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Chiang Rai

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A traditional Thai dancing performance at the Chiang Rai night bazaar

A traditional Thai dancing performance at the Chiang Rai night bazaar

 

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Thailand - Chiang Rai

Background to my trip

After I visited Koh Lanta at New Year a few years ago, I posed the question, "Is Koh Lanta the greediest place in Thailand?"

 

Long-necked Karen woman, Chiang Rai

Long-necked Karen woman, Chiang Rai

 

After having visited Chiang Rai, I have another questions but it is on a more positive note. "Is Chiang Rai the friendliest, most beautiful, and best location to live in Thailand?"

I had wanted to visit Chiang Rai for many years but just never got round to it. It's a long way from where I live in southern Thailand but that is no excuse with cheap air travel easily available.

 

Monument to the King, Chiang Rai

Monument to the King, Chiang Rai

 

Another factor may have been that I was underwhelmed and disappointed when I visited Chiang Mai a few years ago. In September 2006 I took a week off work and finally made it to Thailand's northernmost province.

I had toyed with the idea of revisiting Chiang Mai on this trip to give it another look but decided not to. I don't like areas of Thailand with farangs everywhere, and Chiang Mai is home to around 10,000 resident Westerners these days - not to mention hordes of tourists. If I'm in a part of Thailand where it isn't necessary to speak or read Thai, I don't really want to be there.

 

Hilltribe girl weaving cloth, Chiang Rai

Hilltribe girl weaving cloth, Chiang Rai

 

I travelled by bus from Sukhothai which took exactly eight hours.

I didn't make any plans before I arrived. I have an aversion to guide books because many are next to useless. I know certain parts of Thailand very well and when I read guide books about those places I know that whoever wrote them was only in town for about two days to do 'research' and has no real knowledge about the actual location.

 

Tanya Inn, Chiang Rai

Tanya Inn, Chiang Rai

 

It is obvious that all they have done is recorded details of some convenient guest houses and restaurants near the bus or train station. Anyone arriving in town can find the same places in no time so what's the point of a book? An exception would be something like the Nancy Chandler map of Bangkok, which has been very well researched.

After arriving at the bus station I found a motorcycle taxi and asked the driver to take me to a decent hotel. Unfortunately, he must have mistaken me for a backpacker and took me to a backpacker type place. It wasn't really to my liking, but I paid for one night and went to my room.

It was only when I found that the bathroom was full of cockroaches that I changed my mind and asked for my money back. I then went into town to find somewhere more suitable.

I stayed at a small hotel called Tanya Inn which was fairly new, very clean and comfortable. It was a little way out of town but convenient.

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Wat Rong Khun

A Thai friend who had visited Chiang Rai previously had shown me a book of paintings by an incredibly talented Thai artist and told me that the artist had built a temple in Chiang Rai.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

I couldn't remember the artist's name or the name of the temple but this information was easy to get from the locals once I had arrived in town.

The name of the man in question is Chalermchai Kositpipat and the magnificent temple that he has started to build is called Wat Rong Khun; named after the village in Chiang Rai in which he was born.

Ajarn Chalermchai is a remarkable man and his temple (which is still in progress and will not be finished in his lifetime) left me gasping in awe. The students he has taught will carry on the work after his death.

Not only is he a uniquely gifted artist but he has a deep understanding of Buddhism and leads a truly Buddhist life. Even though Thailand is a Buddhist country, this is rarer than you might think. Thais (and they won't like me for saying this) are not generally very good Buddhists.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

Ajarn Chalermchai admits that he wasn't a good boy when he was young but he studied Buddhism and it changed his life. He has used his incredible talent to promote Buddhism around the world and not for material gain. For four years he worked in England painting murals at the Buddha Pratheep temple in Wimbledon and did not receive any wages.

There is a maximum donation amount of US$250 per donor because he does not want to be under the patronage of any individual or organisation.

