If you’re in Chiang Mai and have time, it is highly recommended to go to Chiang Rai, another town North East of Chiang Mai. It’s a smaller town, and things are generally cheaper and more cultured here. You can get to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai via taxi or bus, although taking a bus will only cost you around RM8 whereas a taxi will cost ten times as much. Here are seven things you should not miss when in Chiang Rai.
1. Visit The White Temple
The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) isn’t exactly ancient, built by a renowned Thai architect. It was built entirely in white, and the exterior was made with a mix of glass so that the temple glistens in the sunlight. There are strange carvings of hands, skeletons and Batman (I have no idea how this relates to the temple). The little garden around it is lush and green, and overall it’s a nice little spot to visit
2. Visit the Myanmar-Laos-Thailand border
There’s that scene in the film ‘A Walk to Remember’ where Jamie, the girl, had dreams to be in two places at the same time. Landon, the guy who was in love with her, brought her to a border between two states – and ta-dah, she was in two places at once. Unfortunately, Landon doesn't exist in real life. So if you're looking for something close enough, this will be a great opportunity to do sort of the same thing, but even better because this spot is a three-country border. (Tip: There is also an opium museum around here which I heard is especially fun if you're sentimental about your pot-smoking days in college. And no, you can't sample any)
3. Buy tea
You will not believe how cheap good tea is in this region. There are massive amounts of locally produced tea being sold by the streets and night market. A 100-gram bag of good Oolong tea, for example, can cost as low as RM3.50. If you’ve always had a fantasy of being a fancy shmancy tea connoisseur, here’s a good place to start.
4. See the Long Neck Tribe
You’ve probably been fascinated by the long-neck hill tribe in National Geographic. I knew I was. You can take a forty-minute tuk tuk ride from the main city to visit the Long Neck Karen village, where you can stay all day long and observe the daily lifestyle of these fascinating people, their long necks wrapped by heavy, metal rod necklaces. This practice starts as early as young childhood, and you’ll have a great time mingling with them as they proudly exhibit their beauty culture. The trip towards the village itself is a sight, passing by local villages and paddy fields.
5. Walk around the Night Bazaar
Like Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai also has a night bazaar. Some reviews have said that things are a lot cheaper here than they are in Chiang Mai, although the selections may not be as extensive. In any case, it is nice to walk around and take in the atmosphere, and perhaps do some retail therapy.
6. Try some Rotee
If you hail from Malaysia, then perhaps Rotee isn’t really anything new. But there is something quite wonderful about buying a freshly made Banana Rotee in the night market, and wander around with that greasy plate on your hand, convincing yourself that you’re burning those calories and fast as you’re eating them.
7. Walk around the town
My favourite habit whenever I arrive someplace new has always been; dump the bags at the hotel, freshen up, pack my passport and money, and take a nice long walk around the area. It helps to get a feel of the place you’re in and build an anticipation of what you might explore. Walking is also much more flexible than taking a transport, as you can stop and peer at the shops, talk to locals and drop by interesting buildings.