Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thailand: Chiang Rai Bike Adventures

What To Do In Chiang Rai Thailand

There’s a fast-moving car on my right and a couple of motorbikes on my left. I wanted to take a break on a sidewalk nearby but noticed that my buddy was nowhere in sight; it was seconds ago that we’re just meters apart from each other. And then the stoplight turned red. I didn’t know what to do and where to go with my bike. Welcome to our Chiang Rai bike adventures.

Tuk Tuk Chiang Rai Thailand

We could’ve gone straight to Laos from Chiang Mai but we chose to do a quick trip to Chiang Rai for a brief excursion. I learned about this certain white temple in the area and immediately included it in our two-month backpacking trip around Southeast Asia.

Our home in Chiang Rai, Chayadol Boutique Resort, offered some free bikes that we could use around town and we took advantage of it.

Chiang Rai Thailand
Leaving our bikes to hop on a bus. 
We didn’t have a concrete plan but the White Temple, so we researched on how to get there the cheapest way. We went to the Chiang Rai old bus station and parked our bikes, which we made sure that were both secured.

The old bus station was quite organized in terms of bus schedules and fares. There was also a tourist information counter inside where we got some pretty useful advice on how to get to our intended destination.

Chiang Rai Thailand

Old Bus Station Chiang Rai Thailand
Chiang Rai Old Bus Station
A huge sign that said White Temple was written on a lone bus that was parked on the bay that was instructed to us. We immediately hopped on and noticed the mini electric-powered fans and cushioned seating. Peddlers were outside the bus selling assortments of snacks and drinks to the passengers. We bought two milk teas with overloaded ice cubes for 10 Baht each (US$ 0.28).

Local Bus Chiang Rai Thailand
Our bus en route the White Temple
Ten minutes after we settled in, the bus started the journey while a guy started collecting fares to the passengers. We shelled out 20 Baht (US$ 0.56) each for the scenic 15-kilometer ride.

Local Bus Chiang Rai Thailand

We were dropped at a main thoroughfare leading to the White Temple. You wouldn’t miss it for there were signs leading to it. With the unbearable summer heat beating us, we walked a few meters to reach our destination.

Wat Rong Kun
Pa O Don Chai Road, Chiang Rai
Open Hours: 6:00 am to 11:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Free

Wat Rong Kun or White Temple
Wat Rong Kun or popularly known as the White Temple is one of the famed spots in Chiang Rai, and in the whole of Thailand. Countless locals and tourists flocked the complex grounds of this seemingly odd masterpiece.

The temple was actually reconstructed by a popular Thai visual artist, Chalermchai Khositpipat, in 1997. The dilapidated old temple was transformed into a gleaming work of genius to the tune of 40 million Baht. Everything was in shades of white, gold, and silver.


An earthquake hit the town in 2014 which made the main temple unavailable to the public thus, everyone went only as far to the main entrance of the temple.

Notably, there were different sculptures scattered around the huge temple complex. The gateway to the main temple was surrounded with water and a bridge was installed, still, in shades of white.

Thousands of outstretched arms and hands that seemed to be reaching out the heaven surrounded the bridge. It appeared as if the artist wanted to convey a message. In my opinion, he wanted to show the contrast of earth, hell and heaven, the temple being the heaven, of course.

Hundreds... No, thousands of outstretched arms...
The huge complex was surrounded with unfinished mini temples, museums, souvenir shops and more. It actually felt more of an amusement park, pardon me, with sculptures of famous action heroes around. The souvenir shops and restaurants were also suffocating the place. I was kinda missing the seclusion of the temples in Bagan, Myanmar. But still, it’s worth our quick visit.


We planned to go back to downtown Chiang Rai via bus. But as we waited on a police station on the same spot we went in hours ago, we noticed that there were limited buses passing by that road. We saw a songthaew, like the ones they use in Pattaya, that was heading to town. We hopped on and paid 20 Baht each (US$ 0.56) for the ride. It was faster, easier and more convenient.

We went back to where our bikes were and continued our wander around the city.

It was a struggle for me and my buddy to navigate the town using our bikes; maybe it was the driving on the left side of the road that made all the confusion. We did a little temple run and passed by some important landmarks around the city. We had a map but still, we almost got lost on the way to our last temple and decided to just hang around on a temple hill to watch the glorious sunset. And it was superb. The huge sun kissing the mountainous Chiang Rai horizon was perfect. We owned the place to ourselves and were captivated with the amazing view.

Chiang Rai Clock Tower



Wat Klang Wiang
Uttarakit Road, Chiang Rai
Open Hours: 6:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Free





Wat Phra Singh
Singhaclai Road and Tha Luang Road, Chiang Rai
Open Hours: 6:00 am to 5:00 pm

Entrance Fee: Free




Wat Phra Kaew
Trirat Road, Chiang Rai
Open Hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Entrance Fee: Free






Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong
Mountain City of Doi Chom Thong, Chiang Rai
Open Hours: 8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Entrance Fee: Free


Sunset panoramic view of Mae Kok Valley
We went on and had a quick dinner on an eatery that served the steamed rice-viand meals that was common in the Philippines. We also had iced coffees and endless chitchats with the family that runs the place. We were telling them how our day went and our plans on exploring Laos the next day. They gave us a few tips on this and that. Such a lovely family.


We again parked our bikes somewhere to check out the most happening place in town at night, the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar.

The Night Bazaar Central Square housed all the hawker stalls and beer shops with local musicians playing on a stage. There were also some areas dedicated for shopping. Souvenir items like keychains, ref magnets, shirts and more lined the roads. Haggling is observed here and the sellers were nicer than the ones in Khao San Road in Bangkok or Pub Street in Siem Reap. Smiles were easily offered and they politely decline to our sometimes outrageous haggle.



It was also cheaper to shop here than in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; but is quite comparable to Pai. The best part of the night was that we spotted a store that sells coconut ice cream so we grabbed one and enjoyed it on a sidewalk somewhere.


We wanted to shop for more keepsakes but our travel fund was nearing its emergency level so we stayed put and just enjoyed our favorite ice cream in the world.


Our three-day stay (well, technically 44 hours) in Chiang Rai felt so short; like we wanted to walk around and chill some more, given the chance. We walked our bikes home while enjoying endless laughter from our crazy biking day. We bought two cans of Chang beer on the way (we wanted some more but… money problems, ugh) and ended the day with aching arms and legs but happy hearts. 


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