Donations can be made by contacting:

Phra Kittipong Kalayanoh (Tu Sang) Deputy Abbot or
Mr. Chalermchai Kositpipat
Wat Rong Khun
Sub-District Pa Oar Don Chai
District Muang
Chiang Rai 57000
Thailand
Tel/Fax: +66 (0)53 673579
Mobile: +66 (0)1 776 9374

Money can be transferred directly to the temple bank account:

Savings account number 747-2-05373-8
Siam Commercial Bank Plc.
Si-yak Mae-korn Branch
Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun is an absolute must-see if you are in northern Thailand. In the right conditions it is a photographer's delight but when I went the light wasn't great. When I go back again I hope for a fierce black sky as a storm approaches, a perfect blue sky or an orange glow from sunrise or sunset.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

I hired a tuk-tuk to take me first to Wat Rong Khun (which is about 13km from the city centre) and then to a temple in town before taking me back to my hotel. I negotiated a price of Bt300, a price both I and the driver were satisfied with. He was in no hurry and allowed me as much time as I wanted to walk around and take photos.

Meanings of the Main Building by Chalermchai Kositpipat

It was my strong intention to build a temple in imitation of heaven. I wanted it to be a heaven on earth.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

I built a main building in the Buddhist monastery. I wanted it to be like a house of the Buddha with white colour representing His purity and white glass representing His wisdom shining all over the earth and the universe.

The bridge symbolises transition from the cycle of life to the land of the Buddha. In front of the bridge is a small semicircle, representing the world. The large semicircle with the demon king's fangs embodies passion and desire. We need to throw our passion and desire away into the mouth of the demon king to clean ourselves before going inside the main building. On each rail of the bridge are eight monsters, totalling 16 monsters representing 16 types of passion.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

The middle of the bridge symbolises Sumeru Mountain, which is the habitation of gods. The pond below stands for Sithandorn Ocean. Above the six-layer heaven is the 16-layer Brahma's land, represented by 16 magic lotuses surrounding the main building. The four biggest ones located beside the entry to the main building represent the shelters of the four great followers of the Buddha - Sodaban, Sakitakami, Anakami and Orahan.

The semicircular in front of the stairway to the main building symbolises the transcendantal world of wisdom. The three steps of the stairway represent impermanence, sadness and non-selfness. Next to the stairway is the land of the formless divine represented by four magic lotuses and four doors. The last door contains triangular mirrors, representing emptiness (nothingness). Next to the door is the threshold to the land of the Buddha.

On the four-sided walls and the floor inside the main building are mural paintings in gold colour, representing the release from passion and desire to the world of Dharma.

I use the main apex to symbolise Buddhist Commandments. The apex comprises four animals representing the four elements of the earth; elephant representing land, naga representing water, swan representing wind and lion representing fire. All these animals are on their duty to safeguard Buddhism. This, the main apex comprising the four elements of the earth symbolises the five Commandments, the eight Commandments, the 10 Commandments, the 227 Commandments and 84,000 codes of morality.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

The apex on the second level refers to consciousness represented by two animals: naga and swan. While the naga's fangs symbolise evil, the swan symbolises virtue. With the use of Buddhist Commandments, evil (passion) is killed. When we win over passion, consciousness occurs thus finally leading to wisdom.

The top apex symbolises wisdom represented by a swan with garuda's mouth crouching still. The swan seems not having any kind of passion but nothingness.

Behind the top apex are a group of seven designs representing the seven Elements of Enlightenment and a group of eight designs on the foundation of the umbrella representing the eight Paths of Buddhism. The multi-tier umbrella itself symbolises Nirvana. The pedestal below the top roof represents the 10 Fetters.

 

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

 

On each pillar on the four corners of the main building are the flags representing respect paid to the Buddha according to the belief of the Lanna Region.

Said above is only a short description of the main building. In fact, there is a lot more information as I plan to build nine main buildings in total, each having Buddhist meanings.

I want to create Buddhist arts on our land that are so great and splendid that the people around the world want to see them. I will dedicate all my life to this work. Also, I have at least two generations to continue it after my death. I estimate that it will take about 60-70 years to complete the nine main buildings.

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Hill Tribe Village

As we were headed back to town from Wat Rong Khun my tuk-tuk driver suggested visiting the nearby hill tribe village. This sounded interesting so I agreed and it cost me another Bt300.

