Located in the Golden Triangle — where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos converge — you’ll find ruins of ancient civilisations, magnificent scenery and ethnic tribes.
What better way to start a new year with a clear mind? Get inspired and rejuvenated in this scenic town boasting fresh mountain air.
Bonus: An ancient city, Chiang Rai is filled with historical and cultural sights that will leave you in awe. It’s truly a perfect getaway – not just for solo travellers, but for the whole family too.
From now till 6 January, 2019, AirAsia is offering an amazing fare sale for its BIG Members. Join their loyalty programme to get all-in, one way fares from $69, for travel periods between 31 January till 30 June, 2019.
To get you started on experiencing beautiful Chiang Rai, follow The Finder‘s ultimate guide:
Day activities for the adventurous couple
Singha Park, is a sprawling amusement park which hosts an annual hot air balloon festival. Several gorgeous waterfalls, such as Pu Kaeng waterfall in Doi Luang National Park, lie slightly more than an hour south of the city.
Day activities for the whole fam
Love elephants? Want to support them the right way? Then, visit the Elephant Valley Thailand sanctuary. You get to spend quality time with elephants and they get to experience a new life – one that’s stress-free and completely orientated to give them the best life possible.
A visit here revolves around following the herd through its daily routine while your personal guide narrates the elephants’ goings on– making the sanctuary a perfect place to relax, unwind and learn about these amazing animals up close.
Day activities for the explorers
Tad Kwan Village Park & Waterfall is one of the last, unspoiled Mien Hill Tribe Villages in – what used to be – The Lanna Kingdom in Northern Thailand. You can learn all about their traditions and culture, watch the farmers in their fields and swim in a waterfall.
Surrounding the city are a number of other great attractions, including tea plantations such as Choke Chamroen, which visitors can tour to get an insight into the local tea industry.
Chiang Rai isn’t just about historic temples and museums. At night, witness the city come to life at the convenient night markets scattered across the city center.
Afternoon/evening activities for a relaxed day out
Art enthusiasts can visit local private gallery Art Bridge Chiang Rai or Doi Din Dang Pottery (closing time 4.30 p.m.) to get a closer look at various works created by Thai and international artists. Visit CentralPlaza Chiangrai if you’re looking to catch a movie at the major cineplex or if you prefer browsing through major brands in a mall. Their opening hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Evening activities for thrifty shopping
Enjoy local dance performances and live music or shop for handmade items by the native tribes at the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar. Depending on your “shopping stamina”, it takes an average of one to two hours to explore the shops at the bazaar. Shops like El Jardin by Dek Ban Suan offers exquisite home decor items that are mostly handmade. After all that walking, chill out with an icy beer at the open air beer garden!
Indulge in affordable food at the Saturday Night Walking Street. You can also take pictures at the Chiang Rai Clock Tower where most of the city magic happens. Every evening at 7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m., the clock tower comes to life in a light-and-sound display.
If you’re looking for great coffee and brunch with a spectacular view, head on down to Chivit Thamma Da Coffee House, Bistro & Bar. Open for breakfast at 8 a.m., this fine bistro is located right on the banks of the beautiful Kok River in Chiang Rai. They serve fresh homemade pastries, coffee, eggs, pancakes – all in a chilled out environment close to nature – with plenty of flowing water, flowers, birds and fresh air to get your day started right.
The curry noodle dish Khao Soi is hard to find in Bangkok. But, in Chiang Rai, you never have to look far to locate this creamy, coconut milk-based treat. It pairs well with Sai Ua, a spicy grilled pork sausage which is wildly popular there. If you’re looking to have the delish dish for lunch, check out Khao Soi Phor Jai restaurant. They have one of the best Khao Sois in town!
A hidden gem, vegans and vegetarians will love Give Green Farm House Restaurant. The ultra-fresh food is picked right from the land and made to order exactly how you would like it.
A trip to Thailand isn’t complete without some delicious Pad Thai. Check out Pad Thai – Thai Food for tantalising authentic dishes. The best part? They’re open till 11.30 p.m. so you can have some Pad Thai goodness for supper. You can of course, choose to visit the night markets nearby for late night munching!
Chiang Rai is home to two of Thailand’s most distinctive temples, Wat Rong Khun (pictured above), on its southern outskirts, and Wat Rong Sear Tean in the city centre.
Known as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is the life’s work of noted local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who continues to work on it today. Filled with Buddhist symbolism, he brings an unorthodox approach to temple architecture, amalgamating elements from his own imagination (white – not gold – as a pure colour to embody the sacredness of temples) with Buddhist teachings. Built just 21 years ago, this sparkling, sprawling structure has become an icon of the city, and is a spectacular sight not to be missed!
The monochromatic theme continues at the Blue Temple, Wat Rong Sear Tean, which is drenched in dozens of shades of blue and intricately hand-painted throughout.
For a fancy night out
Overlooking panoramic river views, you’ll be able to enjoy your cocktails with a view at Leelavadee. Experience the untouched riverside at this contemporary pub-restaurant, a delightful alternative to Chiang Rai’s rather mellow bar scene. The main highlight is its live band music, which covers a wide range of international and local pop varieties, as well as local folk songs to begin each evening.
For a chilled night out
Exuding a cozy, laid-back vibe, quaint Coconut’s Bar is perfect for a relaxing night out with some friends. You can watch football matches, play a game of pool while enjoying their extensive drink menu. They have everything from local whiskeys to standard cocktails, wine, and fancy concoctions made from local booze. Expect international dishes like salad with feta cheese, burgers, Mexican tacos and fish and chips!
Just overlooking the Clock Tower, Kaffee Hub is located inside a historic three-storey building. The first floor has a café-style setup, with low tables and teak wood chairs scattered across concrete flooring, while the second floor is the bar and lounge area where you can enjoy a few cocktails on the terrace while watching the world go by. By day, Kafee Hub offers a selection of international and Thai dishes on its menu. After sunset, the mood shifts to a mellow, retro-style cocktail lounge, ideal for lazing away the night.
Remember to join the loyalty programme for a great steal! From now till 6 January, 2019, AirAsia is offering an amazing fare sale for its BIG Members. If you join the programme, and book your trip before 6th January, you’ll get all-in, one way fares from $69 (for travel periods between 31 January till 30 June, 2019).
By Mizah Salik / Some text adapted from The Straits Times, 18 December 2018
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