Chiang Rai is a pleasant city in the north of Thailand with some colourful and remarkable sights. You probably know the famous White Temple? But did you know that Chiang Rai also has a Blue Temple and that you can visit the Black Museum with its rather remarkable objects? Anyway, these three places are already a reason not to skip this special city during a holiday in Thailand. Wondering what else you can see and do in Chiang Rai? Read on and find out in this Travel Guide…
What would you like to know about Chiang Rai, Thailand?
- History – 5 historical facts – Did you know…?
- Sightseeing – 7 interesting places in Chiang Rai
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transport – How to get there?
5 historical facts – Did you know…?
- Chiang Rai was founded in 1262 as the capital of the Lana Empire? It soon lost that status when Chiang Mai was built in 1296. The Lanna Empire was a small kingdom in the north of present-day Thailand.
- Chiang Rai means ‘City of Rai’. It is a reference to the king who first founded this settlement in 1262, King Meng Rai.
- In 1432, an earthquake struck the city, but that this meant luck rather than misfortune? Through this tragedy they discovered an emerald Buddha, which you can admire in one of the temples of the city.
- Chiang Rai became part of the Kingdom of Siam, now Thailand, in 1786.
- It was not until 1910 that the province of Chiang Rai actually became part of Thailand, then Siam.
Sightseeing – 7 attractions in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is a city where you can easily spend a few days. But you have little time and want to see as much as possible? Then it’s best to hire a tuktuk or a taxi. A number of interesting sights are located outside the city. Below is a list of 7 places of interest that will make your stay in Chiang Rai complete.
1. Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple
Wat Rong Khun is located 8 kilometers south of the center of Chiang Rai and is one of the most special temples of Thailand. But maybe it’s just an art project? It was designed in 1997 by Chalermchai Kositpipat and it will still take years before the temple is completely finished. Access to the temple is free and from Bus Terminal 1 for about 20 baht can be reached by bus.
2. Wat Rong Suea Ten, or Blue Temple
Besides a white temple, Chiang Rai also owns a Blue Temple, or Wat Rong Suea. Maybe less impressive that the White Temple, but also this temple may be there. It is located north of the city center and can be combined with the Black House! The Black House? Yes, indeed! A special museum 8 kilometers north of the city.
3. Baan Dam Museum, or the Black Museum
Then on to the Black House! This museum, which by the way consists of a lot of different small buildings, is an art project of the by now deceased Thai artist Thawan Duchanee. Part of his work can be admired here. That not everyone was a fan of his art is perhaps understandable if you take a look at the picture below and think about what that might be. In the Baan Dam Museum you will come across more of these works. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs 80 baht pp.
4. Wat Phra Keaw
This temple dates from the 14th century and was built at the time of the Kingdom of Lanna (1292-1775). In the temple there is a Buddha of Jade, who would have seen the light on this spot in 1434. In 1978 the king upgraded this temple to a royal temple because of its most important historical value. Wat Phra Keaw and the ‘Emerald Buddha’ can be visited for free.
5. Wat Huay Pla Kang
Another temple? Yes, indeed, because it’s also special. Wat Huay Pla Kang is located about 6 kilometers west of the center of Chiang Rai and consists of a large white statue of the Goddess of Grace, a temple and a kind of pagoda. It is beautifully situated on a hill and from here you have a view of the surroundings of Chiang Rai. A visit to the temple and the pagoda is free of charge. For a climb in the Goddess of Grace you pay a small fee.
6. Hill Tribe Museum & Education Center
This small museum north of the bus station gives a glimpse into the life of the different tribes that live around Chiang Rai. In addition, this museum tells the fascinating story of the history of opium and the influence it had on the region. If you would like to make a tour to one of the tribes that live here, like the Karen, this museum gives a good explanation about customs and habits of this tribe.
7. The Golden Triangle, the three-country point
70 kilometers northeast of Chiang Rai is the Golden Triangle, or tri-county point. This is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, separated by the Mekong River. This used to be the heart of the opium trade and is now a popular place among tourists to take a boat trip on the Mekong River. For more information about the opium trade go to the Hall of Opium or the House of Opium. From Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1 you can take the bus to Sop Ruak.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Chiang Rai?
Chiang Rai is a nice town of about 70,000 inhabitants. Depending on what you want to do you can spend 3 full days here. If you only want to see the White Temple then 1 day is enough.
Most people stay close to Bus Terminal 1. You will also find a large night market with delicious food and on some days even performances.
Tip: Ti Amo Chiang Rai Central is a budget accommodation about 500 meters walking distance from Bus Station. It has a cozy communal area, you can borrow bikes for free to explore the city and it has dormitories as well as private rooms.
Transportation – How to get to Chiang Rai?
By plane: Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport is the airport of this city. It is located 8 kilometers northeast of the center and is easily accessible by Airport Shuttle Bus or taxi. Although it is an international airport, there are almost only national flights.
Bus: Chiang Rai has a number of bus stations of which Bus Terminal 1 is located in the city center. The new and modern Bus Terminal 2 is located 7 kilometers south of the center. If you want to continue your trip and sit in the center of the city then Bus Terminal 1 is the perfect solution. From here buses leave for Chiang Mai with probably a stop at Bus Terminal 2.
And what is your opinion about Chiang Rai, Thailand? If you have any more tips and ideas, feel free to leave a message below