There are a surprising number of things to see and do in Chiang Rai, a quirky, artistic city in northern Thailand. Close to the borders of both Laos and Myanmar, it’s a great base for visiting hill tribes and for scenic mountain trekking (one of the most adventurous things to do in Chiang Mai!). Chiang … Read more The post 21 Awesome Things to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand, in 2023 appeared first on Goats On The Road. There are a surprising number of things to see and do in Chiang Rai, a quirky, artistic city in northern Thailand. Close to the borders of both Laos and Myanmar, it’s a great base for visiting hill tribes and for scenic mountain trekking (one of the most adventurous things to do in Chiang Mai!). Chiang Rai is also home to an incredible number of beautiful temples — from historic jewelled monuments to unusual contemporary artworks. I stayed in Chiang Rai for over a week during my recent trip to Thailand, and I still didn’t manage to see everything. I think it’s an amazing city that deserves to be included on every northern Thailand travel itinerary. 21 Awesome Things to Do in Chiang Rai, Thailand There are numerous interesting things to do in Chiang Rai. This is definitely one of the top places to visit in Thailand. It’s possible to visit Chiang Rai for just a couple of hours on a day trip from Chiang Mai, which is the bigger and better-known city in northern Thailand. It’s a 3-4 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai on winding mountain roads. Many people who visit either come for the day or stay for only one night, and they try to pack in as many Chiang Rai activities as possible on a 1-day group tour. Tours can be a good idea if you’re short on time. But if you’re not, there are so many cool things to do in Chiang Rai that it’s definitely worth staying a few days. Or stay a full week, like I did. Here are my top 21 things to do in Chiang Rai. 1. Visit the White Temple The epic White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun, had to be first on the list. It’s definitely one of the most famous things to do in Chiang Rai, and in this case, its iconic status is deserved. The White Temple is a sparkling-white modern temple with a huge number of surreal touches. It’s a genuinely breathtaking sight, and I was surprised by just how much I loved it. The White Temple was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Apart from the famous temple itself, there are other buildings and interesting objects you can walk around, plus a gallery of unusual paintings by the same artist. It’s actually a work in progress, with surrounding buildings still being constructed. You could easily spend a couple of hours taking in the small, surprising details that make up this beautiful temple complex — such as the most beautiful and disturbing No Smoking sign I’ve ever seen, or Keanu Reeves in his Matrix outfit painted onto the wall inside the temple. I’ve read a lot of negative comments about the White Temple. The biggest complaint is that this famous temple has become too crowded and touristy, which is true, but it’s still one of the best Chiang Rai attractions. You’ll have to negotiate the crowds and wait for a gap in the hordes of tourists crowding every inch of the temple to snap the perfect photo. The White Temple is definitely still worth visiting, despite the number of tourists. You can avoid some of the worst times by visiting early in the day. A lot of people visit later in the day on a day trip from Chiang Mai. So if you stay overnight in Chiang Rai and make it to the temple first thing in the morning you’ll have the best chance of having a great experience. 💵There’s an entrance fee of 50 baht ($1.60) for foreigners to visit the White Temple. ✓ It’s important to note that this is a Buddhist temple, so dress accordingly (covering shoulders and knees). 📍Address: 60 หมู่ที่ 1 Phahonyothin Rd, Pa O Don Chai, Mueang Chiang Rai District. Find the temple on the map here.  🕰 Hours: 8am – 5pm Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday 8am – 5:30pm. 2. Explore the Black House Sometimes incorrectly called the Black Temple, the Black House is a collection of painted wooden houses featuring art by Thai contemporary artists, most notably its designer Thawan Duchanee. Also called the Baan Dam, the Black House has a similar surreal and modern vibe as the White Temple. Some of the buildings do look very much like black temples, but there are several other bizarre buildings dotted around. Some resemble igloos, while there’s one giant construction that looks like a beached submarine. After the pure glory of the White Temple, I have to admit that the Black House didn’t quite match up for me, but it was still an incredible Chiang Rai attraction and I definitely recommend visiting. But, seeing it straight after the mesmerizing White Temple probably didn’t do it any favours. It was also more crowded than the White Temple. 💵The entrance fee is 80 baht ($2.50). 📍Address: 333​ หมู่ 13 พิพิธภัณฑ์บ้านดำ Nang Lae, อำเภอเมือง Chiang Rai 🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday 9am – 5pm.  3. Visit the Blue Temple Visiting the Blue Temple was one of my absolute favourite things to do in Chiang Rai. Before visiting Chiang Rai, I’d heard plenty about the wonders of the White Temple and the Black House, but for some reason, I’d never heard of the Blue Temple. I have absolutely no idea why, because this incredible modern temple completely blew me away! It’s vibrantly coloured, contemporary and kitsch (but in a good way). The inside is also painted in incredibly bright patterns and colours. Also known as Wat Rong Seua Ten, the temple was only completed in 2016 and I think that’s why it isn’t as well-known as some of the more famous Chiang Rai attractions. I’m pretty certain that’s about to change. 