The province of Chiang Rai is one place with a range of attractions in its capital that first timers almost always end up skipping unknowingly. This small city has everything that would make one stop by and spend some time at so that they can fully get to know the place. The atmosphere is laidback, there is tasty local food, and as an outsider, you can easily get good value accommodation.
This is also the place where most visitors stay before they can go on and plan the rest of the excursions, in other places around the province. In any scenario there are so many things to do in Chiang Rai. The area itself goes back to 1262, at the time it was part of the Lao Thai Lanna Kingdom. Chiang Rai did not become a Siamese territory till the end of the 18th century, and only in the early 20th century did it gain provincial status. It also stands as not just the northernmost geographically located city, but also happens to be the largest city in Thailand. Somewhere along your exploration of the city you might see the Burmese heritage attached to the place’s history. For several centuries Chiang Rai was under the Burmese rule, but was annexed by Siam, which is Thailand today, later on. Sightseeing is probably one of the biggest things to do in Chiang Rai. The place is dominated by more tourists than by the local people. There are plenty of ways to get to the city; your options include travelling to the place by car, a private tour van, by train from Chiang Mai, by bus, and via plane from the Mae Fah Luang-Chiang Rai International Airport.
If you are wondering what you could possibly do in Chiang Rai that would be better than the rest of Thailand, know that there are tons of attractions in this city. Some of the amazing places that you should not miss while on your trip include Wat Rong Khun, Wat Phra Kaew, Doi Tung, Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong, Phu Chi Fa, Wat Pra Singh, and the Navel City Pillar of Chiang Rai. Apart from the historical temples and other textbook destinations, you can explore other avenues as well. The Saturday Night Walking Street located at the north side of downtown is a prime example. This is the point where hundreds of the locals gather to show their crafts, there is native food, local dances etc. If you get tired of simply looking, travelling, and exploring, you can always check out the Night Bazaar as well. The night market is located in the center of Chiang Rai. Here you can find local products, souvenirs and trinkets, over 40 places to eat, and popular cultural performance. You might also want to pack for a warm weather. Also, keep in mind that the area experiences monsoon season from April through till October.
This is another symbolically artistic attraction of Chiang Rai. The concept of the design behind this structure is a series of carved stone pillars that rise around a meter high on the Jom Thong Hill. On a marble pedestal there is a main pillar that is bigger than the rest of the 108 pillars. These represent the lower levels of heaven. The pillars were designed in Banom Ba Keang style which is based on Lanna. The design of the outside area is a stunning depiction of the river and the land.
You have to be there to feel the supernatural feel this place has to it. So don’t forget to make it a part of all the things to do in Thailand. This place was built three decades ago in celebration of the king, and is inside the grounds of Wat Phra, so you may come across it if you are around Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong. As part of all the things you can do in the Navel City Pillar of Chiang Rai, it gets you an amazing view of downtown province, as well as the Kok river.
Doi Tung is a mountain located in the Thai highlands in Chiang Rai. While Doi Tung is not the highest point in the entire aream it is situated in the Golden Triangle region, close to the point where Mynamar and Thailand meet. The best thing about this elevation is that this mountain of granite and limestone makes for some of the most spectacular views around for visitors; you can see both Thailand and Burma. Make sure that you add Doi Tung in all of the things to do in Thailand.
There are tons of things to do in Doi Tung. For instance you could visit the Doi Tung temple. This place goes back to a thousand years. Once there you might see lots of pilgrims. Another popular spot here is the Doi Tung Royal Villa. In theory it was created with the idea that the presence of royalty would prevent the people to stop cultivating opium. This was built as a summer palace, but today it is open to the public as a museum. The villa has done wonders; opium has been replaced by crops like Macadamia nuts, coffee and a whole range of fruits.
Phu Chi Fa is situated conveniently where it can deliver a stunning view of Doi Pha Mon. It is 1628 meters above sea level, and from here, you can also see the mountain landscape of the Thai-Laos border, and from there the Mekong River inside Laos, next to a small village which is also visible. Make sure you input travelling to Phu Chi Fa next to all the things to do in Thailand during your tour. This place is visited mostly during early morning; most visitors just stay overnight.
