Chiang Rai, Thailand’s northernmost province has been garnering more and more visitors for the past year. With its unspoiled nature and unique culture that you should definitely check out, traveling to Chiang Rai has never been easier. You can take a three-hour bus ride straight to Chiang Rai if you happen to be already in Chiang Mai. Furthermore, you can catch one of the numerous direct flights from various cities in Thailand (including Bangkok and Phuket). Once you’re there, you’ll definitely find something different in while avoiding crowds of tourists.
With all of this in mind, here are the 5 reasons why a visit to Chiang Rai, Thailand will make for a memorable vacation. Enjoy these authentic local experiences before the rest of the world catches on!
1.) You can take a Buddhist art walk in Chiang Rai Old City
While the White Temple, Blue Temple, and Black House are the poster boys of Chiang Rai temples, we still highly recommend you to explore the old town area for more Buddhist arts. There are a lot of small but unique temples that never seem to get crowded. If you’re tired, there are always chic cafés and local eateries waiting for you around the corner.
I. Wat Ming Muang
Almost as old as Chiang Rai itself (about 800 years old), Wat Ming Muang combines Tai Yai and Lanna styles together in the most alluring way.
II. Wat Phra Kaew
If the name sounds familiar to you, Chiang Rai’s Wat Phra Kaew is where the Emerald Buddha was discovered before it was eventually moved to the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) in Bangkok. Today, Chiang Rai’s Wat Phra Kaew houses its own Emerald Buddha that’s actually carved from jade.
III. Wat Phra Singh
One of Chiang Rai’s oldest temples, the temple boasts a Lanna-style assembly hall with wooden doors crafted by Thawan Duchanee, a much-loved national artist. Like the aforementioned Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Phra Singh was once home to one of Thailand’s most revered Buddha images. While the actual Buddha image is now enshrined at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai, you can still find well-crafted replicas at Chiang Rai’s Wat Phra Singh.
2.) Spectacular mountain views are all yours to be seen
Two hours away from Chiang Rai’s city center is Phu Chi Fa, one of the most popular spots for Thai travelers to view the sea of mist and sunrise. Pointing to the sky as its Thai name says, the silhouette of Phu Chi Fa’s peak against the dazzling sunrise is a sight you just can’t miss.
Still a hidden gem, do spend some time admiring the view once you reach the peak. Straddling along the border of Thailand and Laos, you can see the Mekong River, forests and mountains on the other side after the mist is gone. Best of all, Phu Chi Fa is painted in pink from December to January with wild Himalayan cherry blossoms.
3.) It’s home to Thailand’s most beautiful tea plantations
Chiang Rai has some of Thailand’s most beautiful tea plantations and teas of the highest quality. Each one has its own quirks and charms and offers different kinds of tea, so do take your time!:
Choui Fong Tea Plantation is arguably the biggest and the most beautiful tea plantation in Chiang Rai. There are two branches, one in Mae Fah Luang and the other in Mae Chan. The tea plants are grown on descending hills, which makes it a perfect backdrop for stunning landscape photos. Sit on the terrace overlooking the tea lots, slurp some green tea and savor other tea-based desserts like the widely-enjoyed green tea tiramisu.
II. 101 Tea Plantation
Doi Mae Salong is home to some tea plantations and all of them offer top-notch tea, and the most famous of them all is the 101 Tea Plantation. Having placed first at the World Tea Festival in 2004, 101 Tea Plantation is rightfully famous.
101 Tea Plantation has been harvesting tea for generations. The company also involves in the royal initiative to help the hill tribes. Previously growing and trading opiums, the hill tribes in the area are now working in the tea plantation and have a better quality of life.
4.) You can bike through an ancient civilization in Chiang Saen
Dating back to the seventh century, Chiang Saen was one of Northern Thailand’s most important ancient kingdoms. Nowadays, you can rent a bike and cycle along the old city wall to the ruins of temples around Chiang Saen. The area is still a hidden gem and also green, so you can escape not only the crowds but also the heat. You can also go back in time to Chiang Saen National Museum for more history and antiquities.
5.) You can shop through the night, Chiang Rai style
If you’re looking to buy local handicrafts to take home as souvenirs, Chiang Rai Night Bazaar in the old town opens every day. The night bazaar also offers more than just the shopping experience. A cultural experience with local food and traditional shows are there for those who are looking to see more of the local culture.
If you prefer walking streets, Chiang Rai Walking Street opens every Saturday from 4 pm to midnight. Traditional arts and crafts and Northern-style street food are there to be seen…. and eaten. Furthermore, everyone is more than welcomed to try Thai dancing with Chiang Rai locals on Chiang Rai Walking Street.