 

Hill tribe children, Chiang Rai

Hill tribe children, Chiang Rai

 

Going on a typical backpacker-type hill tribe trek wasn't on my agenda when I visited Chiang Rai but the opportunity to visit some hill tribe people interested me. I just wasn't sure what to expect when we got there.

The first warning sign was a big tourist bus outside the entrance to the village with a load of Chinese tourists.

After I had paid the Bt300 entrance fee a hill tribe woman and four small children appeared. I was told to follow them into the village and was led by two of the kids holding each of my hands. Cute kids.

 

Hill tribe music performance, Chiang Rai

Hill tribe music performance, Chiang Rai

 

The village is home to four hill tribes: Akha, Lahu-Muser, Palong and Lu Mien-Yao. As I approached some huts I was beckoned into a large, open hut and the call went out to the villagers who appeared in seconds dressed in their traditional clothing.

They sat me down and began a music and dancing performance for me. To be honest, I found the whole thing a little disturbing because it wasn't a lot different to performing animals in a circus but these were people. This wasn't really what I wanted.

Things only got worse when a group of Bangkokians arrived and treated it like a circus. One guy attempted to join in with the dancing as if he was a drunken Brit on holiday in Rhodes at a Greek dancing night out.

 

Embarrassing Bangkok tourist dancing with the hill tribe people, Chiang Rai

Embarrassing Bangkok tourist dancing with the hill tribe people, Chiang Rai

 

As he danced, his friends took photos and they then delighted in showing off their latest electronic gadgets to the poor villagers. There was no dignity or respect at all.

Other villagers were weaving or making handicrafts to sell to the tourists. Some spoke Thai while others didn't. I asked one girl what she thought about the tourists and she told me she liked them coming. Of course. The tourists are their main source of income.

The villagers were decent people and there wasn't an obvious money-grubbing attitude but it was obvious that donations should be made for performances and photos.

 

Karen hill tribe girl, Chiang Rai

Karen hill tribe girl, Chiang Rai

 

I made the mistake of arriving without much small change and in no time at all had given away all my money up to Bt100 notes. If you visit it is best to go with a large wad of Bt20 notes.

I have an over-active social conscience which makes life for me in Thailand difficult at times and I couldn't make up my mind about the village. The dancing and music performances for the tourists were very undignified but how else can the people make a living?

They didn't give the impression of being exploited and they seemed happy enough. I took plenty of photos - along with the other tourists - and left some money. If you are very sensitive about this kind of thing though, it might be best avoided.

The village address is 262 Moo 6 Ban Paoo Nanglae, Chiang Rai, 57100, Thailand. Tel/Fax: +66 (0)53 705337 or 714380. Mobile phone: +66 (0)81 993 3827.

What I began to realise after a few days in Chiang Rai was just how well integrated many of the hill tribe people are into mainstream Thai society. My Golden Triangle tour guide was Karen, a massage I had was given by an Akha girl and I met other people doing regular jobs who had hill tribe ethnicity.

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Golden Triangle Tour

With only a limited amount of time to spend in the area, and wanting to see as much as I could, it was necessary to play tourist for a few days but the tour I took worked out well. I found myself an excellent guide and, due to the fact that no one else had signed up, it became a private tour with just me.

 

Khun Prasit, my Karen guide, Chiang Rai

Khun Prasit, my Karen guide, Chiang Rai

 

My guide, Prasit, was a nice little fella who has done well for himself through hard work and sheer determination. He is Karen and started his working life in guest houses. He learnt how to speak English (which he speaks well) and he also had to learn how to speak Thai because his mother tongue is Karen.

He now has his own tour company in Chiang Rai and he goes out of his way to please customers. He can be contacted on +66 (0)6 005 0934 and I am happy to recommend him. He has his own jeep (essential for some of the steep mountain roads) and knows the area extremely well.

 

Hilltribe guide, Chiang Rai

Hilltribe guide, Chiang Rai

 

As we headed out of the city, our first stop was at a monkey temple, the name of which I didn't make a note of. There is a large troop of wild monkeys resident at the temple and like other monkeys in Thailand they seem quite well behaved.

