Chiang Rai is a city about 3-4hrs north of Chiang Mai. Sean and I planned to stop there for a day or two on our way to the national forest park, Phu Chi Fa. Our original intention was to go hiking up the mountains to watch what is supposed to be an amazing sunrise. Unfortunately we could not predict the weather and a storm forced us to change our initial plan. We turned rainclouds to rainbows and made the most of our time in the northern town of Chiang Rai.
Here are some of the highlights:
Wat Rong Khun, known to tourist as The White Temple, was created by Chalermchai Kositpipat as an art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. Easily the most “majestical” temple I’ve seen thus far, this sparkling shrine was especially spectacular on a dark and cloudy day. The white buildings are covered with fragmented glass giving them a beautiful shimmer and glow straight out of a fantasy. My favorite part is the mural inside the main structure (or ubosot). To get there you must pass the concrete sea of outreaching statue hands and cross over the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth”. A large mural of flames and demons covers the walls in the ubosot. Dispersed throughout are idols of western culture – Michael Jackson, Harry Potter, the Terminator, Jigsaw, and superheroes – representing the evil devotions of mankind. For 30Baht we inscribed out names on a small, silver ornament to be hung with thousands of others, leaving our mark in this enchanting edifice.
Almost the polar opposite of the above, the Baan Dam (or the Black House) is a museum/art studio created by Thai artist, Thawan Duchanee. We immediately felt a dark and eerie vibe consuming the museum grounds when we arrived. Dark clouds and heavy rain pour definitely intensified the creepiness of the snake and crocodile skins, buffalo horns, and animal skulls adorning the walls and tables. In spite of the sinister decor, there is something hauntingly enticing and beautiful about Baan Dam. Definitely worth checking out!
Cat n’ a Cup
Apparently there are quite a few cat cafes throughout Thailand but this is the first one that Sean and I had seen. The name says it all – hangout with some cats while you drink your cappuccino. I wouldn’t consider myself a cat person but I do love animals and being without our dogs for so long (and also learning of Trump’s victory that very morning), I needed something cute and cuddly to cheer me up.
Reggae Home & Bar – (Facebook page)
The best night in Chiang Rai was spent getting drunk and making friends with some locals. We were wandering through the streets looking for a place to have a drink and recalled a small reggae bar in a nearby alley. As we approached the bar, we were quickly beckoned in and offered free food (meats on a stick and pad thai). The bar was pretty much empty but it had a chill vibe and the young owners couldn’t be friendlier. Apparently it was their very first day and we were their very first customers (aside from a few friends there for support). We ended up staying for hours – drinking beer and taking shots.
Aside from the few scattered bars, there is not much of a nightlife presence in Chiang Rai. Wanting a low key evening, we headed to the Night Bazaar for drinks, a light dinner, and some window shopping. Most of the food stalls served hot pots and your standard Thai dishes. We opted instead for bugs and beer. We scanned over the grasshoppers and cockroach-like bugs and settled on the safer looking silk worms piled on a paper plate.
Chiang Rai Beach
Don’t be deceived, Chiang Rai is far from the ocean and not at all like a beach. Instead we found a path along the river and small huts where we could sit back, relax, and drink a couple beers. The ‘beach’ was quiet and empty with the exception of a few locals napping in huts nearby. I could have easily sat there for hours enjoying the breeze and the occasional boats passing by, but sadly we had to catch bus back to Chiang Mai.