If you appreciate obscurity, old meets “twisted” new, and juxtapositions of light and dark, Chiang Rai delivers. Its wacky expressionism is most evident at the White Temple and Black House, both absolute must-sees on Thailand tours.
Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple, is a contemporary Buddhist and Hindu temple designed by Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. The intricate construction began in 1997 and will take another 90 years to complete. Baan Dam, or Black House, is an open-air collection of mostly black buildings of varying shapes and sizes, decorated with a generous smattering of animal bones.
Chiang Rai receives enough tourism that it has excellent infrastructure and accommodation that suits both the backpacking hipster and the discerning boutique traveller. At the same time, with so many Thailand tours to be had, it doesn’t receive so many visitors that it feels exploited and jaded. An hour-long massage can still be had for 200 to 300 baht in the numerous massage shops, while the night market is a pleasure to stroll through at a leisurely pace with little to no pressure to buy. Many local artists sell unique products in Chiang Rai’s night market, as opposed to mass market trinkets that are an assault on the senses in other night markets.
A stroll through the local food markets introduces you to fruits and vegetables that are unique to the area, and even to the month or week you’re visiting. Local delicacies include dried silk worms, ants, and frogs. The average Thai goes not once but twice a day to the market, and everything is consumed in as fresh a state as possible. Almost no recognizable western food outlets exist in the area, and dining is a treat for the senses.
Coffee lovers are in luck. A number of years ago, when the Thai government ended the opium trade that the area was known for, they had to introduce a new series of cash crops to farmers. Coffee grows well here, and Chiang Rai’s fair trade, small batch, locally-grown and roasted coffee ranks up there with the best coffees in the world. A simple but true delight to be found on a trip to Thailand!
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle
Every holiday should have its jewel in the crown… its “big splurge” if you will. Since there are many gorgeous deluxe properties in stunning settings in Thailand, choosing that jewel might be a challenge. In my opinion, the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle is well worth consideration. Hidden in the jungle outside of the town of Chiang Rai, the camp consists of 15 superbly-appointed safari style tents that each have a unique view and theme. No need will go unmet, and you’ll enjoy a never-ending series of unique touches. The resort is all-inclusive and the wines are chosen to pair perfectly with both the Thai and western cuisine being served that day. There is an on-site organic garden where much of the produce is grown and harvested just prior to consumption to further enhance the taste. A minimum of 2 nights is required, and ideally 3 would be perfect to fully appreciate the area. Each stay includes an elephant experience, a spa experience, and a trip to the Golden Triangle.
2-Day Chiang Rai & Golden Triangle