Our stay in Chiang Rai was short and sweet. Having read up on the horror stories of doing a two day border crossing from Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang on a long boat (picture wet passengers, bruised knees, huge rats and a long 20 km walk and you have a rough idea) we decided to book fights from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang to save us the hassle and the two days of travelling. This meant that we could either stay in Pai for two more days or squeeze in a quickie with Chiang Rai. Since we were loving Thailand and sad to be leaving it so soon, we opted for one more adventure before heading out to Loas.
Our winding road trip from Pai, as our last post goes over, was far from pleasant but thankfully didn’t break us (thank god for anti nausea pills). When our minivan madman driver dropped us off in Chiang Mai, we were thrilled to hear he wasn’t driving us on the second leg to Chiang Rai and after a couple of hours waiting filled with steamed pork buns and crisps, we were thrilled to be directed toward a proper (much slower) coach with which we were sat right at the front. A blissful 3 hours later, we were dropped in Chiang Rai.
Chiang Rai is a charming place, tipped as a small Chiang Mai. While its smaller scale means there’s less to do, it also means it’s even easier to walk around and take in everything and is littered with lovely cafes and restaurants serving good, cheap food. The other amazing thing about Chiang Rai is that it’s kept up with Thailands booming hostel market, producing cheap rates with amazing hostel facilities. Walking to Mercy Hostel from the bus stand took 10 minutes and we were shown into our very luxurious dorm room. Forget metal bunk beds, these dorms were like real wooden bed frames joined together with proper western mattresses, duvets, AC and large oak lockers. All for the price of 250 baht – £5.50! But that’s not even the best part! This hostel had hands down the most incredible showers, and tens of them! Cubicle after cubicle of double oak doors with huge waterfall showers fit for a 5* resort with piping hot water along with free shampoo and soap. Everything was so clean, spacious and finished with homley touches, it was the first place that truly felt like a home away from home and they even had gender separate bathrooms which I know makes all the difference for solo female travellers wanting that extra level of safety/privacy. I’ve honestly never had so many showers in a two day period. 🚿
Hostel accommodations (and obsessions) aside, our one full day in Chiang Rai was spent exploring the town, checking out restaurants and renting a moped from the hostel to go visit the White Temple. Lots of articles we’d read had said Chiang Rai – despite its sweet charm – could easily be skipped for something else, unless you’ve been dreaming of seeing The White Temple.
For those of you that haven’t heard of it, 15 minutes out of Chiang Rai is one of the most beautifully crafted, perfectly white, glittering temples. It’s Thai architecture at its finest and is honestly breathtaking. As you can probably guess, I was a fan and seeing pictures of the White Temple had been one of my many ‘this is why I want to go travelling!’ thoughts while we were still working in London. At 500 baht a pop, it doesn’t break the bank and you can get some truly magnificent photos. They even have a resident monk who meditates next to the Buddha statues within the temple. Locals pray to him and give huge donations with monks being part of temple prayer being rare. If, like Fitz, you are convinced he’s a wax statue, rest assured he’s not. We waiting and watched very closely until Fitz confirmed he saw a blink 😑
Chiang Rai is also normally the last port of call in Thailand before the long boat to Luang Prabang so if any of you find yourselves there with time to spare I can’t recommend the White Temple enough.
To close off a lovely sunny day out and about, we finished off our evening by going to Sanfran.
Sanfran is raved about online as having the best burgers in Thailand so we decided to put it up to the test. I have to say, it didn’t disappoint. While our standards may be higher in London, we found the Sanfran burgers to be just as wonderful as it’s open air, rustic, trendy atmosphere. To top it off I ordered a Leo beer and Fitz – thinking he was being clever by ordering a cheaper unknown beer brand – ended up with a wine cooler 🍷.
Eating our burgers surrounded by the young, trendy residents of Chiang Rai, we were happy to have made the quick trip and seen such wonderful things. Cheers to Chiang Rai 🍺🍷!
Chiang Rai was unfortunately our last stop in Thailand before heading to Laos. Before heading out of the city to find our bus, Chiang Rai blessed us with one last treat in the form of a cat cafe while we were desperately searching for a pre-bus snack. 45 minutes of eating delicious sandwiches while being surrounded by 30 (sometime soon) cuddly cats – yes please.
While we are sad to say goodbye to Thailand, we will, however, be returning in early July to commence our Thailand diaries.
Until then, we look forward to letting you know the joys of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. But for now, it’s a quick 1 hour flight from Chiang Mai Airport to Luang Prabang 🛫