Chiang Rai was established as the capital of the Ngoenyang by King Mengrai in 1262. The city pre-dates both the Lanna Kingdom and Chiang Mai by more than 30 years. Tourist sites both old and new trace the former capital city’s passage through time. The number one attractions for 21st century visitors to Chiang Rai range from temples to shopping locations with a difference. Daytrip options also come with variety and include the fairytale like White Temple and the former Chinese rebel stronghold at Doi Mae Salong. Chiang Rai is the gateway town to the northern Thai tourism attractions at Doi Tung, Mae Sai, the Golden Triangle, Chiang Saen and Chiang Khong.
Last Updated: October 2018
Khun Korn Waterfall
Khun Korn is a spectacular 70-metre waterfall deep in the forests to the west of Chiang Rai. The entrance to the park in which Khun Korn is situated is around 30kms by road. A marked walking trail from the car park leads through the forest to the waterfall. There is a pool at the bottom of the falls which is deep enough for a swim. This can be a little dangerous during the annual rainy season when the flow of water down the waterfall is strong.
Khun Korn Waterfall: T. Mae Korn, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 717 173, +66 83 764 6475
Doi Mae Salong
Doi Mae Salong is a one-time Chinese Nationalist Army stronghold in a mountainous region 50kms to the northwest of Chiang Rai. Marvellous mountain views, the opportunity of seeing sunflowers and sakura cherry blossoms in full bloom during the cold season, and various cultural sites have made Doi Mae Salong a firm favourite as a daytrip from Chiang Rai. The Chinese Martyrs’ Museum and an Akha souvenir market are other key draws here. Popular souvenir purchases are packs of oolong tea leaves, preserved fruits and ornate Akha hats.
Doi Mae Salong: T. Mae Sa Long Nok, A. Mae Fa Luang, Chiang Rai 57110 | Open: Daily | Tel: +66 53 765 129 (Mae Sa Long Nok Subdistrict Administrative Organization) | Fax: +66 53 765 409
Phu Chi Fa Forest Park
Offering breathtaking views, Phu Chi Fa is a must visit location for lovers of natural beauty. This mountain and forest park is 80kms east of Chiang Rai and close to the Mekong River border with Laos. It is worth staying overnight at one of the local homestays, or camping, to ensure you get up in time to see the sunrise and sea of fog over the surrounding mountain crags.
Phu Chi Fa Forest Park: T. Por, A. Wiang Kaen, Chiang Rai 57310 | Tel: +66 53 710 194-6, +66 53 711 402, +66 53 737 473
Pong Phra Bat Hot spring
Pong Phra Bat is a Thai style hot springs spa a few kilometres down a side soi off Highway 1 to Mae Sai. Visitors have the option of group bathing in a hot water pool or paying a little extra for a private cabin. The spa water is believed to be beneficial for skin and other ailments. Towels and basic toiletries are available from the ticket desk while skilled masseuses are on hand to administer curative traditional Thai massages.
Pong Phra Bat Hot spring: #486, M. 6, T. Ban Du, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57100 | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 150 676
Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple)
If there is one temple which should not be missed when visiting Chiang Rai, it is Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple as it is called in English. The temple compound features religious buildings, chedis and statues all finished off with surreal carvings and in brilliant white. An art gallery onsite has an impressive collection of Buddhist paintings and some of these are for sale.
Wat Rong Khun: T. Pa O Don Chai, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 08:00-17:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 673 579, +66 53 673 967 | Website
Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew is a third-tier royal temple and the most important Buddhist temple in central Chiang Rai. The temple at one time housed Thailand’s legendary Emerald Buddha Statue and is still home to the 700-year-old Phra Jao Lan Thong statue. Other reasons to visit Chiang Rai’s Wat Phra Kaew are the Chiang Rai Jade Buddha, and a museum of religious artefacts and artwork.
Wat Phra Kaew: #19, M. 1, T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Tel: +66 53 711 385, +66 82 026 5667 | Website
Wat Rong Suea Ten (The Blue Temple)
Another must on the Chiang Rai temple trail, Wat Rong Suea Ten is often called the Blue Temple as its predominant colour is blue. The temple’s main hall features a brilliant white Buddha statue and external gold carvings which illustrate the skills of local artisans. The grounds of the temple are home to a number of statues of mythical beings such as dragons, giants and naga serpents. Souvenir stalls to one side sell articles including traditional herbs and ointments, intricately patterned sarongs, model temple bells, Buddha amulets and delicious ice-cream.