💵 Free! 📍Address: หมู่ที่ 2 306 Maekok Rd, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 🕰 Hours: Monday – Sunday: 7am to 8pm 4. Have an Iced Drink at Betty Coffee – a great pit stop when checking out all the things to do in Chiang Rai I fell in love with Betty Coffee, a small, unassuming coffee shop, because of its great iced coffees and even better decor. The colourful cafe is basically a shrine to the cartoon character Betty Boop. Betty-themed posters and dolls cover every inch of the space. It’s just down the road from Wat Klang Wieng, which makes it an ideal quirky rest stop while temple hopping. Click here for directions. Address: WR6M+45W, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand Planning to visit other areas when backpacking Thailand?… We’ve got you covered! There are so many amazing things to do in Thailand, make sure to give yourself some time. Check out the 21 best things to do in Pai and the best things to do in Chiang Mai – which is a great trip from Chiang Rai. If you’re heading to the islands, don’t miss the top things to do in Koh Phangan and things to do in Koh Lipe, plus our guide to Koh Samui. And of course, you’ll probably find yourself in the crazy capital so make sure to check out the best things to do in Bangkok! 5. Dodge Monkeys at the Monkey Temple The monkey temple, also known as the Fish Cave Temple or Wat Tham Pla, is protected by a dramatic staircase with 7-headed Nagas (mythical serpents). It’s absolutely overrun with monkeys. They’re actually quite menacing and are known to jump on unsuspecting tourists to snatch their things, so visit at your own risk! The monkey cave is a short drive from Chiang Rai and you’ll need a car or scooter to visit. I didn’t rent a motorbike in Chiang Rai but there are several motorcycle rental shops near the central clock tower. The cost depends on the type of bike you’re looking for. Typically it’s about 200 baht ($6 USD) per day. Although plenty of travellers ride scooters and motorbikes in Thailand, be aware that traffic can be extremely hectic. If you’re in an accident your travel insurance may not cover you if you don’t have a motorbike license. Alternatively, you can negotiate a price for a return trip with a car or motorbike taxi driver, or join a group tour – more on this below. 💵 Free entrance. Address: ถ้ำลิง วัด ถ้ำปลา Pong Ngam, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai, 57130, Thailand See Also: Cost of Living in Thailand – A Guide for Expats, Travellers & Digital Nomads 6. Feast on Thai Treats at the Night Market The Chiang Rai night market isn’t the biggest I’ve seen, but there are lots of incredible food stalls serving up northern Thai specialities. One of my favorites is Khao Soi, an absolutely delicious curried noodle dish with a distinctive flavour you can’t find anywhere else. This is one of the top foods in Thailand. The night market in Chiang Rai is quieter and more relaxing than any other Thai night market I’ve experienced (and I’ve been to a lot!) so this is a great place for stocking up on souvenirs. And of course, a visit here is one of the best things to do in Chiang Rai for foodies. 📍 Address: Thanalai, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 🕰 Hours: Saturday from 4:30pm to 12:30am 7. Go Temple Hopping in Chiang Rai’s Town Centre While the famous modern temples are on Chiang Rai’s outskirts, the old city itself is also home to a number of impressive older temples, some of which are famous in their own right and have a far more sacred place in Thai history than the surrealist contemporary upstarts mentioned above. If temple hopping is your thing, you could spend hours walking through Chiang Rai’s city centre, taking in some incredible architecture. Two of my favourites are Wat Klang Wieng and Wat Ming Meuang, a 13th-century temple covered in iridescent crystals, and Wat Phra Singh with its impressive golden spires. 8. Visit Wat Phra Kaew Wat Phra Kaew is probably the most famous historic temple in Chiang Rai. This beautiful but small temple once housed the revered Emerald Buddha, which is now in the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Legend has it that the Emerald Buddha was hidden in a chedi (dome-shaped shrine) and was discovered after the chedi was struck by lightning. Although the statue has been moved to Bangkok, you can see a replica in Wat Phra Kaew in Chiang Rai. 📍 Address: 19 หมู่ที่ 1 Trairat Rd, Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District 9. Watch the Clock Tower Light Show Chiang Rai’s ornate clock tower was designed by the same artist who created the famous White Temple. It’s set in a busy and not-very-attractive traffic intersection. Although it’s intricate and impressive as far as clock towers go, I wasn’t blown away when I first saw it, surrounded by honking traffic under a cloudy sky. That said, after dark the clock tower becomes the site of a colourful light show, flashing different colours in time to music. It feels as though the whole town (and certainly all of the tourists) turn out to watch the spectacle, and it’s actually a fun experience. This is one of the most popular things to do in Chiang Mai when the sun goes down. 📍Address: Suk Sathit, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District  ✓ I recommend having a snack or drink at one of the restaurants or cafes that line the streets in this area. Several have outdoor tables with front row seats. 