Often over looked and over shadowed by the bigger and close by city of Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is not one that is often on people’s list when travelling Thailand but it should be! The people are friendly and will go out of their way to help you experience the local culture and all it has to offer. So, if you are looking for an authentic, less touristy experience of Thailand then this little gem should definitely make it onto your travelling agenda.
We arrived at the Maryo Resort on a Saturday evening, after 25 hours of travelling, nearly missing a plane and having one bag missing (lucky for me it was Thomas’s). As we pulled up to our hotel the staff were ready and waiting for us. They greeted us with warm, friendly smiles and were quick to show us to our room, even giving us an upgrade by the pool. I remember feeling like we had landed in a little piece of paradise, the grounds to the hotel were so beautiful, words would not do it justice. The lady at reception (who’s name we cannot remember but fast became friends with) couldn’t do enough for us from arranging shuttle buses and trips for us to giving us exotic fruits to taste one evening.
On a morning, we would wake bright and early to the sound of the crickets outside. Breakfast was an extensive affair with course after course being put in front of us. We had fruit to start, followed by a cooked breakfast, followed by pancakes then yoghurts and biscuits. Personally, I couldn’t eat it all but Thomas devoured most of his.
After breakfast had finished on our first morning, we decided to chill by the pool, before taking a wander to the local 7/11 for some sun cream as our’s had been in the missing bag! In hind sight, we should have picked up the sun cream before chilling by the pool as now Thomas had bright red shoulders too (things were not going well for him). We quickly found out that in Thailand as much as westerners want to tan, Thai people want to bleach their skin. Every sun cream we picked up had a bleaching agent in it, but needs must so we had to settle on one until our bag arrived (whenever that would be).
The food in Chiang Rai was very different to the rest of Thailand, you didn’t find the usual range of western food it was mostly traditional Thai eateries. We would eat in small cafe’s or outdoor markets on an evening. The food was much more authentic and you couldn’t fault it, it was beautiful. Thomas loved the spiciness of the food, (even the salads were hot) which sometimes was a bit too much for my stomach.
Night Bazaar :
The night market was just a short shuttle bus away. On our first evening after we had wandered around the many stalls selling clothes, bric a brac and food, we grabbed Thomas some flip-flops (which we came to find were sold everywhere in Thailand) for a couple of TBH, a vest top and some lovely green Thai shorts (due to his missing bag). One evening we also found a seat outside where we could have some food and listen to the live show that was going on.
Just a short stroll from out hotel, this was one of the best local markets we seen in Thailand as it was full of locals with hardly any tourists. The stalls were full of street food (including insects, we weren’t brave enough to try them) and bric a brac, as we wandered we stumbled upon different groups of locals dancing to Thai music. They pulled us in and allowed us to join their dance; showing just how friendly and how happy they are to let you experience their culture.
The lovely reception lady (as she is now known) arranged for us to take some bikes out so we could see the town and surrounding areas. She gave us a map (if you could call it that, Thomas was not able to follow this at all as it was totally off key!) and marked some sights she recommended we stop at. So off we went for an after-noon bike ride and what better way to see this wonderful place!
Along the way we stopped off in the town centre, visited different temples and stopped for some pineapple and coconut water at a local market!
All day trip:
Once again our lovely reception lady had organised a private driver to take us on a whole day trip. This was one of the best and most interesting trips we had been on in Thailand. What made the trip was the fact we had such a good driver who waited for us at each place and showed us some sights that weren’t on the itinerary. It cost 2000 TBH for the two of us. We were able to visit Singha park, The White temple, Baan Museum, The natural hot springs, The Golden Triangle and a couple of smaller places on the way back to the hotel.
Our first stop was Singha Park, which really took us by surprise due to the beauty of it. We hired a tandem bike and had a lovely cycle around the park taking in the views and stopping for a refreshing drink of coconut water.
The highlight of the day had to be the mesmerising beauty of the white temple, its exquisite architecture was amazing to see. Even though it is quite a touristy place, this still did not distract from its beauty.
For us Baan Museum was definitely the ‘Yang’ to the white temples ‘Ying.’ We enjoyed the culture and the bazaar woodwork from the local artist and if you like that sort of thing then it is worth the visit.
The Golden Triangle (where the three countries meet) was a bit of a drive away. For us it was the final stop of our day; which was brought to a nice end with a trip down the river in a small boat down to Myanmar passing Laos.
To read the full blog on our day trip to the Golden Triangle and white temple click here!
Rock climbing and Zip lining:
Well where do I start with this experience! Above all that is what this day was an experience and one we will not forget in a long time! We booked this trip through the hotel after seeing a flyer. We had a taxi take us to the arranged meeting area, where after a 10-minute wait we were met by an America man called Ken and a young Thai girl.
Ken told us that we would be going to explore some nearby bat caves. After a short walk to find the entrance to the caves, we climbed through and carried on in the pitch black. A while later Ken stopped to show us the bats which were flapping above our heads. He suggested we climbed up the side of the cave and through an opening near the top, I was not convinced that this was very safe but he assured me they had done this many a time. So, we started to climb, as we got nearer the top, the rocks were wet and harder to grip and with no harness or helmet this was looking dangerous. We eventually made it out but only for my nerves to be enhanced as we looked down and realised we would have a steep climb down. Cut, bruised and covered in mud (mainly me) we finally arrived at the bottom.
We were then taken in the back of the truck to visit the big Buddha nearby. As the truck slowed about 4 dogs came running up barking and snapping at us. They were eventually called away and with my nerves now shot to pieces we could climb the steps to visit the Buddha. This was not the trip that we thought it was going to be! If it hadn’t been for the fact, we were in the middle of nowhere and our taxi wasn’t coming back for us till later we would have been straight out of here!
Next, Ken had in store for us was a make shift rope course which was tied to bits of trees. As we embarked on this we soon came to be bitten by little insects which started to stick into our legs (Great so we may have managed to survive the rock climbing but we were now going catch some disease off these unknown little insects!). Afterwards we were then shown to a make shift zip line which looked like something we could have set up ourselves. This whole afternoon was a disaster and I just wanted to get out of there! But behind every bad experience there is a lesson, if you are booking trips guys make sure they are properly organised and not something someone has just put together themselves, as a way of making some quick money.
Overall, our experience of Chiang Rai was a good one, and one we certainly will remember for several reasons. It may not be somewhere to visit for more than a few days but if you do have a couple days spare whilst travelling Northern Thailand then be sure to put it on your list and you won’t be disappointed (unless you do that poor excuse of a rock climbing trip that we did!).