The hidden beauty of Chiang Rai
THIS is a month of love. Valentine’s Day is coming. Shall we go and spend a romantic time together somewhere, you may ask your loved ones or your family members.
If you would like to go somewhere but do not know where, may we suggest Chiang Rai where we just spent a lot of good time (five days) our style.
Chiang Rai Province has such a diversity of attractions and very nice people and weather during this time of the year. This small and delightful city is often overlooked but once there we found the place is worth getting to know as we also like its relaxed atmosphere, good-value accommodation and great local food.
We found it to be a logical base from which we can travel to the more remote corners of the province.
The city is 860 kilometers north of Bangkok; about 200 kilometers north-east of Chiang Mai; 62 kilometers south of Mae Sai and the Burmese border; 60 kilometers south-west of the town of Chiang Saen on the Mekong River across from Laos; and 90 kilometers north of Phayao town.
So you can choose to travel by bus, car or fly from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport to its Mae Fah Luang Chiang Rai International Airport. We chose to fly by Air Asia and hired a car from Chic Car Rent (the best way is to do these reservations online) so we picked up the car from the airport and used Google Map app. on mobile phone to guide us to Nai Suan Hotel, a bed and breakfast boutique hotel in a garden (around 1,500 baht per night). We arrived at the hotel in the afternoon and had time to visit Wat Pra Kaew and Wat Pra Singh.
Wat Phra Kaew is one of the most renowned temples of Chiang Rai as it was where the sacred Emerald Buddha had been enshrined since 1444 before relocation to Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. Wat Phra Kaew now enshrines an official replica of the Emerald Buddha made of green jade. The temple also houses a 700-year bronze statue of Phra Chao Lan Thong in the Chiang Saen style temple.
Not far from the Chiang Rai town hall and the hotel, Wat Phra Sing is a historic temple once home to the sacred Lanna-style Buddhist statue Phra Buddha Sihing, which is now in Chiang Mai. Nevertheless, Wat Phra Sing remains a temple worth visiting for its Lanna-style ordination hall featuring finest creations of Lanna craftsmen.
The hotel owner is nice and when asked about our destination the next day, Wat Rong Khun and Singha Park or generally known as Rai Boonrawd, he suggested that we go early to Wat Rong Khun first before group tourists arrive around 10 a.m. Also known as The White Temple, Wat Rong Khun is regarded as one of the most beautiful temples built in this century and is a masterpiece of artist Chaloemchai Kositpipat.
At 10 a.m. we then left the famous temple for Singha Park with the help of Google map app. By the time we arrived at Singha Park, a very big and beautiful tea plantation integrating a zoo in its 8,400 rai area, it was time to enjoy a delicious lunch and tea at its restaurant, Phupirom, which has a nice view.
Going back to the hotel, we later spent the evening time strolling at Chiang Rai Night Bazaar and having dinner there.
We checked out of Nai Suan Hotel early in the morning heading for Chern Tawan International Meditation Centre, which was founded on the wish of Venerable Phra Maha Vudhijaya Vajiramedhi (V. Vajiramedhi) to retreat to a solitary place. This is around half an hour drive from the city and after this we headed to Doi Mae Salong.
Driving up north to Doi Mae Salong we stopped to have a nice lunch at Haceinda Coffee House. Arriving at Doi Mae Salong, we checked in for a night at Hongfu Boutique Resort. We later spent time drinking tea late in the afternoon at a very famous tea house called Ban Hom Muen Lee (Osmanthus). In the evening we had dinner at the Im Pochana restaurant.
The next day, we departed early heading for Doi Tung Royal Project and checked in at Doi Tung Lodge, a very nice hotel (around 2,500฿/night). We visited Wat Phratat Doi Tung, Doi Tung Palace and Mae Fah Luang Botanica Garden. Doi Tung has a very panoramic and beautiful view from the top both in the morning and evening.
We checked out in the morning driving down to another famous tea plantation, Choui Fong, where tourists all have lunch and green tea at its restaurant with a gorgeous view.
We drove back to the city early afternoon to stay at B2 budget hotel and have a look at the so-called Clock Tower in the evening. The tower was also designed by national artist Chalermchai. We then had lunch at a recommended restaurant, Khao Tom Meena, before flying to Bangkok the next morning.
Top: The stunning vista of the huge Singha Park tea plantation.,
First inset: A dreamy view from Doi Tung Lodge.
Second inset: Choui Fong tea plantation also attracts lots of tourists.
Third inset: Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is charming and full of fun.
Fourth inset: Verdant hills of Doi Mae Salong.
Below: Wat Rong Khun is a masterpiece of artist Chaloemchai Kositpipat.
Report and photos by Kowit Sanandang