The Northern sleepy town of Chiang Rai attracts less expats and digital nomads than Chiang Rai, but has a quaint charm and laid back way of life. When weighing up Chiang Mai vs Chiang Rai, the advantages of staying in Chiang Rai include an extremely cheap cost of living, a relaxed atmosphere and an excellent night market.
Many people visit Chiang Rai for the amazing temples. The White temple, the Blue temple and Bandaam Museum must be on your list! Spend at least a day or two exploring Chiang Rai’s fabulous temples.
The white temple in Chiang Rai is one of the most stunning temples I have ever seen in my life! It was designed and built by Thai architect Chalermchai Kositpipat and the route of the temple follows the spiritual route of achieving Nirvana. Avoid the temptations of life which are represented by the exquisite hands that look like they are going to pull you in as you enter the main temple. Inside the white temple you will find intricate works of art which depict good over evil including Batman and Kung Fu Panda!
There are some fabulous restaurants and cafes in Chiang Rai. If you are looking for a WIFI and western food fix, head to Smiling Moon cafe. For more authentic Thai food head to Barrab near Jed You temple. It also offers vegan and vegetarian friendly options.
Chiang Rai is also a good place to base yourself to discover the less explored destinations of the North of Thailand. You can easily do a day trip from Chiang Mai to explore the Opium trail or the Golden triangle. For a cultural immersion take a tour of the Karen Hill tribes. Chiang Rai is also a great place to try cooking classes and food tours. Bugs anyone?!
No trip to Chiang Rai is complete without a visit to the bustling night market. Remember to barter for your goods! Eating at the night market is a divine experience – you can pick up a Pad Thai for just $1! Clothes and souvenirs are cheap. Expect to be able to pick up T-shirts and purses for just a couple of dollars. They often put on cultural displays by the food section of the night market and so on certain nights of the week you can enjoy Thai dancing and entertainment for free.
About the author: Amy Trumpeter is a UK based travel blogger with Templeseeker.com – a blog that specialises in cultural and historical travel in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She has a BA in World Religion and an MA in South Asian studies from Manchester university.