Chiang Rai City Guide: Why you shouldn't skip Thailand's North!
"Every adventure is worthwhile" - Amelia Earhart
Located in the far north of Thailand, surrounded by lush jungles and coffee plantations (I know right!! Fields of coffee!!! - okay okay we'll calm down... for now), Chiang Rai has become something of its own - an antithesis to traditional Thailand. While visitors to the rest of the country are surrounded by traditional temples and beaches, Chiang Rai offers travellers modern artistic takes on temples and adventure trips into the jungle. So, with the change being what it is, here is a brief city guide to Chiang Rai to hopefully make y'all's trip better.
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Chiang Rai's White Temple
At the top of any Chiang Rai city guide will always be the White Temple, arguably the most photographed spot in the city. Yes, like a lot of things in Chiang Rai, it is a little way out of the city centre and requires you to go t the bus station and grab a small bus to get there, but it is worth it to see what is the antithesis to traditional Thailand. Every section of the facade is full of small and interesting detail. Just be sure to get there as early as possible to beat all the tour buses!
Chiang Rai's Blue Temple
If the White Temple is more a work of art, the Blue Temple is what a less-traditional Thailand could look like. It is a fairly new temple to the area so don't expect historical stories while you visit but, as with the white temple, it is the blue colour and the fact that it is different that makes it so intriguing.
Baan Dam House (Black Temple)
So the Black Temple really isn't a temple per se, but instead a large cluster of buildings that serve as an art gallery for Thailand's most successful international artist, Thawan Duchanee. Having a place on city guides largely because of its black walls, the Baan Dam house is the perfect opposite to the White Temple - the yin to the yang. If the temples are about life and prayer, the full elephant skeleton and displays of snake and crocodile skins soon show that the meaning behind the art could be slightly less positive. Either way, Chiang Rai's three 'coloured' buildings serve as opposites not only to each other, but to traditional Thailand too, and that is the city's ringing allure.
It wouldn't be a Chiang Rai city guide without mentioning where to get your caffeine fix right? Okay, so now that you've got the tourist-y must-see sights out of the way, it's time to get your hands on some local coffee beans and boy are you in for a treat. Though Chiang Rai doesn't have quite so many cafe's as its nearby neighbour Chiang Mai,places like Nangnon Coffee - just by the clock tower - combines great coffee with good food for less than you may expect! For those of you who like cats, there is also a cat cafe just around the corner from the bus station with some of the cutest little felines around.
The infamous Saturday night market
As with most Asian cities, Chiang Rai has a great night market that runs every night of the week, but it is the Saturday night walking street that makes most pale in comparison. Walking down a bustling street that had been empty just half an hour before, while eating street pad thai and shopping for goodies is a staple of any visit to Thailand, but now picture it without tourists and with crowds dancing to live music by a stage. That's the chiang Rai market. Yes, you can find many of the goods elsewhere, but no market felt quite as authentic as here, nor as friendly as locals and stall-holders alike were happy to pose for photos and videos without hesitation!