I was struck by how green Chiang Rai province is, and the green colour of rice fields has to be one of the most soothing colours there is. Northern Thailand in ancient times was known as the Kingdom of Lanna. Lanna translates to 'million rice fields' and this is obvious why once you visit.

The next stop was Mae Sai which is on the Thai/Burma border. It is not wildly interesting or attractive but from one of the viewpoints you can look down to see Thailand on one side of the river and Burma on the other.

 

Monkey temple, Chiang Rai

Monkey temple, Chiang Rai

 

The countries don't look dissimilar but, of course, life for the people on either side of the river is very different.

At the border were the usual ponytailed, derelict farangs doing their 30 day border runs.

There were quite a few Burmese kids begging on the Thai side who just climb over the fence. These kids are persistent and don't give up. I gave a couple some Baht but by doing so made myself a soft target. A woman on the other side of the fence carrying a baby pointed me out to the other kids as someone who gives money away and I was subsequently surrounded.

Seeing how the Burmese live really puts poverty into perspective. There are lots of Thais who don't have much money and don't have many options in life but I have never met a starving Thai. Compared to the Thais, the Burmese really do look poor.

 

Burmese kid climbing over the border to Thailand at Mae Sai, Chiang Rai

Burmese kid climbing over the border to Thailand at Mae Sai, Chiang Rai

 

After Mae Sai we continued to the famous Golden Triangle area where we boarded a small boat and made a brief visit to Donexao village in Laos. I don't know why this is allowed but visitors from Thailand can visit the village on the other side of the Mekong without crossing any official border points.

The Laos village wasn't very different to rural Thailand. The village has been set up for tourists and the most popular souvenirs were bottles of some kind of liquor containing dead snakes and other venomous creatures, such as scorpions.

 

Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai

Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai

 

At the Golden Triangle we drove past the Hall of Opium Museum but didn't have time to stop. This area, of course, is infamous for opium poppy cultivation.

King Bhumibol's late mother - Mae Fah Luang as she is known (royal mother from the sky) - is very closely associated with the Chiang Rai region and devoted a lot of her life helping the local hill-tribe people, including the setting up of crop substitution programmes in an attempt to eradicate the illegal opium industry. The problem has been fairly well controlled in Thailand but that isn't the case in Burma and Laos.

 

Night bazaar, Chiang Rai

Night bazaar, Chiang Rai

 

Opium has valuable medicinal properties so is grown legally in government-regulated opium farms but the Golden Triangle area is where most of the illegal production takes place. Here is an interesting article on Opium - Poppy Cultivation, Morphine and Heroin Manufacture which was originally published by the American government.

Our next stop was Chiang Saen, an ancient Thai capital with a violent past from many encounters with marauding Burmese invaders. The city contains some very old ruins with Buddha images that were cut in half by the invading armies to destroy the souls of the Thais.

 

The boat across the Mekong to Laos

The boat across the Mekong to Laos

 

The famous Golden Triangle

The famous Golden Triangle

 

Lunch in Laos

Lunch in Laos

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Wat Phra Kaew

Thailand's most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha - which is now located at the Grand Palace in Bangkok was once - was once located in Chiang Rai. The temple is now known as Wat Phra Kaew but was formerly known as Wat Pa Yiah (bamboo forest).

 

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

 

The octagonal pagoda at the temple was struck by lightning in 1434 and the resulting damage revealed the Emerald Buddha. The temple was upgraded by His Majesty the King to a third common class royal temple in 1978.

It is the most wonderful temple. Not only is it incredibly beautiful but there is a serenity there like no other I have experienced in Thailand. Because of the temple's importance in Thailand, it is home to many monks who can be seen inside the temple grounds relaxing or working.

 

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

 

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

 

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaew, Chiang Rai

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Farangs in Chiang Rai

Because of the nature of Chiang Rai, it is different to other tourist areas of Thailand.

It is a classy city with very little sleaze, seediness, tackiness, Indian tailors, or acres of neon signs. It was therefore no surprise that I saw very few British, who thrive on tackiness.

