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.

chiang rai hot springs

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

chiang rai cabbage and condoms

cabbages and condoms chiang rai

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.

Wat Rong Khun White Temple Chiang Rai

wat rong khun white temple chiang rai

wat rong khun white temple chiang rai

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

black house baan dam chiang rai

black house baan dam chiang rai

black house baan dam chiang rai

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.

chiang rai clock tower light show

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!

FYI:

  • 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!

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  1. Sounds amazing!!!

  2. Hi Charlie and Britanny, To be honest with you Guys ! I never hear about Chiang Rai! This is just first time when I found something for “Chiang Rai” & when I trun to Search for “Chiang Rai” on Google than It was really wonderful, I found some most beautiful & attractive pictures and useful information about Chiang Rai. So thank you so much both of you Guys for this lovely post and sharing great pictures in post too.

  3. Hey now your bike will blend in with the locals! Nice carnage vid of Britanys foot lol u crazy kids

    • Brittany Bennett February 22, 2014 at 3:08 am · · Reply

      I’m pretty sure Charlie was more concerned about the bike damage than myself! Its all good though. I have a nice little souvenir on my foot 😉

  4. Thanks for the post. I’m currently living in Chiang Mai and have been too lazy to make the trip up to Chiang Rai. A helpful post for when I finally get off my duff and get up there! Cheers!

    • Charlie and Brittany May 15, 2015 at 4:36 am · · Reply

      I have a feeling the heat could have something to do with that “laziness”! Makes you not want to do anything but hibernate in the aircon all day! Its definitely worth a visit though 😉

  5. We missed out on Chiang Rai when we were in Thailand last year. We’d planned to do a day trip from Chiang Mai, but relaxed a little bit too much and never got around to it! We are hoping to return to north Thailand again soon, so we will definitely need to visit.

    We visited a Cabbages and Condoms in Bangkok – such a great concept for a restaurant!

  6. This list is great, quintessential Chiang Rai! I’m here now and loving it. If you’ve got more time, I’d also recommend the Tham Tu Pu and Buddha Image caves just outside town. They’re maybe 1 km and 4 km from town (perfect for a run) and pretty cool. There’s also the Chiang Rai beach which is a nice place to hang out during the day. I don’t know that I’d swim in the river though!

    • Charlie and Brittany December 9, 2015 at 2:39 pm · · Reply

      Awesome! Thanks for the great tips. We definitely have to make it back to Chiang Rai to explore some more one day 🙂

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