South East Asia,  Travel

The Best of Chiang Rai | My Experience

We spent a month in Thailand and even that wasn’t enough time to see everything that we would have loved to have seen. Because of our limited time in the country we had to make sure that we utilized our time.

Chiang Rai wasn’t at the top of the groups list of things they wanted to experience on the holiday, so we figured out a way that we could see the town in one day – it really wasn’t that difficult since every local travel agency does one day tours to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai.

We were picked up from our hotel at 07:30 on the morning of the tour and set out to travel the round trip of 800 kms – scheduled to only arrive back in Chiang Mai at 21:30 that evening. Sounds insane right? Because it was.

None of the places that we saw needed us to spend more than 30 minutes at them, but the guided tour only gave us between 30 and 45 minutes at each site. The constant pressure to get through the site as quickly as possible left a bad taste in my mouth about the day.

Personally, I also didn’t enjoy the driving. We were in transit for a longer period of time than we were actually site-seeing, and when we were site-seeing, the weather just didn’t play ball. It was gloomy and it drizzled constantly.

As much as I loved every moment of Thailand, every trip needs a bad story, and Chiang Rai is mine. The town is beautiful, and I do not regret the experience. There were, however, a number of things, out of my control, that made the day unpleasant.

Enough of that, here are the 6 things that we managed to fit into the day.

Pha Soet Hot Spring

This was more of a pit stop with a geyser than an actual hot spring. There is not much there in terms of scenery. It’s pretty much a road-trip pit stop full of tourists, busses, and local vendors selling a few things. It was a great place to stop off and stretch our legs after driving for some time and have a boiled egg that was cooked in the hot spring water.

Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)

The White Temple is a privately-owned art exhibit that has been built in the same style as a Buddhist temple. The building is well-known for being all white with fragments of mirrored glass embedded in the building’s exterior design, but changes dramatically to reds, oranges and golds as soon as you enter the building. Unfortunately, visitors are only allowed to take pictures of the outside of the buildings.

There are a number of structures and buildings that form part of the art exhibition, and you can read about them in more detail here.

This part of our tour was rather intimidating. The mass of crowds that lined up to walk through the building is indescribable, and we all needed to funnel onto the bridge, that is wide enough for only 2 or 3 people. Once over the bridge, we were asked to remove our shoes and put our camera’s and phones away – like I said, visitors are only allowed to take pictures of the outside – and this slows down the movement over the bridge and into the temple. On top of all of that, the same mass of crowds are sharing the limited space in the temple with you.

As beautiful as what the temple is the crowds dampen the experience. In saying that though even if you don’t find yourself doing a one-day tour, at least try and go to the White Temple – it is absolutely beautiful.

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A benefit of paying for a day tour with a travel agency is that lunch is always included, and it’s one less thing that you need to worry about.

Before we went into the temple our guide asked us if we had any dietary requirements, so that he could order food while we spent our 45 minutes in The White Temple and it’s grounds. Lunch was a short 5 minute walk to a ‘hole-in-the-wall’ eatery. There were about 8 tables covered in pink plastic table cloths and set with plastic crockery and cutlery. Our group of friends sat down at one table – that’s the benefit of traveling in a bigger group is that we were always big enough to do things on our own. We trekked as a private group, did a few tours and activities as a private group, and often ate as a private group at a single table.


We were served a large bowl of rice and a few different dishes of vegetables to share between our group. I must say that I loved being a vegetarian in Thailand because the options are endless and no matter what you order or what you get given on tours, it always tastes delicious.

Black House

After lunch, we got back into our bus and head off to Black House. The great thing about the tour that we did is that we could choose whether or not we wanted to do an activity.  We opted out of doing Black House – because it just didn’t peak our interest. But like good tourists, we took pictures of Black House and everything around it.

Karen Hill Tribe

Hill Tribe is a term used in Thailand for all of the various ethnic groups who mostly inhabit the high mountainous Northern and Western regions of Thailand (Wikipedia).

The Karen Hill Tribe as most commonly known for the rings that are worn around their necks. These necklaces were originally worn as protection of vulnerable areas after a tribe member was once attacked by a tiger. They are now work for aesthetic reasons now.

The Karen Hill Tribe are great seamstresses and make beautiful scarves that they sell to tourists. I bought myself one, because have you really seen The Karen Hill Tribe if you haven’t bought a scarf from them? 🙂

It’s still unsure where The Karen Hill Tribe originated from, but they are one of the few Thai tribes that are trying to integrate themselves with modern society. The problem here is that there is a lack of education in the rural areas so the younger members of tribes that are trying desperately to integrate into modern life can’t do so.

The Golden Triangle

The last stop of the day was the Golden Triangle. This is the point where Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand meet – they are only separated by the Mekong and Ruak River.

The tour that we were on offered to take us across the border to Laos, but there wasn’t much that we were going to do at the border except walk through the markets. I have read that these markets are pretty much like a busy Thailand market which I had already experienced a lot of – we opted out of crossing the river over to Laos. Instead, we found a small place to have some dinner and waited for the rest of the tour group to come back from Laos.

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