Wat Rong Suea Ten: #306, M. 2, Mae Kok Rd., T. Rim Kok, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57100 | Open: 07:00-20:00 (Daily)
Wat Phra Singh
Dating from the late 14th century, Wat Phra Singh boasts a number of unique draws. A footprint of Buddha is enshrined in a special chapel while a Sri Lankan style chedi, guardian lions outside the main chapel and a fabulously ornate prayer room (ubosoth) are key features. To commemorate the fact this temple once housed the famous Phra Singh statue, there are a number of replica images.
Wat Phra Singh: #486/2, Singhaclai Rd., T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Tel: +66 53 711 735
Wat Klang Wiang
Wat Klang Wiang is a Buddhist temple in the middle of Chiang Rai. This temple is famed for the sophisticated decorative style of its main hall and smaller buildings. Both naga snake and lion effigies stand guard over the entrance to the viharn hall. A tall chedi is outside the viharn and has four tiers which are crowned by a spire. Various statues at this temple look as if they might have been created with ancient legends in mind.
Wat Klang Wiang: #487/5, M. 1, T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 05:00-18:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 713 104
Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong
Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong is a Chiang Rai city temple located on a low hill close to the Maekok Golf Course. The temple pre-dates the foundation of Chiang Rai by at least 200 years. A tall, gold coloured chedi believed to contain Buddha’s relics is the highlight of this temple. In a largish plaza adjacent to the temple, a new Chiang Rai City Pillar (Lak Muang) was unveiled in 1988. This monument is ringed by an army of miniature stone columns.
Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong: #1109, M. 1, T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Tel: +66 53 716 055, +66 53 717 433
Art Bridge Chiang Rai
Beside Highway 1 to Mae Sai, Art Bridge is a gallery designed to showcase the paintings and other artworks of Thai and international artistes. The Art Bridge is a venue for exhibitions and these are rotated on a regular basis to ensure unique visitor experiences. An onsite shop sells some of the artists’ creations as well as the likes of T-shirts and household items with surreal motifs. Krua Silapin is the Art Bridge’s café and serves a good choice of classic Thai food and gourmet coffee.
Art Bridge Chiang Rai: #551, M. 1, T. Baan Du, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57100 | Open: 10:00-19:00 (Daily) | Tel: +66 53 166 623 | Facebook | Email
Oub Kham Museum
Oub Kham is a private museum established by Julasak Suriyachai to showcase the history of Lanna people and their culture. The museum is home to a fantastic collection of Buddha statues and heads, jewellery, models in period costumes, utensils, pots and vases. The flagship of the collection is an ornate throne which is 400 years old and once belonged to the Shan State’s ethnic Tai Yai royal family.
Oub Kham Museum: #81/1, T. Rop Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 08:00-18:30 (Daily) | Admission Fees: Adult 300 B; Child 200 B | Tel: +66 53 713 349 | Facebook | Email
Baan Dam Museum
Baan Dam, or the Black House as it translates to in English, is the former home of the late, great Chiang Rai artist Thawan Duchanee. The museum is spread over an extensive property and boasts a grouping of traditional timber and modern buildings. The structures house everything from antique furniture and artefacts to contemporary art.
Baan Dam Museum: #333, M. 13, T. Nang Lae, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 09:00-17:00 (Daily) | Admission Fee: 80 B | Tel: +66 53 776 333, +66 83 336 5333 | Website | Facebook | Email
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
No trip to Chiang Rai would be complete without visiting the Night Bazaar at least once. The Night Bazaar here is smaller than in sister city Chiang Mai yet is still one of the premier shopping and dining locations in the North of Thailand. Hmong shoulder bags, gorgeous hill tribe hats and dresses, patterned sarongs, silk clothing, T-shirts with locally themed logos, carved candles, jewellery and lamps are some, but not all, of the products sold here. Vendors at dining zones in the Night Bazaar serve up sukiyaki style hotpots, pad Thai fried noodles, deep fried fish with herbs and dipping sauce plus other Thai food specialities.
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar: T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000 | Open: 18:00-23:00 (Daily)
Chiang Rai Walking Street Markets
Walking street is a direct translation of the Thai phrase for street market. Chiang Rai is the venue for two weekly street markets. The first on Saturday sees vendors set up shop on the centrally located Thanalai Road. The emphasis at the stalls here is quality souvenirs and household items ranging from woven bamboo baskets, lacquerware and ceramic bowls to colourfully patterned sandals and fashionable clothing. Live dance shows, Thai massage services and the chance of sampling tasty snacks round off the delights of the Saturday Chiang Rai Walking Street. The second walking street on Sunday is held on Sankhongnoi Road and is more food oriented with satay, grilled squid and meatballs, and sushi just a few of the delicacies on offer.
Saturday Walking Street: Thanalai Rd., T. Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000, Open: 16:00-24:00, Map | Sunday Walking Street: Sankhongnoi Soi 1, T. Rop Wiang, A. Muang, Chiang Rai 57000, Open: 16:00-23:30, Map