Chiang Rai is known to be the largest city in the northernmost part of Thailand although it is not prominent in the actual sense. The city is smaller and underdeveloped to be a sightseer's destination compared to its neighbour, Chiang Mai. The beautiful structure of the city serves as a Buddhist temple at the same time as an art exhibition. The only distinguishing feature of the city is an ocean of moulded hands that reach out to both sides of the bridge. The White Temple is so unique and spectacular that several tourists take the pain of journeying more than 3 hours Chiang Mai to have a look.
Best Time to Visit Chiang Rai
Concerning weather, the best visiting time to Chiang Rai is from November to February. The city's atmosphere is cold at these periods of the year. My crew and I were there in November to be part of the Loy Krathong and Yee Peng Festivals in the neighbouring city, Chiang Mai. These two events are held on an annual basis on the full moon of the twelfth lunar month. The events are famous for making hem some of the festive periods to be in the region.
November - February: as the case may in any other city in Southeast Asia, this period in Chiang Rai can get hot and humid. So be ready for November to February to enjoy the comfortable weather. The temperatures during the day drift around 25°C (77°F) with fewer showers. As stated earlier, the Yee Peng Festival comes up every November. You may consider planning your trip around that time which was exactly what we did back then! Do you love flowers? If yes, plan your trip for February so that you can partake in the Chiang Mai Flower Festival.
March - MAYARCH-MAY: the weather from March to May is always regarded as the hottest period of the year with an average temperature as high as 40°C (104°F). The period is not the most comfortable visiting time, but with Songkran or the Thai New Year celebrations held in April, you might still enjoy your visit. The Chiang Mai city's Songkran Festival transforms the city into a fun-filled great water fight making an enjoyable time to visit the city.
June - October: the period between this months is the Northern Thailand monsoon season. Therefore, it may not be the best time to visit the entire region.
We usually flew into Chiang Rai from Bangkok, but a majority of travelers will prefer to go by land via a bus than by air from Chiang Mai. Travelling to Chiang Rai by road takes just three hours while flying into the city from Bangkok takes approximately 1 hour, 15min which makes it possible to have a day trip to the city.
If you're fascinated about seeing Chiang Rai must-visit attraction centers without spending a night, then you achieve this by embarking on a guided tour of Chiang Mai. For instance the Kkday Chiang Rai tour takes you through Chiang Rai Hot Spring Park, Baan Dam Museum (Black House), Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), a Karen hill tribe long neck village and finally the Golden Triangle area; a journey that lasted for 12 hours at a cost of between 854-1,365 THB.
Wat Rong Khun was popularly known as the White Temple although far remains the premier attraction of Chiang Rai. Therefore, it wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of tourists taking that long trip to Chiang Mai to see this temple. In fact, we did! An on-going job designed and created a local artist by the name Chalermchai Kositpipat is completely turning the temple into all-white edifice with small mirrors attached to the plaster. This on-going project makes the temple look more brilliant as it glitters in the sun. The sight is an incredible one to behold exclusive ONLY to Chiang Mai!
The Baan Dam Museum is also known as Black House serves as both the home and studio of the late Thailand National Artist, Thawan Duchanee who is very famous for his paintings and architecture. The Black House which is considered one of his architectural magnum opuses comprises an assembly of 40 edifices spread out over a landscaped orchard. The house is located in northern part of the city. You can plan the museum visit together with that of Wat Rong Khun trip.
The main attractions of Chiang Rai are not only within the city wall although some of the attraction centers are located inside the city. One of the attraction points is the Golden Clock Tower. Others temples worth visiting include Wat Phra Sing, Wat Phra Kaew, and Wat Klang Wiang if you are opportune. You can easily trek to all of these places if your hotel is downtown, Ching Rai.
Since the city is not very large, you can comfortably explore Chiang Rai by foot. If you don't walk around, you can decide to hire a taxi to take you through the main attraction centers like Baan Dam Museum and Wat Rong Khun. We chartered a tuk-tuk to travel to both places. The tuk-tuk later dropped us at Lu Lam restaurant for a fee of 500 THB. If you desire to call at the Blue Temple, you can tell the driver of the tuk-tuk to make a quick stop there because it is on the same route to the city center from Baan Dam Museum. If you are also interested in calling at either Lu Lam or Ran Lab Sanam Keela restaurant for a meal, then make use of Uber, taxi, or tuk-tuk. Most of the time, we make use of Uber round Chiang Rai because of its cheapness and availability.
If a centrally located hotel is your choice, then I'm afraid you may not get one than the Chiang Rai Hotel. The hotel is just a minute from the Clock Tower and also walking distance from the city's points of interest like the old bus station (Terminal 1) and the Night Bazaar. Although the hotel is small and economical, the rooms are large with cable TV which broadcasts some English speaking programs.
As explained earlier, Chiang Rai usually is a small tourist destination for many travelers. If you're staying in Chiang Mai for a while, a short a trip to Chiang Rai may not be a bad idea which will take you just a whole day. Below are few of the things you can do with a day trip of Chiang Rai.
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