#36 – Chiang Rai, Thailand

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The stay at Pai wasn’t very long but it was time to move on.  Early in the morning (4am), I took a minivan back to Chiang Mai (6 wonderful hours) then connected to another bus straight to Chiang Rai which took another 3 hours.   After arriving at the Chiang Rai bus station, you get the crowd of locals swarming you to send you to your accommodations.  Naturally, I went prepared and declined all offers (back off, get your own sandwich) then checked my phone for directions.  SIM still good.  Hostel was 1km away, easy la.  Graced Fun D Hostel Chiang Rai with my presence, finally.

Chiang Rai is a gateway city to the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Myanmar, Laos).  It is the largest city in northern Thailand (next to northwest Chiang Mai) with a population of only 200,000 but has plenty of history and landmarks to make it a worthwhile stop.  In my opinion, I prefer Chiang Rai over Chiang Mai with it having a more relaxed vibe and a distinctly vibrant northern Thai specialty foods.

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New, clean, spacious rooms that had personal lockers, lights and a charging socket.  Each room had it’s own keycard as well.

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Modern decor.

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Really smart use of space for the bathrooms and showers.

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They included condiments… I mean body wash, shampoo and conditioner.  Seriously, this was probably the 2nd time I’ve ever seen a hostel offer conditioner.  Blown away.

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Internet and social chill out room with air conditioning and stack of dvd movies.

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Hostel included their own giant restaurant and breakfast was included every morning.  Jeez, I think I could live here for-freaking-ever.  The place was cleaner than Mr. Clean.  Staff was friendly and helpful, wifi was strong.  Literally the BEST hostel I have ever stayed at, 10/10 and recommended to anyone going to Chiang Rai.

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Obvious mode of transportation.  Motorbike again, but this time in a high traffic city.  AGAIN, the speedometer was broken and didn’t work.  What’s with my luck?!

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First stop, The Bandaam Museum aka The Black House or The Black Temple.  This unique exhibit of almost 40 black houses was created by a Thai artist named Thawan Duchanee.  The collection of sculptures, lawn fixtures, paintings, and house arrangements were all generally inspired by Burmese and Balinese bone art and architecture.  The houses were made of wood, glass, concrete, bricks, or terracotta.   Also, the collection and various items on display in the houses (animal skins, animal bones, paintings, drums, and furniture) reflect many different countries around the world with a focus on the South East Asia region.  It was also free to enter and explore.  Definitely something that stands out from the everyday temple blinged out with gold.

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First thought, this is cool.

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First thought, Game of Thrones.

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Snake skin as table decor.

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Game of Thronesssssss.

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Game of Thrones.

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Fancy.

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Yea ok, felt like I was on a set of some show.  Not saying what show.  Some show.

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Traditional Thai Lychee flavour.

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Phood.

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Next stop, the featured cover picture: Wat Rong Khun aka The White Temple.  Built by Thai artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat beginning in 1998, this mish mash clash  of contemporary art with current pop culture with traditional Buddhist lessons and influences was probably one of the most unique temples I have ever seen and will see.  The work on the temple remained to be unfinished and walking into the halls you see several artists adding their twisted contribution to the temple.  The temple won’t be complete for another few decades.  The creator wanted his creation to be unlike any other exhibit in the world comparing it to various iconic monuments such as Stonehenge, pyramids, etc.  Was his ego over the top?  I leave my impressions on this temple quite open and leave amazed but wouldn’t attribute the temple to the level and mystifying as real world wonders.

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Wishing well.  I always make a wish wherever I go thinking of the people most important to me.  No matter the distance, there will be those who are close to my heart.

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Epic picture.  The entrance of the temple was really really impressive.

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Hell, and those giving offerings.  How would you interpret this?  It was said the outreaching hands symbolized desire.

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The red fingernail somehow got processed out.  Hmm.  Can you spot the finger?

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Like a concert.  Jump!

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Only worthy shall enter!

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Gotcha.

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Inside.  I turned around and saw this mural on the wall.  I got so confused.  I recognize too many pop culture references.

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Wuuuut.

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Temple gardens.

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Predator coming out of the ground at the entrance.  Such a kodak moment but not allowed to step on the grass.