If you are concerned about accommodations, there are plenty of camping sites, resorts, and guesthouses here. Visitors get to hike up to the mountaintop after they wake up early around 5 am. There are a lot of things to do in Phu Chi Fa. When you are packing for the trip to this area, make sure you pack cloths for a slightly chilly weather. Phu Chi Fa may be part of Thailand today but it used to be Tai Lao homeland. You can get to the place by both bus and car. The small town does not have any other sort of rental service.
Also known as the temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the single most important Buddhist temple in all of the country. Make sure that this makes your agenda on things to do in Thailand. The Jade Buddha here is an image in the meditating form of the style that dates back to the 15th century. It is placed on a platform high enough to be out of reach. An interesting ritual is the changing of the jade Buddha’s cloak for the three seasons: winter, summer, and rainy monsoon.
Wat Phra Kaew is slightly different as a temple.
It does not have living quarters for monks, because it is simply an elaborate holy building with pagodas and statues all around it. There are tons of things to do in Wat Phra Kaew. The murals that you will come across inside describe the Ramayana. There is a certain dress code that must be followed. Men must wear long sleeved shirts, shoes, and long pants. Women need to wear skirts. You can rent the adequate clothing from the temple as well.
Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong is a must-visit place when it comes to an explorer’s things to do in Thailand. The spot has been a sacred site for quite some time. Legend has it that Paw Kuhn was following an elephant when he came across the solitary hill, Doi Chom Thong, right next to River Kok.
Chiang Rai’s founder first surveyed this place to make a city at its peak, around the western side of the contemporary centre of the province. Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong’s Lanna style-like chedi located at the top dates back to the time between the 14th and the 16th century. This place may also harbor an earlier Mon chedi. The compound on the hilltop is regarded as Chiang Rai’s “City Navel”.
There are tons of things to do in Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong. One story relates that the chedi was created with the purpose of housing Buddha’s relics – the same relics that were divided by the prince of Yonok Nakpan for three temples. Over two decades ago, the city pillar was transferred from Wat Klang Wiang to Doi Chom Thong.
Wat Pra Singh is the most revered temple and one of the oldest places to explore amidst all the things to do in Thaliand. It is covered in an enormous sanctuary that is inlaid with mosaic. The prosperity of the temple is plain and has immaculately trimmed grounds. These are dominated with several massage pavilions and coffee stands. Pilgrims flock to this place to venerate the famous Buddha image called Phra Singh. This idol is said to have come from Sri Lanka and was enshrined in the middle of the 14th century. The chapel takes design cues from this, with gold patterns and gilded gables.
There are a lot of things to do in Wat Pra Singh. Visitors have access to the monastery grounds, as well as the temple library that is located on a slight elevation, which is the stucco pavilion, the Ho Trai. You will know you have reached the place when you see angels carved in Wat Jet Yot style. The main chedi of the temple rises over the Lanna style octagonal base. This was created by King Pa Yo in the 14th century, and is at times covered in orange cloth.
Wat Rong Khun is the most recognizable temple in all of the country. If you have planned an extensive tour, this is one attraction that will definitely make the list of things to do in Thailand. Among most foreigners, this temple is referred to as simply the White Temple. The unconventional Buddhist Temple located in Chiang Rai was designed by Kositpitat in 1997.
The unique temple stands out with its bizarre sculptures of raised hands symbolizing desire, demon heads, etc. The plain white color of the entire temple is meant to represent the purity of Buddha. There are many things to do in Wat Rong Khun for both adults and kids. The entrance is dominated by murals of superheroes, cartoons, and movie characters. The temple as fantastic as it looks is all about the aspect of Buddhism that teaches escaping desire.
Wat Rong Khun is still being worked on and is not yet available to visitors in its complete form. A few other buildings here are undergoing construction and decoration. You can visit the gallery and look up the different masterpieces by popular artists. Don’t forget to stop by the souvenir and postcard shop!