Chiang Rai is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) away from Chiang Mai. It doesn’t seem that far, but there’s no major highway that can get you from city-to-city, so the journey takes three hours. Chiang Rai is small, laid back and even more local than Chiang Mai, which makes it a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city.
How to get there?
- Private car
- It’s an expensive and dangerous option if you’ve never driven in Thailand before
- You can also hire someone to drive you there, so you ride instead of drive
- Green Bus ThailandAt this website you will find the timetable and you can purchase a ticket from the Chiang Mai Bus Terminal Arcade 3
- The bus will take between 3-3.5 hours
- It will cost no more than 300 baht ($9 USD)
- Day Tour
- You can easily take a day tour from Chiang Mai and see all the Chiang Rai sites via a private tour guide
Once you get up there I would advise renting a motorbike to scoot around on or booking a private tour to take you to each temple because the temples are a bit far away. My experience was different because my girlfriend has a car, so we were able to drive to each destination on our own.
Blue Temple – Wat Rong Seur Ten (free entrance)
In my opinion, it is the most beautiful temple to see in Chiang Rai. It’s a new temple, and it’s not that well known to tourists, but it is stunning. It’s a few kilometers outside of the city and took 20 minutes to get there by car. The temple’s beauty is magnified by the utilization of various hues of blue to highlight what’s normally highlighted by variations of gold, green, or red in traditional temples.
White Temple – Wat Rong Kun (50 baht entrance fee)
The White Temple is located in the city center and is a privately owned art exhibit by Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed and opened the temple in 1997. The white is symbolic of purity and the reflective glass on the temple is symbolic of Buddha’s wisdom. The inside is insane in that it’s a traditional temple, but very modern due to the artist’s pop culture references throughout the inside. There are hand painted depictions of characters such as Spiderman, Hello Kitty, minions and Black Panther – just to name a few. Sadly, no photos are allowed to be taken while in the temple, so it’s best for you to just visit and see for yourself.
Black Temple – Baandam Museum (200 baht Entrance)
The Black “Temple,” which isn’t really a temple at all except through appearances, is an art museum designed by Thawan Duchanee. It is made up of 40 small black houses in various unique styles and designs around the area. The Black “temple” is a dark under worldly art museum that showcases animal carcasses, animal hides, penises, vaginas, paintings, sculptures and many more types of eclectic art. While I thought it was fascinating, it’s easy for someone who loves animals or doesn’t appreciate oddity to find it bizarre. The “temple” is about 30 minutes outside of the city center and easy to find, so I would certainly recommend visiting because the size and amount of displayed artwork is bonkers!
Chiang Rai International Balloon Fiesta
I was in Chiang Rai during the International Balloon Fiesta, which was very cool. The festival was held at Singha (pronounce sing) Park, which is owned by the Singha beer family who owns many well known brands in Thailand. The fiesta cost 100 baht to enter and showcased a very impressive hot air balloon show and concert with well known artists. The event is cool because it’s so cheap, but provides really great entertainment, which makes it a perfect event for the working class to be able to enjoy.
Choui Fong Tea Farm
On Sunday we woke up and went to Choui (pronounce chewy) Fong tea farm. It’s just a big beautiful teach farm with delicious tea, desserts and breathtaking views. It’s an hour drive in the opposite direction Chiang Mai, so I would only recommend going only if you really love tea. It’s not nearly as intimate and local as other tea farms, so the atmosphere isn’t as good as other tea farms I’ve been to. If you do go though, I would recommend trying the green tea cheesecake – it was to die for!
Where to stay
777 Food and Bed – 1,400 baht ($45 USD) per night
The hotel is directly across from the White Temple, so the location and the views were stellar. You’re really paying for the views and in my opinion, it’s absolutely worth it. There’s also a food market on the first floor, and many cheap food options right next door and across the street. The view, location and staff was wonderful.