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Later on in the day, I met Mandy (Chinese), Jack (British) and James (British) that stayed in my room at the hostel.  Turned out I had unintentionally bumped into them in Pai as well but stayed at different places.  They were super nice people so we got together and went out to the local food night market in Chiang Rai to grab some grub.

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Thai Northern style hotpot.  Chim choom (Jim Joom).

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This stage they sang Cantonese and Mandarin songs.  Was like wuuuut.  Guess ethnic Chinese (tourists/locals) dominated a lot of Chiang Rai.

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Free government tram for tourists to see several key temples in Chiang Rai.  Mandy, Jack, James and I set out early in the morning.

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Wat Phra Kaew.  The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.  Originally names Wat Pa Yia, the central Chedi was struck by lightning in 1434 and broke apart revealing a jade Buddha inside.  Dubbed the ‘Emerald Buddha’ due to the deep and luminous green glow of the jade figure, it was essentially the one single most priceless treasure in Thailand even today.  The Buddha was then eventually moved to Vientiane, Laos during several wars and then finally moved to Bangkok where it is now in the Bangkok Wat Phra Kaew.  The current jade Buddha in Chiang Rai is a replica.  After thorough perusing of the history, I found that the replica jade Buddha was jade originating from Alberta, Canada.  So Buddha was Canadian!

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I had the chance to visit the Hilltribes Museum in Chiang Rai.  The museum itself was rather disappointing as the displays and informations were not in the best conditions and the weak collection was arranged in just several interconnecting rooms.  However, I was still able to learn a lot of the various hilltribes and their origins for what it’s worth from this visit and would still recommend this place if one has the time to.

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Back at the hostel for a break, us 4 met a new roommate Caitlin.  As she introduced herself, she was a Canadian from Toronto now living in Bangkok.  HUH.  This was a good laugh as she was from Ottawa but attended the University of Toronto – St. George campus.  Now, she teaches English in the city and it was her weekend trip to Chiang Mai.  Well then, small world.

Chilling in the common room watching The Impossible.  Heavy but excellent movie.

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Puppiessssss!

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Cricketssssss.  Grasshopperssss.  Live and fresh and instantly fried for you to enjoy!

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Coconut milk snack.  These are yum.

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BBQ squid.

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Mandy and Caitlin dancing along.  Eventually, we all got up and joined the dancing festivities.

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The local bus to Chiang Khong, the border city between Thailand and Laos.

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Peace out Thailand!

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On one side Thailand, the other side, Laos.  Looks, kind of the same at this moment! Haha.

Next up, one of, in my opinion, the most beautiful and MUST SEE countries in South East Asia, Laos.  It was one amazing journey.

Stay tuned.

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Posted in Tips, Travel
8 comments on “#36 – Chiang Rai, Thailand
  1. mike says:

    So many random things in that place. The chairs also look cool, but super uncomfortable, especially for skinny people. And i found the red finger, but the creepier part is the few hands that have faces in the palms, the top left corner of the red finger picture, third hand from the left.

  2. julzia says:

    Good eye Mike! I couldn’t find it. =(

    I loved all the temples you went to see! They are amazing!

  3. robin says:

    Dammit, I couldn’t see it easier. I left my mind wander and hoped that I could see it, like those ‘magic eye’ puzzles. No deal.

    Amazing post, Kel! And can’t wait for Laos. I went to the Golden Triangle when I was 16 (holy shit, more than 10 years ago..!), and I went to the river where the tree countries ‘touched’. Looks like you had way more fun on your trip tho!

  4. twu says:

    wow that hostel looks amazingggg..even I could picture staying there….maybe…..

  5. […] main train station of Hualamphong.  I’ve been here many times this year (to Pai, Chiang Rai, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore were all started from here), and all too […]

  6. macr0hardi says:

    hi

    Could you please help me out with some info about that free tram ride? Thanks so much!

    • kel says:

      There is a Free City Tour by tram. Starting at the Chiang Rai Cultural Centre and stops at: Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Doi Ngam Muang, Wat Phra That Doi Jom Thong, Wat Ming Muang, Chiang Rai Clock Tower and Tung Gardens. You can hop on and off at any point along the route. The service is free. Departs King Mengrai the Great Monument @ 9; 9.30; 13.00 and 13.30 daily.

      I got on at the Cultural Centre as it was the beginning of the tour.

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