 

Farang, Chiang Rai

Farang, Chiang Rai

 

I noticed a fairly large German presence, with a number of Western food restaurants around the night bazaar area offering menus in English and German with prices in Baht and Euros. The Germans get a bad press sometimes but generally they show far more class when abroad than the British.

There is an expat community but the ones I noticed were the guys who seem to want a quiet life which would explain why they are in Chiang Rai and not Pattaya. I would suggest that if you think places like Pattaya, Patong and Sukhumvit are the greatest places on earth then it is unlikely you will think much of Chiang Rai.

 

Western tourists in Donexao, Laos

Western tourists in Donexao, Laos

 

There were a few derelict farangs around, who were more noticeable at Mae Sai doing their 30 day border runs which they have been doing for years, but that should stop soon.

There is a strip of bars just behind the Wangcome Hotel with a few bar girls and I got a few, "Hello, welcome, come inside, sit down please," invitations but walked past. This area was really quiet when I visited.

My Karen guide on the Golden Triangle tour told me a few farang stories; none of which surprised me very much. He told me about the foreigners who arrive with a keen interest in visiting hill tribes for no other reason than to smoke opium.

 

Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai

Golden Triangle, Chiang Rai

 

This reminded me of my trip to Chiang Mai a few years ago on a one-day trekking trip where a couple of totally boring American men went on-and-on-and-on all day about smoking opium. What is it about Thailand that attracts farang men who never make it past the mental age of 15?

The other story was of an alcoholic guy who just spent all his money getting drunk. This included the money for his airfare home so he bacame stranded in Thailand with no money to live on or to get home. Prasit, my guide, got him to one of the NGOs and they loaned the guy some money for a flight home which, I'm happy to say, he did repay.

These kind of stories about farangs with addictive personalities and no will-power who come to Thailand and blow all their money on booze and prostitutes are not that uncommon.

I picked up a free copy of the local expat magazine titled "CommuniThai" which seemed fairly useful and the fact that a magazine exists implies the expat community must be fairly large but it isn't on the same scale as Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket or Chiang Mai.

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Weather

There seem to be a few misconceptions with some people about southern Thailand being hot and northern Thailand being cool. That is not so. The south is more moderate year-round with smaller seasonal variations in temperature than the north, north-east and central regions.

 

Black clouds and blue skies, Chiang Rai

Black clouds and blue skies, Chiang Rai

 

The north is cooler than the south in the cool season but hotter in the hot season. Cool is a relative term though and when I visited Chiang Rai in September (the rainy season), the city was still hot but not unbearable. Out in the mountains at that time of year it was very comfortable.

The mountainous landscape was reminiscent of other mountainous regions I have visited where weather conditions can change extremely quickly. There can be black skies and torrential rain one minute but 15 minutes later there are blue skies and sunshine.

Like many other parts of Thailand, low-lying areas in Chiang Rai are prone to flooding in the wet season.

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Accommodation

There is plenty of accommodation at all levels in Chiang Rai. I made the mistake of going along with one of the bus station touts when I arrived because I was feeling a bit tired after a long journey and just wanted to crash.

He took me to a typical backpacker place and they hadn't even bothered to remove the dead cockroaches from the bathroom. I found this out after I had checked in and paid for a night. I left without spending the night there and didn't get my money refunded, but I didn't really care.

 

Hill tribe hut, Chiang Rai

Hill tribe hut, Chiang Rai

 

Following a tout can be OK but you have to understand that they have ulterior motives. The guys either have family connections with the guest house they take you to, or they are paid a commission. If you have time and aren't feeling too tired, the best way is just to spend a while looking around.

I paid a motorbike taxi driver to take me to a few places and ended up staying at the Lanta Inn Hotel. It was really clean and I felt a lot more comfortable without sharing my accommodation with backpackers, cockroaches and mosquitoes.

Later on, I found a decent looking guest house with a great location right next door to the night bazaar for only Bt300 a night. It was called 'City Home' and is located at 868 Paholyothin Road just behind the Nova Lebanese restaurant. Tel. +66 (0)53 600155; Mobile +66 (0)3 201 2078.

