Chiang Rai, Thailand: Top Places to Visit

Chiang Rai is the northernmost province of Thailand and is bordered by the Shan State of Myanmar and the Bokeo Province of Laos. From old temples to newly made structures that embody the fusion of religion and contemporary art to beautiful landscapes, Chiang Rai has a lot to offer.

Wat Rong Khun

Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)
Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) | Source
A markerWat rong khun -
Wat Rong Khun, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand
[get directions]

The road is sign-posted so it'll be easy to find. Also, its shimmering white structure can be spotted from the road.

The White Temple

Designed by the artist Chalermchai Konsitpipat, Wat Rong Khun is no ordinary wat. Unlike most wats which have red, green and gold hues, this wat looks very pristine in white and silver. The designer's vision was to create a temple that symbolizes the purity of Buddhist teachings as well as the reflection of the love in our hearts to the world.

Although it's not a wat with any historical significance, it should be visited because of it's uniqueness. Wat Rong Khun is probably the only wat that combines contemporary characters and traditional Buddhist images. In the perimeter of the site, you might spot predator crawling out of the grass. Underneath the walkway that leads to the entrance of the prayer hall are ghoulish heads and creepy hands reaching out from the bowels of hell.

From the road, Wat Rong Khun can easily be spotted because of its glittering facade. And, as you walk closer, the structure becomes even more impressive.

The Black House (Baan Dam)
The Black House (Baan Dam) | Source

The Black House

Baan Dam, also known as the Black House, is 10 kilometers from Chiang Rai. Created by another national artist, Thawan Duchanee, this site's gothic displays will blow your mind. Unlike the Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, Thawan Duchanee's Baan Dam, is not a place of prayer. Several Lanna-style structures with dark teak roofs can be found all over the grounds.

The main house by the entrance contains dark furniture made up of buffalo horns contrasted with colorful peacock feathers and huge white shells. Animal skulls and even teeth can be found on the posts outside the house. There is even an area where you can find elephant bones laid out. Perhaps this is not a go to place for animal rights activists and vegans. But, if you ever make your way here, prepare to be impressed by the darkness it exudes.

A markerBaan Dam -
Chiang Rai, Thailand
[get directions]

This place can be difficult to find. There is only one, very tiny sign that shows where it is located.

The prayer hall of Wat Phra Kaeo
The prayer hall of Wat Phra Kaeo | Source

Wat Phra Kaeo

This was once the house of legendary Emerald Buddha which now resides in Wat Phra Kaeo on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. According to the legend, the emerald Buddha was found in a nearby chedi after a bold of lightning splits it into half.

A museum with a replica of the Emerald Buddha which is 1 mm shorter than the original can be found on the temple grounds.

Kun Korn Waterfall
Kun Korn Waterfall | Source

Kun Korn Waterfall

This 70-meter high waterfall is 30 to 45 minutes from the Chiang Rai city centre. Just take the road going towards Wat Rong Khun, the white temple, and turn right into Route 1208. Being the highest and most prominent waterfall in Chiang Rai, it is well sign-posted and shouldn't be hard to find.

Be prepared for a 1,400-meter hike from the parking area. Also, try to plan a trip on a weekday or you'll be disappointed to share the view with a crowd.

The view from the peak of Phu Chi Fa at dawn.
The view from the peak of Phu Chi Fa at dawn. | Source

Phu Chi Fa

Located at the eastern edge of Thoeing District in the province of Chiang Rai, Phu Chi Fa has lovely views during sunrise. Although there are more locals than tourists in this part of Northern Thailand, the view is still worth seeing.

Either put up a tent at the peak of Phu Chi Fa or stay at one of the mountain resorts at the foot of the mountain and slowly climb to the peak before dawn, the landscape revealed by the rising sun is definitely worth waiting for.

The Golden Trianglr
The Golden Trianglr | Source

The Golden Triangle

Known as Sop Ruak (the place where the Mekong and the Ruak rivers meet), the Golden Triangle can be found in the Chiang Rai Province. This is once an area where opium was grown and sold. These days, it's just a tourist attraction filled with huge, colorful Buddhas and other statues. A place worth visiting is the Hall of Opium. You can also hop on a boat to Don Sao in Laos without the need for a visa.

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