Our initial plan for Chiang Rai was to visit for 4 full days, but after seeing countless blogs and Instagram posts of Pai, we decided to make a detour. I say we, but really I nagged Freddie until he gave in.
We had such a great time in Pai that I am glad we did decide to go – plus for me, Chiang Rai didn’t seem to have enough to do and see to fill four full days. Instead, we had a very quick stop over in Chiang Rai (really only one full day after the travelling to/from). We both wanted to see the White Temple, so a 7 hour bus journey sadly had to happen (there are no buses from Pai – CR direct, we had to come into CM first).
We spent two nights in the Mercy Hostel, which was an absolute bargain (about 800 Baht or £19 roughly for us both) and such a great place to stay. The hostel is really clean, has some great social areas, a pool and even a gym! Definitely check it out if you’re in the area, we loved it.
Things to do (and see!)
1. The White Temple (obviously)
I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the only thing I knew existed in CR before our trip, but seeing it was worth the painfully-slow bus journey! We got a bus from the main station for 20 Baht each (about 50p) and even though at times Freddie and I said ‘I could walk quicker than this’, it seemed the most reasonable/convenient option. Admission into the Temple itself is only 50 Baht per person, which felt very cheap considering we paid 10x the price for entrance into the Grand Palace in Bangkok!
I can’t explain the beauty of the White Temple and the photos aren’t doing it any justice at all – it’s one of those things you have to experience yourself!
2. The Blue Temple
Lots of the Thailand ‘to-do’s on our list have been temples and now I’m starting to feel templed-out… we didn’t go inside this one, but just admired it from the outside. The colour and the decoration around this temple made it feel kind of aquatic and it was completely different from the many temples we’ve seen before.
We had to get another bus here as it was a couple of miles out of the main CR area.
PS. Don’t attempt to walk the 2.5 miles back into the centre – we nearly passed out and were the sweatiest humans alive by the time we arrived back to the hostel. Just get the bus or a taxi, you’ll thank me.
- Ribs and Co
I have always rolled my eyes at tourists stuffing their faces with English Breakfasts or Bangers and Mash in a foreign country, yet here I was eating at a ribs restaurant in Thailand. In my defence, by 5pm I had only eaten a tiny pot noodle, three oreos and a scoop of ice cream and my rumbling tummy was crying out for some gross food that reminded me of home. This place delivered.
We got the large ribs to share, which came with two free sides. We chose chicken nuggets and chips, bypassing the healthy salad and rice options. We also had a chocolate milkshake and a banoffee pie to share. Our meal was by no means ‘cheap’ by Thai standards, but at £13 all in, we were still pretty happy. If you fancy a bit of a pig-out in a beautiful restaurant with great staff, this is your place.
2. Baan Chivit Mai Bakery and Restaurant
We came to Baan Chivit Mai for breakfast on our way to the bus station and were impressed with simple, tasty food at a good price. My cappuccino was probably the best/ prettiest coffee I’ve had since we’ve arrived (who doesn’t love a good coffee art)
This place donates 100% of the profits made to the Baan Chivit Mai children so you can have a tasty meal and know that you’re helping a good cause too!
3. Chivit Thamma Da
This coffee house/bistro/bar is No.1 on Trip Advisor and it isn’t difficult to see why. Staff are friendly and incredibly helpful, location is great… and the food. I definitely made a stronger choice than Freddie with my Vietnamese Breakfast ( a huge pan filled with fried eggs, sausages, pulled pork, other cuts of meat and a huge slab of garlic bread).
I loved being able to experience Chiang Rai, especially the White Temple, which is like nothing I had ever seen before. Personally, a couple of days was enough for me to get a feel for this small city, but I absolutely loved our hostel and I would permanently move into Ribs and Co if I could!