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- 10 May 2021, 3 nights
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Chiang Rai is a small, laid-back city best known for its intricately designed temples and delicious Northern Thai cuisine such as mild curries, sweet noodle broth and sticky rice. During the day, you can take things easy with a wander around the centre, stopping at one of the many cafés for a delicious pastry. The city comes alive in the evenings as the shops and food stalls of the famous Night Bazaar get going.
Stay in a comfy Chiang Rai hostel close to the Clock Tower with private room options and a cosy, plant-filled living room. Or try a peaceful, family-run hostel just outside the centre that has a lush garden, puts on a BBQ every evening and will lend you free bikes. There's also hostels in Chiang Rai that are centrally located with en-suite rooms, chilled-out common spaces, whitewashed brick walls, wooden furnishings and greenery. Look for Chiang Rai hostels with a complimentary breakfast.
The centre of Chiang Rai is a lively neighbourhood, especially when the Night Bazaar gets into gear. There are also lots of outdoor authentic food courts where you can try dishes like som tum (spicy green papaya salad). In the Old Quarter, you'll see serene gardens and traditional wooden houses. If you fancy exploring the area around Chiang Rai, a 45-minute drive will get you to the Golden Triangle, where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet; it's a peaceful place with lush hills and rivers.
The most popular attractions in Chiang Rai are two temples: the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), where you can learn about Buddhism, and the Black Temple (Baan Dam), a mysterious contemporary art museum. With its old trees, rare plants and artworks, the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park is another big draw. In between the cultural activities, you could also learn some new skills by joining a Thai cooking class or a taking massage course.
It takes around 90 minutes to fly to Chiang Rai International Airport from either of Bangkok's main airports, Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi International Airport. If you're already in Chiang Mai, you can catch a boat from Tha Ton that will take you to Chiang Rai's CR Pier in about three hours. To get around the city, you can use a tuk-tuk or go on foot. Metered taxis are also good value if you've been on your feet all day and need a rest!