I first heard about the city of Chiang Rai during my month long Banana Pancake Trail trip last 2017. I was in Chiang Mai to celebrate the Yee Peng Festival (Lantern Festival ) and thinking of what else to do, I thought of why not take the 3 hour journey up north and discover the city of Chiang Rai even for a day.
Compared to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is a quiet city. As far as I can remember, I didn’t see any building higher than 2-storeys. Though quiet and simple, Chiang Rai has a very rich history. It was once the capital of the Mangrai Dynasty.
Traveling around Chiang Rai for a day trip is enough to get a glimpse the city’s famous tourist spots. The main attraction (which you will see in most of google searches) is a whimsical white temple called Wat Rong Khun, many tourists go to Chiang Rai just to visit this temple alone. Having seen the white temple gave an impression that this city surely got something to offer and worth another (longer) trip.
I was fortunate to be invited by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to once again discover Chiang Rai. This time around, our goal is to discover the colors of the city.
DISCOVERING THE COLORS OF CHIANG RAI
I am sure that this isn’t intentional, but amazingly some of the major tourist destinations in Chiang Rai are pretty much known for their colors. This is the reason as well that we called our trip “Colorful Chiang Rai 2018”. So what are the colors of Chiang Rai? Here we go!
Wat Rong Khun aka The White Temple
Chiang Rai’s most iconic temple. This Instagram-worthy temple was designed and created by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Most tourists go to Chiang Rai with the sole purpose of visiting this temple alone.
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WHITE TEMPLE | CHIANG RAI, THAILAND . Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, is a privately owned artwork by Thai National Artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpisat. This contemporary and unconventional area is full of symbolism such as in the "Bridge of Cycle of Rebirth", the bridge going to “Ubosot” or main temple. Hundreds of reaching hands can be seen at the entrance of the bridge which they say symbolize desire, suffering and hell. . Inside the all-white "Ubosot" are murals of various scenes from Buddhist stories and other scenes that depict modern representation of good, evil and other earthly things such as Batman, Doraemon, Elvis Presley, Hello Kitty, Pokemon and other characters from movies, comics. . The White Temple of Chiang Rai is located in Mueang Chiang Rai District, the capital district of Chiang Rai Province. Public buses from Old Bus Station near the night bazaar to Mae Kachan stop here. Departure is from 6AM to 6PM, fare is 20 Baht and travel time takes 30 minutes. . #ChiangRai #Thailand #AmazingThailand
Wat Rong Khun serves as a place of worship at the same time a museum and gallery. The temple’s details are very much different from other temples you’ll find around Thailand. A (very) contemporary and whimsical approach of depicting one’s journey to the after life.
The exterior structure is full of white plastered sculptures and mosaic mirror tiles that makes the whole temple sparkle on a perfectly sunny day. The interior on the other hand is filled with colorful paintings of the artist’s representation of the worldly-evil world and heaven.
Wat Rong Suer Ten aka The Blue Temple
Another color themed temple is the Wat Rong Suer Ten also known as The Blue Temple. As the name suggests, this temple is predominantly blue in color with some golden accents. Designed by one of Chalermchai Kositpipat’s students, Wat Rong Suer is filled with unusually-imaginative details just like Kositpipat’s White Temple.
I find this temple a bit more peaceful than some of the famous temples around Thailand. I love how this temple doesn’t feel very monumental but enough to stand out compared to other temples you’ll see around northern Thailand.
Note: Unlike most of the temples around Thailand, temples we’ve visited in Chiang Rai are not very strict with dress codes (of course, bear in mind that this isn’t the beach, so casual-public-appropriate clothing should still be practiced).
Baan Dam Museum aka The Black House
If Wat Rong Khun depicts heaven, our guide told us that Baan Dam Museum represents hell. This museums served as home and studio of the late National Artist Thawan Duchanee. The whole museum is a big park (compound) with around 40 structures serving as galleries which includes a number of black painted traditional Northern Thai houses.
Some might not fancy the type of artworks displayed at the Baan Dam Museum. It really depends of what your taste is. If you find yourself appreciating eclectic and a bit of “curiosity-cabinet” type of person, this museum is definitely something for you. The displays are dominantly water buffalo horns made into a piece of sculpture or a furniture.
What I love about Chiang Rai is how they value agriculture as part of their lifestyle. We visited 2 places which shows how this industry can be made into something sustainable.
Rai Reun Rom Farm Stay
Visiting the Rai Reun Rom Farm Stay inspires me a lot. I personally dream to have my own farm someday and offer fresh organic produce to guests. This is what Rai Reun Rom is currently doing. Started with a small hut, now it expanded into a sustainable farm and glamping site. We had our lunch here and the food is exquisite. There is something about fresh farm to table dishes that makes any food special. I am sold!!
We also had a chance to create our own batik (of course using organic colors from flowers). It was so much fun designing our own batik in the middle of the paddy fields.
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RAI RUEN ROM | CHIANG RAI, THAILAND . Yesterday, we went to Rai Ruen Rom Farm here in Chiang Rai where we had a short session on designing our own scarves using natural dyes from a bark of a tree (Caesalpinia sappan) and a flower (Marigold). We were taught how to create patterns and techniques to achieve different hues all in natural ways. This is a fun experience, I think I can do this at home. Mine is on the middle. 🙂 . The farm has a restaurant as well serving delectable Thai organic foods with ingredients mostly from their produce. . #ChiangRai #Thailand #AmazingThailand #StoriesFromChiangRai #ColorsOfChiangRai
Chui Fong Tea Farm
Another place that we visited is the Chui Fong Tea Farm. Tea is one of the biggest industry in the northern region of Thailand. Probably because of its temperate climate that is suitable to grow plants for tea production. Chui Fong Tea Farm is owned by the biggest tea company in Chiang Rai and known to produce oolong, jasmine and Chinese green tea.
To enjoy the variety of teas they offer, aside from buying a pack for yourself (to take home) you can also enjoy a fresh brew in property’s own “artsy” café in the middle of the plantation. You can get your tea hot, cold and even a frappe. You can also try their matcha or Thai tea flavored cakes, which I highly recommend.
Getting to Chiang Rai from Bangkok
If you are coming from the Philippines, the best way to go to Chiang Rai from Manila is a connecting flight via Bangkok. There are a number of airlines that fly direct from Manila to Bangkok. For this trip, took an early flight via Philippines Airlines and connect it with Bangkok Airways which will fly direct from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. I love flying Bangkok Airways because you can access their airport lounge for free (which includes complimentary drinks and snacks)…I repeat, for free!
Another option is to travel by bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (as far as I can remember, this took me around 10 hours) and take a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. The travel time from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai normally takes around 3 hours drive.
There are also several tours operating around Chaing Rai, for our trip LOK BAI KEK 2018 arranged all of our itineraries. If you plan to stay in Chiang Mai and just want to explore Chiang Rai on a day trip, you can book a guided day tour from KKDAY which will take you to several famous spots around Chiang Rai.
Contact LOK BAI KEK 2018
Compared to other tourist destinations around Thailand I can say that Chiang Rai is still finding its spot to the must-visit places in the country. It isn’t your typical tropical paradise, but there is a certain charm about this quaint northern Thai province which makes me want to comeback and explore over and over again.
This trip is in collaboration with Tourism Thailand PH and Tourism Thailand SG. Follow their instagram pages at @tatphilippines @tatsingapore and @tatchiangrai. All editorials and photos are my own unless mentioned or sighted from sources.