No matter how you look at it, Thailand’s north has been left, right and centre in the hearts and minds of adventure travellers for years now. While the region’s centre, Chiang Mai, is a vibrant and progressive University city bursting at the seams with art and culture, it’s more rural cousin, Chiang Rai, retains an authentically Buddhist spirit paired with the Kingdom’s famous sense of hospitality.
Backpackers stopping by for a few days have long discovered the town’s famous White Temple and walking street market, but spend a little more time in Chiang Rai and you’ll find there is more beneath the surface. Eager to discover the city’s lesser-known gems? Read on.
Wat Rong Suea Ten
If you’ve already seen the above-mentioned White Temple (of course you have!) and you’ve also marvelled at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, don’t let temple fatigue get the most of you. Wat Rong Suea Ten, often referred to as the Blue Temple, was constructed as recently as 2005 and is well worth a visit! An imposing, cobalt blue structure adorned with gilded dragons, this is an active Wat home to colourful murals and two gorgeous white Buddha statues. The temple is, of course, a photographer’s dream, but we recommend you set some time aside for contemplation and meditation during your visit – you’ll need some time to take in the splendour, anyway!
Mae Fa Luang Garden
Chiang Rai is surrounded by so much greenery, you might not feel the need to visit a beautifully manicured park, but that’ll change the moment you lay your eyes on Mae Fa Luang Garden. Spread across an impressive 10 acres, this blooming attraction was created following the wishes of Princess Srinagarindra, who sought to give Thai people who could not travel the chance to experience a temperate flower garden. And what a garden it is – there is everything here, from a thrilling tree-top walk and the Princess’ former villa to a designated exhibition space and, of course, plenty of beautiful flower beds! What are you waiting for?
Huay Mae Sai Waterfall
While everyone and their mum has been to Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall (not that we’re judging, we love it there, ourselves!), there’s another secret lurking in the thick forests west of Chiang Rai. Huay Mae Sai Waterfall can be reached via a fun jungle hike and, in case you worked up a sweat on the way, the refreshing pool at the bottom of the peaceful cascade is a real treat! Bring some snacks and a good book, kick back and simply enjoy the tranquil atmosphere of the place – a trip to Huay Mae Sai will take up most of a day so you might as well take it easy! Just remember to leave nothing but footprints.
Rai Ruen Rom Organic Farm
An hour’s drive southeast of Chiang Rai lays a hidden gem that’s nothing short of spectacular: Rai Ruen Rom Organic Farm is much more than just a farm (although believe us when we say they grow some of the best quality fruit and vegetables in all of Thailand!). A learning centre with daily seminars and workshops, this is the place eco-tourists flock to in an effort to learn about sustainable growing techniques and local cuisine… Speaking of which, the excellent on-site restaurant turns the farm’s harvest into mouth-watering Thai dishes full of flavour. Like it so much, you want to stay? Well, you can: the farm doubles as a fabulous eco-lodge!