The five-star German package tourists were staying at the Wiang Inn Hotel which looked very comfortable, and it wasn't overly expensive with rooms for Bt1,600 or Bt2,000 in the low season. Prices fluctuate everywhere in Thailand depending on the time of year.

  • Lanta Inn Hotel

    Address: 897 Phaholyothin Road, Chiang Rai, 57000
    Telephone: +66 (0)53 744966-7

  • Nak Nakara Hotel (formerly the Chiangrai Inn Hotel)

    Address: 661 Uttarakit Road, Chiang Rai, 57000
    Telephone: +66 (0)53 717700-3, 711483, 712673
    Book This Hotel: Nak Nakara Hotel

  • Wangcome Hotel

    Address: 869/90 Pemavibhata Road, Chiang Rai, 57000
    Telephone: +66 (0)53 711800, 713841-8
    Fax: +66 (0)53 712973
    Web Site: Wangcome Hotel
    E-mail: info@wangcome.com
    Book This Hotel: Wangcome Hotel

  • Wiang Inn Hotel

    Address: 893 Phahalyothin Road, Chiang Rai, 57000
    Telephone: +66 (0)53 711533
    Fax: +66 (0)53 711877
    Web Site: Wiang Inn Hotel
    E-mail: wianginn@ksc.th.com
    Book This Hotel: Wiang Inn Hotel

The best hotels in Thailand get booked up quickly and walk-in rates are the most expensive. To make sure you get the best rate and stay where you want to stay, book on-line in advance.

Click here to book accommodation in Chiang Rai through Agoda
Click here to book accommodation in Chiang Rai through Booking.com

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Food

Good Thai food exists in Chiang Rai just as it does everywhere in Thailand so that is stating the obvious but Chiang Rai also has some good Western food options as a result of the farang (mainly German) presence in town.

 

Fruit stall, Chiang Rai

Fruit stall, Chiang Rai

 

The Lebanese place I mentioned above is good for Middle Eastern food which I have only seen elsewhere in Thailand around the Little Arab area of Sukhumvit in Bangkok. I ate twice at an excellent pizza and pasta restaurant called Da Vinci which was as good as Pomodoro in Sukhumvit but cheaper.

There isn't the sheer number of farang food places as there is in Bangkok, Phuket, Samui, Pattaya and Chiang Mai but what exists is very acceptable. There are a number of small bakeries selling decent bread and cakes. I would imagine that whatever your preferences for food, there is something in Chiang Rai that will suit you.

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Night Bazaar

The Night Bazaar is the main hub of Chiang Rai's nightlife but, of course, this euphemistic term can have several different interpretations. The word 'nightlife' when used in Thailand normally refers to the type of activity found in Patpong, Sukhumvit, Patong, Pattaya, etc. There is no need for me to explain further.

 

Wooden saxophone vendor, Chiang Rai

Wooden saxophone vendor, Chiang Rai

 

Thankfully, it is a very different story in Chiang Rai. I found the whole experience classy and tastefully executed with none of the seediness and tackiness I have observed in the places mentioned above.

There is a food court selling standard Thai food and lots of stalls selling handicrafts. Instead of the tacky goods you see for sale in Patong and along Sukhumvit, the goods in Chiang Rai are actually worth buying. There are lots of good quality clothes and some very attractive artwork. To entertain the tourists there were some displays of traditional Thai dancing going on.

The picture above is of a guy who hand makes wooden saxophones. The demo he gave me sounded good and the saxophones are only around Bt3,000 which isn't a lot considering how much work is involved. Knowing that HM the King plays the saxophone, I asked if he has one. The vendor told me he was planning to make a special model and present it to the King as a gift in future but currently he doesn't have one.

Just outside the Night Bazaar is where you can find several good Western food restaurants and the tuk-tuk stand but be warned that tuk-tuk fares are vastly inflated for farangs - just as they are all over Thailand.

Around the Wangcome Hotel is where several small massage shops are located. These places all seem to be quite respectable and massage is all they offer. On the other side of the Wangcome Hotel from the Night Bazaar is where the strip of farang orientated bars is.

