Located in the North-east of Thailand, Chiang Rai, is a centre of culture, arts and heritage. I really love this city and everything it has to offer and I recommend renting a motorbike to soak it all up. You can realistically see all the sites in one day – here’s my 24 hours in Chiang Rai.
The White Temple
Free entry to the temple and the art galleries
The White Temple is not an ancient one, instead it is the chef d’œuvre of an eccentric Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat.
After earning very decent revenues from the sales of his paintings, Kositpipat decided to create the world’s most beautiful temple.
Complete with imagery of heaven and hell, themes of redemption, salvation and the cycles of life shine through the design.
Aside from the spiritual metaphors, countless contemporary motifs are hidden throughout the piece: a stylised Batman can be found inside the inner sanctum of the temple; many steampunk robotics bridge the past, present and future; and sculpted heads of famous villains and monsters from films hang ominously from a nearby tree.
You can make a wish at the temple for an affordable 30 Baht. Whether or not the cost guarantees the delivery is yet to be seen. You take a silver leaf, write your wish onto it and hang it under a tree made from the countless wishes of many people before you. Statistically, a number of those wishes will come to fruition – but there are no consistent checks and balances when it comes to faith.
Surrounding the complex is a museum and gallery showcasing the artist’s other painting, sculptures and other designs.
Then there is possibly the most beautiful toilet block ever. Check it out!
Free to take a photo in front of the Singha dragon
Not far from the White Temple is the Singha Park, where you will find an animal farm and tea plantation. Most importantly however, you will see the giant golden Singha dragon monument, atop a grassy, green hill.
Take a lovely jump photo here against the backdrop of the bright blue sky.
100 Baht for photo with a python
Deeper into the mountains we go, winding roads that constantly rise and fall. Rice paddies and rich pastoral lands abound, just outside of the Chiang Rai city.
On the way you might like to hold a python – here’s a 19 year old python that took six men to carry.
There are also villagers living here. I met a little old lady from the Akha Tribe. Although I was expecting to pay her for the photo opportunity, she was very coy and asked us for money as soon as she heard the click and whirring of the camera – clever!
Long Neck Karen Village
300 Baht donation to support the development of the villages
Just north of the city, there is a small community of mixed hilltribes. It’s not the traditional way that these villagers would live, but its a convenient way for them to all showcase their traditions to visitors. I don’t believe that they actually reside in this village, it appears to be a village just set up for show – although it has all the things necessary for daily life – huts, cooking equipment, town centre, etc.
The main tribe is the Long Neck Karen. The women of this tribe practice neck lengthening using a brass coil, which at its longest, can have as many as twenty turns. However, the neck does not necessarily stretch and is mostly a visual trick – the weight of the rings twists the collarbone and eventually the upper ribs, at a 45 degrees angle (much lower than what is natural), creating the appearance of an longer and more slender neck.
30 Baht to bathe in the public bath
100 Baht to bathe in a private bath
There are natural hot springs where you can end your big day out by relaxing in the mineral rich water, soaking your aching muscles. Be careful, the water is super hot!