Chiang Rai in Twenty Four Hours
Twenty four hours is by no means enough time to really get to know a place, but sometimes its all the time you have and you have to work with what you’ve got. We were making our way back to Khon Kaen on the Honda Forza and had to make a quick stop in Chiang Rai for a visit to the immigration office. Fun stuff! We planned our time accordingly and managed to hit all of the hot spots between Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai that peaked our interest in less than a day. Although we were only there for one night, we had quite a few new experiences – most of which we recommend, and one in particular that we do NOT! So…how did we make the most of our 24 hours in Chiang Rai?
The drive from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is definitely a scenic one with rolling hills, streams flowing alongside the road, and the trees speckled in orange and yellow and red. Although temperatures were blazing when we left Chiang Mai, this stretch of land felt like the beginning of Autumn back home. If you aren’t in too big a hurry, there are some great places to stop along the way.
Chiang Rai Hot Springs
First and foremost are the Mae Khajaan Hot Springs located about halfway between the two cities. It’s the perfect spot to stop and stretch your legs, grab a hot mocha, and dip your feet in the hot spring pools. Approximate time spent: 25 minutes.
Cabbages and Condoms
The name has caught our eye a few times in the past and we figured it was time to see what this Cabbages & Condoms place was all about. Turns out it is a restaurant/inn/gift shop that promotes family planning and prevention of HIV/AIDS. It was filled with quirky signs and shirts with slogans that may or may not be suitable for children (see pictures below)! We got a quick bite to eat at the restaurant and the food was actually pretty good and prices were decent. While we don’t recommend going out of your way to visit, we were amused by the humor and it allowed us to stretch our legs for a bit. Approximate time spent: 35 minutes
The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun, also known by most foreigners as the White Temple, was the number one priority on our list. I think its safe to say this is the biggest draw to Chiang Rai for most tourists. Even if you are getting a little “templed out”, this temple is like no other and is absolutely a must-see if you are in the area. The architecture and landscaping are stunning. Some people claim to spend hours at the temple, but about 40 minutes was plenty for us to do a walk through, snap some photos and take in the beauty of it all. If you are heading to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai, its located about 10-15 kilos off Route 1 before you get into town so you might want to make a stop on your way in if you are driving yourself. Approximate time spent: 40 minutes.
The Black House
Our next stop was what could be considered the opposite of the White Temple, the Black House (officially known as Baan Dam or Baan Si Dum). The Black House is actually not a temple or a religious site, but more of a museum. The grounds were much larger than we expected and we spent over an hour wandering the unusual estate of black intricate carvings housed with skulls and animal hides, and even a super creepy live python. Don’t worry – it was caged! If you are into dark and mysterious art with a touch of creepy, its definitely worth checking out! It’s in kind of an odd location and we probably would have had a difficult time finding it without Never Ending Voyage’s awesome directions (thanks guys!). Approximate time spent: 1 hour 15 min
Chiang Rai Clock Tower
Located in the city center, it’s nearly impossible to miss the elaborate Clock Tower. Built in 2008 to honor the King and designed by the same artist as Wat Rong Khun (Chalermchai Kositpipat), the clock tower boasts a shimmering gold with beautiful, ornate details similar to that of the White Temple. At night it comes to life with a light and sound show at 7, 8 and 9 pm. Grab a seat and a cup of joe at one of the numerous coffee shops surrounding and enjoy! It’s a lovely sight and the show only lasts about 5-10 minutes so doesn’t take too much precious time. Approximate time spent: 15 minutes.
So, are you wondering yet what that one thing was that we absolutely do NOT recommend? Well, after over 5 months of travels on our motorbike through Thailand, writing our own Motorbiking 101 post and even surviving our terrifying experience on the roads in Northern Laos without a scratch, we took our first dive in Chiang Rai right in the center of town. Fortunately, we were only going about 5 kph and we were not seriously injured, but Brittany and the bike did not come out completely unscathed (see video)! Months without rain can lead to very oily and slick roads and as we were pulling into park at a coffee shop, we slipped and were on the ground before we even knew what happened. The scary thing is, as we sat there trying to shake off the nerves from our fall, we watched about 3 others on motorbikes nearly do the same thing! Although we weren’t too beat up, it had us a little on edge through the remainder of our road trip to Khon Kaen making us even more cautious than usual. Please keep this in mind and be safe out there folks!
- Hotel/Guest House: Piman Inn
- Time spent in Chiang Rai: 2 nights
- Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai: 185 km
- Must-see: Wat Rong Khun / White Temple
- Most expensive meal: 800 baht for pizza and drinks (yikes!)
- Best tip: Drive safely!!!
Check out the damage to Britt and the bike in the video:
Do you think we did a good job covering Chiang Rai or was there something we missed? Let us know in the comments below!