Our first trip to Chiang Mai was so packed that we never had a chance to shoot up to Chiang Rai for the day – I mean three hours each way is a waste of half a day in any case.
For our second venture around Northern Thailand we promised Chiang Rai 24 hours of undistracted attention, and perhaps another 8 hours of split focus, and it was definitely worth it!
Speaking to some locals we ascertained that Chiang Rai used to be home to most of the Royal Family, high powered government officials and some of Thailand’s wealthiest families. This was predominantly for its clean air and mild climate. The air quality has diminished over time, but large properties and decadent houses still prevail throughout.
Chiang Rai is one of the oldest cities in Thailand, dating back to the 13th century and was even under Burmese rule for hundreds of years!
Convinced yet? If you find yourself in Thailand’s northernmost large city, this is what you’ve got to do:
1. Blue Temple – Wat Rong Suea Ten
This magnificent temple is named Wat Rong Suea Ten which translates to the house of the dancing tiger or you can call it by its more common name, The Blue Temple.
The Temple is located in Rim Kok, Chiang Rai and as the name suggests, the whole Temple, inside and out, is an exquisite cerulean blue – lined with gold embellishments.
Inside sits a massive white statue of Buddha where the locals come to pay their respects and worship or meditate.
As one of the more recently built temples, it is not as popular among the tourist community, therefore you should definitely check it out now.
2. White Temple – Wat Rong Khun
The White Temple is an extremely famous photo spot and you will see it all over Instagram.
The temple itself is more of an art exhibit than an actual temple. It was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai artist who began its construction in 1997, which is still ongoing.
The temple contains a mixture of old Buddhist stories and contemporary, modern depictions of the good vs. evil and heaven vs. hell paradigms.
It is a little more on the touristy side and very busy!
3. Mae Fah Luang Gardens
These next three places on this list are all connected.
The Mae Fah Luang Gardens in Chiang Rai are located in the northern part of Chiang Rai and they are a definite ‘must’ while visiting.
The Gardens date back to the works of the Princess Mother (late Mother of Thailand’s previous king Rama IX and grandmother to the current King, Rama X as of 2020).
She wanted to bless the Thai people with an opportunity to experience a beautiful flower garden like the ones she had seen overseas while still providing the local villagers with job opportunities. She wanted to extend the knowledge on how to keep and maintain the gardens, as well as how to bring in revenue through tourism.
Her work with the local people and the gardens is greatly admired. It is also the place she decided to call home.
You can go and visit her royal villa in the gardens, Doi Tung.
4. Mae Fah Luang Arboretum
This is one of Chiang Rai’s secret spots! We actually discovered it by accident, but are really glad we did!
Something that is important to mention is that on one of the Princess Mothers trips up North, she saw that the local people were cultivating opium to survive. The area was becoming popular for drug trade and the opium farming was also causing damage to the surrounding forests.
She revived the forests and gave the locals job opportunities, she really changed a nation.
The Arboretum was created to host native flora and flowers from overseas, giving the forests their life back.
5. The Hall Of Inspiration
Again, a very scarcely known thing you have to do in Chiang Rai.
The Hall of Inspiration was probably our favourite place to visit. It is an interactive exhibit built to honour the Royal Mahidol Family.
The exhibit shows off the great merits of the Mahidol Family and how they completely changed the nation.
We were afforded the opportunity to live in Thailand for over a year and have come to know the great respect the Thai people have for the Royal Family, so walking through this exhibit added so much life to the stories, the people and the country.
The exhibition gives you goosebumps because it so perfectly highlights the amazing acts of love, service, and kindness from the Royal Family to their people.
There is a room at the end of the exhibit that is a collection of quotes from the family and reading them brings tears to your eyes. It’s hard to fathom the wisdom that was spoken!
6. Choui Fong Tea Plantations
Tea is a huge part of Chiang Rai’s economy and therefore it should be a must if you are stopping by.
Choui Fong offers up a great spot to stop and have some tea and admire the rolling hills of the plantation. They have two restaurants that offer some great meal and drink options like green tea cake, green tea smoothies and more.
The restaurants are really modern, high-end and offer up stunning views.
A Few Answers About Chiang Rai
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A Video Of Chiang Rai
What is Chiang Rai like? Watch our video below!
We hope that you enjoy your visit to Chiang Rai. Let us know if you found any other gems that we should go back and see! Please also tag us and use #DearTravallure, we love hearing from you!
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