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Things To Do In Chiang Rai


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Christine Dehart



Chiang Rai is a captivating city nestled in the northernmost part of Thailand. Known for its breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and unique temples, Chiang Rai offers a plethora of experiences for travelers seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure. From the stunning architecture of the White Temple to the vibrant night bazaars, this city has something to captivate every visitor.


As you explore Chiang Rai, you’ll be enchanted by the blend of modern development and traditional heritage. The city offers a perfect balance of serene natural beauty and bustling urban life. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or a culture lover, Chiang Rai has it all.


In this article, we will highlight ten must-visit attractions and activities in Chiang Rai. From iconic temples to scenic river rides, these experiences will create lasting memories and give you a deeper understanding of the unique Thai culture. So, let’s delve into the enchanting world of Chiang Rai!


Visit the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)

The White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun, is one of Chiang Rai’s most famous and iconic landmarks. It is a contemporary Buddhist temple uniquely designed by renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The temple’s dazzling white exterior with intricate ornamental details creates a mesmerizing sight that is both ethereal and awe-inspiring.


As you approach the temple, you’ll notice its unconventional design, which is a blend of traditional Thai elements and unconventional modern motifs. The intricate glasswork and mirrored accents reflect sunlight, making the temple sparkle and shimmer in the daylight.


Upon entering the White Temple, you’ll be greeted by an array of intricate statues and symbolic artwork that showcase the Buddhist teachings and mythological figures. The main hall of the temple showcases a beautiful white Buddha statue and ornate wall paintings depicting stories from the life of Buddha.


Another highlight of the White Temple is the Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth. This bridge represents the transition from the worldly existence to the state of enlightenment. The bridge is guarded by striking statues and surrounded by a symbolic river of hands reaching out, symbolizing desire and suffering.


While visiting the White Temple, don’t forget to explore the adjacent gallery, which showcases Chalermchai Kositpipat’s other artwork and offers a deeper insight into his creative process.


It’s important to note that the White Temple is an active place of worship, and visitors are expected to dress modestly and conduct themselves respectfully. Also, it’s a good idea to check if the temple is open for visitors as it occasionally closes for religious ceremonies or renovation work.


A visit to the White Temple is a must when traveling to Chiang Rai. This magnificent architectural masterpiece will leave you in awe of its beauty and provide a unique insight into Thai culture and spirituality.


Explore the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)

If you’re looking for a mesmerizing and enchanting temple experience in Chiang Rai, then a visit to the Blue Temple, also known as Wat Rong Suea Ten, is a must. This relatively new temple has quickly become a popular attraction, thanks to its stunning blue exterior and intricate architectural details.


The Blue Temple stands out for its vibrant and intense blue color, which is believed to symbolize Lord Buddha’s pure nature and enlightenment. As you approach the temple, you’ll be captivated by the intricate designs and gold accents that beautifully contrast with the mesmerizing blue backdrop.


Upon entering the temple, you’ll be greeted by a magnificent array of Buddhist statues and exquisite wall paintings showcasing various scenes from Buddhist mythology. The main highlight of the temple is the stunning central Buddha statue, which is surrounded by colorful dragon sculptures and intricate carvings.


One unique feature of the Blue Temple is its ethereal interior lighting. The soft blue LED lights create a mystical ambiance and add to the overall enchantment of the temple. It’s a truly mesmerizing sight, especially during evening hours when the temple is illuminated.


As you explore the temple grounds, take a moment to admire the meticulous attention to detail in each architectural element, from the intricately carved doorways to the beautifully designed rooftops. The craftsmanship on display is truly remarkable.


It’s important to remember that the Blue Temple is an active place of worship, so visitors are expected to dress modestly and behave respectfully. Additionally, similar to other temples in Chiang Rai, it’s a good idea to check the temple’s opening hours before your visit.


A visit to the Blue Temple is a feast for the eyes and a spiritual experience. The unique blue color and intricate details make it a must-see attraction in Chiang Rai, offering a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage and artistic excellence of the region.


Discover the Black House (Baan Dam Museum)

If you’re seeking a unique and thought-provoking experience in Chiang Rai, a visit to the Black House, also known as the Baan Dam Museum, should be on your itinerary. