things to See and Do in Chiang Rai
…..⇒ Temple Challenge – are you up for it? Fun!
 Chiang Mai / Photos
…..⇒ Green Bus From Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai

Location: Location:  Asia  >  Southeast Asia  >  Thailand  > Northern Thailand >  Chiang Rai

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Diane Misol

Canadian living in Germany - Enjoying Travel & Documenting as I go! My goal is to bring you honest reporting based on my experience. As blogging took over the internet, so did glossy photos and life is perfect mentality. The world is now officially viewed through rose coloured glasses. I aim to bring you a truer, more realistic version. Hope you enjoy and please share if you do.

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