Chiang Rai Travel Guide
Often skipped over as people flock towards Chiang Mai, I believe Chiang Rai offers an even more authentic experience at an affordable price. There is a lot to do and see in Chiang Rai, and even more to EAT. I recommend 2-3 days here for a full experience, unless you’re going to venture off on a trekking tour with Chiang Rai as your starting point, then make sure to spend a few days here before or after your trek.
You can take a bus from practically anywhere to Chiang Rai. If you’re coming from Bangkok it will take approximately 12 hours, so I highly recommend an overnight VIP bus. If you’re coming from Chiang Mai, then only around 2 hours, so a mini-van would be fine.
Where To Stay In Chiang Rai
Baan Worabordee Guesthouse turned out to be a lovely choice for us. Only around $20 USD a night, we had a nice clean room, hot water, air-con, large balcony, and complimentary coffees, toast, and bananas for breakfast. This guesthouse is in the perfect location for walking to the nearby temples, night markets and central clock.
Where To Eat and Drink In Chiang Rai
Khao Soi Phor Jai on Jetyod Road
You haven’t fully lived if you’ve never visited this small shop in Chiang Rai. Do NOT leave this beautiful city without a bowl of Khao Soi, a local Northern specialty. This restaurant will serve you the most delicious bowl for only 35 baht ($1). You can also order a bowl of Nam Nieow for 35 baht, and a Thai iced coffee for only 10 baht. We ate here several times!
Visit the Night Market for seafood, fried foods, cold beer, and entertainment (usually Thai dancing and music).
Peace Bar serves up cold Beer Lao and provides a super cool atmosphere for hanging out with friends. Also located on Jetyod road.
For coffee lovers make sure you visit Yoddoi Coffee cafe near the clock tower (they also have a delicious menu, even veggie burgers).
Doi Chaang Coffee Farm
If you’re a huge coffee lover and you know anything about Thai coffee, then you’ve probably heard about Doi Chaang Coffee. A top brand in Thailand, their farm is located about an hour outside of Chiang Rai. We rented a car, but you can easily take a mini van or hire a driver as well. Here you can take a tour of the premises, see how the coffee is collected, sorted, and shipped, and try a variety of their specialties at their cafe. Make sure to try the ‘civet’ coffee, which is unique in that the beans are fed to civets, which when passed through their digestive tract, the enzymes change the composition of the beans to give it a unusually delicious taste.
After visiting the farm, make your way to Doi Chang View Restaurant, a small restaurant situated up on a hill overlooking Doi Chang Mountain. The food here is unbelievable, and you will be able to try dishes you won’t find elsewhere in Thailand. The prices are ridiculous, about $2 – $3 a plate!
What To Do In Chiang Rai
Most people come to Chiang Rai to see the extraordinary White Temple. Not actually a temple, but more of an art piece, nevertheless a place that will leave you in awe.
Make sure to check out the inside of the temple for the beautiful paintings, as well as head over to the Art Gallery. Here you can buy prints of the artists paintings at very affordable prices. You will want approximately 2 hours to visit the White Temple and Art Gallery.
The Black House
Similarly to the White Temple, the Black House is not a temple either. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what you’ll find at this place, because I think you’ll find yourself intrigued at the uniqueness of this place. The grounds offer a series of buildings to walk through, live animals on the premises (in cages), and some incredible bas-relief wood carvings.
Golden Clock Tower
Sure, its just a clock tower. But its central to Chaing Rai and probably one of the most photographed sites here. I recommend finding yourself a cafe or restaurant nearby for dinner, and watching the show that takes place after dark. The clock changes colors and is surprisingly beautiful.
As with all Thai Night Markets, you’ll find yourself in sudden need of scarves, carvings, clothes, and other gifts. The prices here are fantastic, and you can buy Northern goods that will cost you far more money down in Bangkok or the islands. This night market has a decent food and entertainment scene as well.
From Chiang Rai you can either fly out from the airport or take a bus to another location. I recommend heading north towards Doi Mae Salong and the Golden Triangle, or south towards Chiang Mai.