5 Unique Experiences in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai, just 4 hours north of Chiang Mai, left me with a different pressure than most cities. Here’s a list of 5 unique things to do in Chiang Rai…

1 Chiang Rai is home to hundreds of coffee shops. So if you’re needing an extra afternoon jolt, you won’t have a problem finding a nice local espresso to sip on. But if that’s not enough to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling, I’d recommend the cafe CAT N A CUP. It’s not only a cafe with coffee, smoothies, and food, but a home to a dozen or so cats. Complete with toys and lots to climb, this cafe lets you hangout with your favorite animals. YOUR favorite animals. I hate cats…

2 Chiang Rai is the home base for many nearby hill tribe treks. Compared to Chiang Mai’s touristy, easy hiking “treks,” Chiang Rai offers more authentic and responsible tours, with many companies’ proceeds benefitting local tribes and community programs like education and HIV/AIDS information/prevention.
3 The main clock tower, lying in the center of a traffic circle, is a huge, golden, and ornately designed installation. It also features hourly light shows at 7, 8, and 9 pm. They last about 10 minutes and are neat spectacles of lights, music, and passing cars.

4 Baan Dam, also known as the Black House, is more of a museum than a temple. Designed by Thawan Duchanee, it’s grounds feature a multitude of dark wooden buildings with ornate carvings and details. Each have their fair share  of animal skin, bones, and skulls. And there are owls and giant boas living on the property…




5 And my favorite, countering the dark, mysterious feel of the Black House, is the White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun. Designed by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple is very much an art installation, with pure white sculptures dressing the property, often with mirror mosaic trims.

Inside the temple appears to be traditional murals until you look a bit closer. There are superheroes, demons, and references to current events an pop-culture, all sitting opposite of Buddha. Harry Potter (!!!), Johnny Depp, Star Wars characters, and a depiction of 9/11 amongst others make up the face of a demon, it’s eyes the faces of George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden. It’s a fascinating commentary on the state of our world, our obsession with nuclear weapons and war, and countered with a simple,meditating Buddha. Wat Rong Khun is a must-see if you’re in Northern Thailand.



Honorable Mention: Golden Triangle (where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand’s border meet), an Opium Museum, the Chiang Rai Beach, and the Buddha caves/Tham Pu Tu Caves.




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