a few months ago

Your Travel Guide to Reaching Chiang Rai, Thailand

chiang rai

Chiang Rai is the northernmost province of Thailand, about 801 kilometers north of Bangkok. The province is home to breathtaking mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, river valleys, caves and many more.

Once, the province was made famous by Golden Triangle where 3 countries; Myanmar (formerly Burma), Laos and Thailand converge at the banks of Mekong River. Chiang Rai is among the oldest towns of Thailand. This idyllic town was founded in 1262 by King Mangrai, who also built Chiang Mai in 1269. Chiang Rai was occupied by Burma, now called Myanmar, from 1648 until 1786.

While you are here, you will find that the activities are endless especially those of nature trips. Amidst this laid-back and relaxing atmosphere, there are accommodations ranging from budget hostels to 5 star hotels catering all preferences. Do check out our hotel deals at the bottom part of this page.

Going to Chiang Rai from Bangkok

Bangkok Guide Suvarnabhumi Airport chiang rai

For most travellers visiting Thailand for the first time, the main gateway is the Suvarnabhumi International Airport. If this is your first time to arrive or depart from this huge, expansive and busy airport, here is an article guide I wrote.

After clearing the immigration, head out to the exit at the ground floor to grab a taxi or take the airport bus to bring you to Mo Chit Bus Terminal, the biggest bus terminal in Bangkok that operates bus transports to Northern, Central and Eastern Thailand. You can check the bus timings and fares from and to Chiang Rai in advance via this link. Mo Chit bust terminal is very organized and you need not worry about buying tickets in advance. You can buy your bus tickets on the day of your trip.

If your holidays in Thailand is limited, opt for a faster route. You can take another domestic flight from Bangkok to Chiang Rai via Bangkok Air and be there in 80-90 minutes. The airfares are not that expensive, and if you check in advance for off-season flights, you can get air fares as low as 800 Thai Baht! Normal fares are usually around 1000-1500 Thai Baht. You can check flights at the flight deals section below.

Chiang Rai International Airport is located 11 km northeast of the town center. Some hotels in Chiang Rai offer free pick up & drop off while most of them charge 300 Baht. A taxi ride in Chiang Rai costs 150-200 Baht. Check out the hotel deals going on in Chiang Rai at our hotel deals section below.

If going by train, there is no direct railway service from Bangkok to Chiang Rai. You can take overnight trains from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and continue to travel to Chiang Rai by bus. The bus trip will take another 3-4 hours from Chiang Mai. The bus tickets cost around 400 Thai Baht.

Top Attractions of Chiang Rai City

chiang rai

Image Credit : Flickr | Ninara

Most backpackers and travellers to the province of Chiang Rai are so eager to visit the top attractions around the remote part of the province, missing this city of Chiang Rai’s surprising and delightful attractions. The city is often overlooked and travellers often miss out on its good food and relaxed ambience.

The capital district of Chiang Rai Province,  Chiang Rai city is very appreciated by visitors for its laid back atmosphere and cooler climate. Below are the main attractions you can enjoy while in the city:

Wat Phra Kaeo once housed Thailand’s most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha. The statue had been moved by various state rulers to be placed in their respective capitals as a symbol of dominance before finally enshrined in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo during the reign of King Rama I of the Rattanakosin period.

Originally called Wat Pa Yia (Bamboo Forest Monastery) in the local dialect, this is the city’s most revered Buddhist temple. The main prayer hall is a medium-sized, well-preserved wooden structure. The octagonal chedi behind it dates from the late 14th century and is in typical Lanna style. The adjacent two-storey wooden building is a museum housing various Lanna artefacts.

Wat Rong Khun is the art related Buddhist attraction in Chiang Rai. It was built by the design and the art genius of a Thai artist, Arjarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. With his dedication to Lanna style of art, his works relating to the Buddhist art are recognized by the people around the world. The temple is well-known for its decorations with white tone decorated reflected mirrors. The provincial town (Amphoe Mueang) has a few live music pubs and discotheques. Aimed at foreign tourists, there is traditional music in the Night Bazaar with plenty of small tea and coffee shops.

chiang rai

Image Credit: Flickr | Adam Jones

Wat Phra Sing temple dates back to the late 14th century, and its oldest surviving original buildings are typical northern Thai–style wooden structures with low, sweeping roofs. The main wí·hăhn (sanctuary) houses impressive wooden doors thought to have been carved by local artists, as well as a copy of Chiang Mai’s sacred Phra Singh Buddha.