 

Thai dancing performance, Chiang Rai

Thai dancing performance, Chiang Rai

 

Night Bazaar, Chiang Rai

Night Bazaar, Chiang Rai

 

Night Bazaar, Chiang Rai

Night Bazaar, Chiang Rai

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Local Transport

If Chiang Rai has a weakness then this appears to be it. On one occasion I waited 25 minutes for a tuk-tuk to get to the night bazaar and was eventually given a lift by a museum worker who had shown me around the museum the day before. She happened to be passing by and recognised me.

 

Taxi, Chiang Rai

Taxi, Chiang Rai

 

There are no motorbike taxis (or at least I didn't see any), which seems strange in a town this size. I saw a few sawng-thaews but not too many and I wasn't around long enough to suss out the routes. Using sawng-thaews normally requires a fair degree of local knowledge.

There are tuk-tuks in the central night bazaar area but very few in the areas outside, including the area in which I was staying. The drivers (surprise, surprise) are just like tuk-tuk drivers all over Thailand.

Whenever a farang appears on the scene (even if the farang speaks Thai) prices go up by enormous amounts. I was quoted up to Bt80 for what should have been a Bt20 ride. The cheapest I could get the price down to was Bt50.

There are certain situations in Thailand where I know I am getting ripped off but am powerless to do anything. Tuk-tuk drivers form little cartels in order to keep prices inflated and if one guy on the stand gives you a stupid price, all the others will say the same. You either pay the stupid price or walk.

In those situations it is better to walk a hundred yards in any direction and hail a solitary driver on the street. They tend to act far more reasonably on their own than when in little gangs.

In other parts of Thailand a car is unnecessary but your own set of wheels would be handy in Chiang Rai. It would solve the local transport problem and allow you the freedom to get out into the beautiful surrounding countryside.

Regardless of how convenient and cheap motorbikes may be, I can never see myself riding one in Thailand. They're just too dangerous.

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Miscellaneous

If you are looking to buy a house in the area, there are some wonderful homes available for less than the price of an SUV. Check out Lanna Realty, a Chiang Rai based real estate agent.

The work situation isn't much different to other areas of Thailand except that more NGOs seem to be present in this area which is near the Burma and Laos borders. These organisations may offer opportunities other than the usual English teaching.

 

Bar for sale, Chiang Rai

Bar for sale, Chiang Rai

 

Of course, you could always open a bar - which seems to be the dream of many farang men coming to Thailand. The same men that dreamed of opening bars in Tenerife 30 years ago now dream of having their own bar in Thailand.

After a year of bar ownership, the following information might be useful. The local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous meets every Monday evening at 7pm at Chiang Rai First Church, located on the northeast corner of Phanholyotin and Rattanakeat roads, across the street from Honda/Goldwing motorcycles (two blocks from the Night Bazaar).

The fact that English language branches of Alcoholics Anonymous even exist in Thailand just says so much about the expat community and the type of farang male that is attracted to Thailand.

 

Mr Kern Sriratana, Chiang Rai

Mr Kern Sriratana, Chiang Rai

 

Lessons in Thai massage and Thai cookery are available in Chiang Rai but I have no details - you will need to ask around. On the subject of finding information, it is sometimes surprising where help and information comes from.

While walking around I was approached by a Thai man called Mr. Kern Sriratana. He speaks English well, having lived in the States for a while, and seems to make a living by helping foreigners with absolutely anything.

The services offered on his business card include: 2004 Award Winning Lychee Wine, Antiques Finder, English Translator, High Quality T-Shirt, Lanna Souvenir, Land and Housing Rental, Professional Tour Guide, Thai Teacher, Thai Cooking Class, Tour Services.

If you get stuck with something in Chiang Rai he may be able to help. His telephone number is +66 (0)86 527 2740 and he can be contacted by email at kernbangkok@gmail.com

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Visit Thailand

Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.

One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.

If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.

I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.

If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.

If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.

Images of Thailand

Images of Thailand

 

 

Cities

Beaches

Mountains & Hilltribes

Islands

Interesting

 

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