Chiang Rai: Our first day in the city that’s often overlooked but worth getting to know

Chiang Rai: Our first day in the city that’s often overlooked but worth getting to know

After spending a month city hopping through Asia and Australia, we were looking for a city that’s low key and tourist friendly. After having a bowl of Khao Soi in Bangkok, it just hit me, “why don’t we go to the Khao Soi capital?” Next thing we know, we were booking a flight to Chiang Rai, Thailand.





A little bit about the city: Chiang Rai or Muang Chiang Hai as know by the locals is the northernmost large city in Thailand. The city was established over 700 years ago in 1262 during the reign of King Mangrai. The province is home to about 1.1 million resident and it’s still an important cross road for trades for the population of hill tribes in the area.

Chiang Rai is accessible by flights from Bangkok, Hong Kong, Haikou, Kunming and Phuket. From Bangkok, it’s about an hour flight to “Mae Fah Luang” international airport. We purchased a round trip fare for about 4,000 baht (about $120 U.S. dollar).

Chiang Rai is underrated and often overlooked comparing to its neighboring city Chiang Mai. A lot less traffic and tourist than other major cities in Thailand, Chiang Rai still has a “Shangri La” like feel to it.

Chiang Rai has well constructed roads that are not over crowded by traffic, beautiful modern buildings and thrives on sustainable farming project all brought to light by the Royal Family but mainly the late Princess Mother.

Doi Tung Royal Projects helps local tribes move from opium destitution to sustainable farming such as coffee, rice, cotton and pineapple. The Princess Mother is beloved by the tribes for her hard work in uniting the multi ethnic tribes and bringing health care, education and sustainable agriculture to the area to reduce their dependence on illegal opium trades thus they called her “Mae Fha Luang” or “Angel Mother”.

To learn more about the Doi Tung project, click here.

Since it’s our first full day and we wanted to take it easy, we scheduled a half day tour. One thing that I’ve always wanted to see since it opened is the “White Temple” or Wat Rong Khun and luckily, that’s on the itinerary.

Our first stop of the day: Wat Rong Khun or the “White Temple”, is a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned, art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province. The artist wants to relay the Buddhist morals and values through art. Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist from Chiang Rai, decided to completely rebuild the temple and fund the project with his own money. To date, the master artist has spent over THB40 million of his own money on the project. The artist intends for the area adjacent to the temple to be a center of learning and meditation and for people to gain benefit from the Buddhist teachings. The temple is considered to be an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give the artist immortal life. Today the works are ongoing and are not expected to be completed until 2070. The intricate details along with the stunning white color is a feast for the eyes. Why white?

Purity, of course!

Black House: “Baan Dam” is the unique creation of national artist, Thawan Duchanee. Part art studio, part museum, part home, Baan Dam is an eclectic mix of traditional northern Thai buildings interspersed with some outlandish modern designs. The unique collections of buffalo horns, crocodile skins and other unique items housed in 40 traditional Lanah style house has been a place of inspiration to local artists for years.

Our last visit was to a communities of local tribes. The tribes, which represents different ethnic groups ( Karen, Akha, Lisu, Meo, and Hmong) were voluntarily relocated to an area where schools and health care can be easily accessible. We stopped by a kindergarten today to see the kids learn basic English and Thai. Here, you can also learn the local crafts of silk weaving.


If you’re looking for a destination in Thailand that is tourist and eco friendly, look into visiting Chiang Rai. I’m certain that this little paradise will steal your heart and leave you wanting to come back.


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