We got the bus from Pai at 12:30pm on 30th April 2018 which would take us to Chiang Mai where we would then get another bus to Chiang Rai. There had been some direct buses from Pai but they were a lot more expensive than getting two individual buses so we decided against doing that. Once we got to the bus station in Chiang Mai though we were faced with a dilemma, the bus to Chiang Rai was fully booked! A bus went every hour and we hadn’t ever expected that the bus would be full since we arrived with two buses still scheduled for that day so we weren’t really sure what we were going to do. There was around 10 people at the station who had all had the same idea as us and were now stuck without a way to get to Chiang Rai. An older man suggested we share two taxis and said that he had negotiated a price so that it would be 440 baht (£10) each. We didn’t really have a choice so we had to take him up on the offer but, in hindsight, I think we could have negotiated a cheaper taxi than what he did as he didn’t really seem like a big haggler particularly as we heard him say at one point later that he wasn’t bothered about the price and he was only on a two week holiday. The bus was meant to cost us 150 baht (£3.45) so we were annoyed that it had been full and the journey had ended up costing us so much more. We had already booked our hostel in Chiang Rai though and it would have cost us more on the money we would have lost had we stayed in Chiang Mai another night.
The taxi journey went smoothly and in around four hours we were in Chiang Rai. The man we had got a taxi with had negotiated to get us all dropped off at our hostels/hotels but when we arrived the taxi drivers dropped us at the bus station and told us he didn’t know Chiang Rai and had to get back to Chiang Mai so we could find our own way from there. We weren’t letting the journey cost us any more money so we walked to our hostel which took around half an hour which meant we were very hot by the time we arrived as it was 29 degrees celcius. Our hostel was called Koon Cha Learn Backpackers and on the first night we had the dorm to ourselves and only gained one dorm mate the next night. This worked great for us as it gave us a chance to get a good nights sleep and we didn’t need to make friends at every stop of our journey so there being no one in the hostel didn’t matter to us. The hostel also gave you free biscuits and hot milo (hot chocolate) as well as a free bicycle rental so we were happy with the place.
The next morning we got a taxi to Wat Rong Khun (also known as the White Temple). This was an amazing temple which is more of an art exhibit and is designed by architect Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed, built and then opened it to visitors in 1997. We loved it here as it was so quirky and different to any other temple we had seen. Inside of the temple you couldn’t take photos but it was covered in paintings and they had also added loads of pop-culture references in random places integrated into the artwork such as Batman, Superman, The Avengers, Star Wars characters and Disney characters. We made sure to find them all before we left and even though it was very unlike any other temple and the paintings by some would probably be seen as bad, we thought it made the place even better. The temple also had a gory quality to it such as hands holding skulls and skulls hanging from trees but this also added to the place and meant wherever you looked there was something new to see. We spent around an hour here and then got a shared jeep back into town for 40 baht (90p) each.We were dropped off into the centre of town and so went to see some of the temples that were in the area. We only had the one day in Chiang Rai which we had read was enough time but we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything. Our first stop was to Wat Phra Singha which is one of Chiang Rai’s oldest temples dating back to 1385. This was a pretty temple with gold stupas and lots of statues of the Buddha.Our next stop was to Wat Sri Bun Rueang which we just stumbled across and had really nice detailing on the entrance to the temple so we had decided to stop in for a look. A lot of the temples were relatively near to one another and would just be on a random street so you would just walk around and go into the temples as you found them.On our way back to the hostel we stopped at the King Mengrai Great Memorial which had a lot of models of elephants and had a few people coming and going to pray and give offerings. This is more of just something to see as you pass through and that’s the only reason why we saw it, I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it.Before we got back to the hostel we also saw the Clock Tower which is famous in Chiang Rai and made by the same architect who designed the White Temple. It’s a nice clock tower but also doubles as a roundabout so we only saw it as we were crossing the road. During the day it’s a bright gold and at night it gets lit up with lasers while music plays putting on a big light show. We didn’t get to see the light show as there was a huge downpour that evening that we only just got back to the hostel in time to miss but we have seen great light shows in Singapore so I don’t mind that we missed it.We had a rest in our hostel and then borrowed the free bicycles from our hostel to go and see some of the sights further out of town. Our first stop was to Wat Rong Seua Ten (the Blue Temple). This temple is a few kilometres away from Chiang Rai city centre but didn’t take us too long to cycle there even if it was a bit hot! The temple gets it’s name from the mass of blue that covers it inside and out and it’s really pretty. It’s still having construction work done to it and is really new with the building of it only starting in 2005 and the main hall was only completed in January 2016.We then continued our ride to Wat Huai Pla Kung which is a temple complex that houses a few buildings and the main attraction of Gian, the Goddess of Mercy. It’s 6km out of Chang Rai so we probably ended up cycling around 20km that day! The goddess statue is enormous and you can see it as you’re cycling towards the complex. It’s bright white and I think the full site is relatively new as the stairs were still being painted when we were there. There is also a nine-tiered Pagoda that is part of the complex which was pretty and had loads of wooden buddhas inside. The inside wasn’t really that impressive but I liked it from the outside.We cycled back into Chiang Rai and went to the Night Bazaar that happens every evening in town. It’s really big and sells clothes, souvenirs and loads of food. We got some really good pineapple for very cheap and then went to the food court which has rows of stands selling pretty similar stuff like noodles, fried rice, hot pots and tempura. We got fried rice and a big bowl of tempura, chips and spring rolls to share which was nice. We then ended our meal with a fruit shake. It was a good last meal in Thailand and gave us time to reflect on the great time we had had.Thailand is a very easy country to travel around as it is very prepared for tourism. It has nice food (although, surprisingly, we preferred the food in the south) and has nice scenery. I don’t think it’s either our favourite country in South East Asia but it’s somewhere we will definitely go to again, particular the southern islands as we had a great time there and they’re really beautiful.
Sending love x