🕰 Hours: Daily at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm. See Also: Mae Hong Son Loop – A Guide for Travellers 10. Have a Drink at Cat Bar The Cat Bar is a good old fashioned dive bar, with a pool table, low lighting and rock tunes. Chiang Rai isn’t a huge party town — in fact, I found it pretty quiet, even though I visited in January, in peak tourist season. Even so, there was a great vibe at Cat Bar. Click here for directions. Address: WR4J+JH3, Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Road, Tambon Wiang, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand 11. Visit the Northernmost Point of Thailand Thailand’s northernmost point is just a short 20-mile drive from Chiang Rai. You can actually visit this spot — it’s marked with an ornate sign next to the Myanmar border. There’s a bridge joining the two countries and you can watch people crossing into Myanmar. There are also lots of restaurants and shops selling jewellery and ornaments made (allegedly) from Myanmar jade. See Also: Ayutthaya Historical Park – The Ultimate Travel Guide 12. Visit the Tree Top Adventure Park The Doi Tung Tree Top Walk and Zipline is the place to take a treetop canopy walk 30 metres above the ground. It has rope bridges, swings and giant ziplines, all in beautiful natural surroundings. It’s part of the large Mae Fah Luang Garden, which is full of tropical flowers. I really enjoyed strolling around the garden after all the excitement of the ropes and ziplines. The garden is in the northern part of the Chiang Rai region, near the border with Myanmar, so it’s a great attraction to pair with the next few things to do in Chiang Rai. 📍 Address: Huai Khrai, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai  💵 Tickets cost 150 Thai baht (around $4.50 USD) for both adults and children. 13. Survey Three Countries from the Golden Triangle The Golden Triangle is at the confluence of the Mekong and Ruak rivers, though it’s better known as the spot where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. You can stand on a balcony high on a hilltop, looking out at breathtaking views of the rivers and land below. Down below the lookout point is a giant golden Buddha statue overlooking the Mekong River, and an ancient ruined temple is up the hill above it. The Golden Triangle is around 50km from Chiang Rai, and there are several other places of interest in the vicinity, so it’s a popular stop on a day trip taking in the best things to do in and around Chiang Rai.  See Also: Things to Do in Koh Tao – Top 21 Things You Don’t Want to Miss 14. Learn About Opium’s Turbulent History at the Hall of Opium Museum Located next to the Golden Triangle, the Hall of Opium is a small museum with an exhibition about the opium trade. The Golden Triangle area was historically known for poppy cultivation and opium trade and smuggling, and the Hall of Opium traces this history, along with the trade’s ill effects on the region. 📍 Address: Wiang, Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai 🕰 Hours: 8:30am – 5pm, Monday – Saturday 💵 200 baht ($6.40) 15. Visit a Hill Tribe Village Hill tribe villages are found all over the hills and mountains surrounding Chiang Rai. The people in these villages are often part of nomadic tribes from outside Thailand and include the famous “long neck” Karen hilltop tribes. These groups historically came to Thailand from Myanmar, and the women may wear brass rings around their necks. In my opinion, if you decide to visit a hill tribe village, it’s important to carefully consider the experience you’re booking and make sure it’s ethical. Some of the hill tribe visits, especially those included as an “attraction” on cheap whistle-stop day trips, could be seen as exploitative. A good, non-disruptive option is to avoid a group tour and go with just a guide. On this private tour you’ll visit several small towns in the Golden Triangle and the Akha hill tribe. It also makes a stop at the Hall of Opium. It’s a great way to get off the beaten path in northern Thailand. 16. Go Mountain Trekking (one of the most adventurous things to do in Chiang Rai) Chiang Rai is one of the most famous areas of Thailand for trekking, and many routes take in the forests, waterfalls and rivers of the Lum Nam Kok National Park. Most treks take at least a couple of days to complete and involve a rustic homestay in a hilltop village. It’s easy to book day treks or multi-night treks with overnight homestays through several of the travel agencies that line the central tourist streets of Chiang Rai. Unfortunately, though, some of the packages include elephant riding, so check this before you book.  Note: Goats On The Road does not condone animal tourism or any activities to do with animals in captivity. Do your part to be a responsible traveller and say “no” to elephant riding.  Another option is to book a trekking tour online. On this tour, you’ll hike 15 kilometres in the jungle, seeing waterfalls, hot springs, and a tea plantation. You’ll also have a delicious lunch cooked in bamboo. Travellers also highly recommend Lanna Trek. The cost for a 2-day, 1-night trek is 2,800 Thai baht ($84 USD) per person for groups of 2-3 people. A private tour costs more and bigger groups are slightly cheaper. 17. Get Close to Nature at Singha Park Singha Park is a picturesque park in the Chiang Rai countryside, several parts of which are a working farm. It’s owned by the Singha Beer company, but the focus is on nature and sustainability, not drinking beer. There are walking and cycling routes, tea plantations, fruit orchards, ziplines and an adventure rope course. There’s a good restaurant too, which I spent a while in, relaxing after all of those activities. Click here for directions. Address: 99 Moo 1, Mae Korn, Amphoe Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai, 57000, Thailand 18. Go Stalactite-Spotting at the Chiang Dao Cave Chiang Dao Cave is a couple of hours’ drive from

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