Clock Tower’s elaborate structure serves as the traffic roundabout. The tower takes on a whole new personality when the light and sound show starts at around 7PM and repeats at 8 and 9PM.

Where to Eat in Chiang Rai

Similar to Bangkok’s night market street food scene, the same can be enjoyed in Chiang Rai, though in smaller size. The night market itself is a must to enjoy if you haven’t been around Bangkok that much. Barbecued chicken thighs and pork bellies, stir fried vegetables with rice, pad thai, the many trays of fried bugs and insects, the grilled squids and endless array of fruits can be feasted on every night.

In fact, finding a place to eat is not really a problem in Chiang Rai, though the city is more quiet than Bangkok. Places to eat western food also abound even in the night market. You just have to keep an open mind about experience new things and new taste in Thailand.

South of the clock tower are restaurants with which there are more options for European and Western cuisines. Head on to the streets of Jet Yod and Phaholyothin Roads if you are craving for wood fire pizza, pasta, steaks and for more taste of Europe.

P.S. – If you’re travelling between Bangkok and Chiang Rai soon, consider booking for your flights and hotels thru the links in this article. Using the links doesn’t cost you any extra, and it helps keep the site free, fun, and community supported! If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at carlaabanes@justtravellingsolo.com.

Enjoyed this travel guide to Chiang Rai? Share it using the sharing buttons below! Sharing is cool!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Dario - a few months ago Reply

Very well writed information for people who will visit for the first time this country. I have always dreamed to visit Wat Rong Khun it’s look so amazing in piocture that I can’t even imagine what will be the emotion to see it in person! And the night market I would really like to enjoy the typical food of Thailand.

Kate - a few months ago Reply

This makes me really regret not going further north than Chiang Mai! Those temples are absolutely gorgeous. This is making me miss Thailand a lot. I can’t wait to go back some day soon and go on a food odyssey.

Indrani - a few months ago Reply

Wat Rong Khun is mesmerizing!And that is the main reason why I want to visit Chiang Rai.
Other tips are indeed helpful.

Lydia Smith - a few months ago Reply

Thailand is so beautiful. Each time I’m graced to read about the country, I’m always thrown to a new side of it. Visiting the temples in Chinag Ria would be one of my best experiences so far in Thailand. The temples are craftily designed and worth sight seeing. I’d like to tour the night market also.

Jennifer Melroy - a few months ago Reply

I just want to do a tour of all the temples. They put so much work into the temples and I want to enjoy their craftsmanship and appreciate their history. It is sad to hear these places are often overlooked by tourists. They are missing out on a lot.

Vicky and Buddy - a few months ago Reply

I wish I’d been able to visit Chiang Rai when I went to Thailand but I was limited on time. I did make it to Chiang Mai though, which was incredible. Next time I’ll definitely spend time there. Wat Rong Khun looks amazing!

Eve Kay - a few months ago Reply

I’d love to visit all these majestic-looking temples! I was already very much amazed by the architectural details of the temples in Bangkok but the Wat Rong Khun looked even more breathtaking. It’s true that most people won’t go up that north to explore Chiang Rai and it deserves more appreciation. Hope to explore this the next time we’re in Thailand!

Cai Dominguez - a few months ago Reply

This is my next target destinition when I go back to Thailand. I think its possible to cross the boarder from here right? Would love to see that white temple!

Medha - a few months ago Reply

You know, I went to Thailand 5 years ago and visited the usual cities such as Bangkok, Pattaya, Krabi, Phuket. It was only after my trip that I started reading a lot about Chiang Rai and when I saw the pictures of the white temple (Wat Rong Khun) I was totally in awe! Regret not having visited here on my trip, guess it means I’ll have to plan another one 😉

Leave a Reply: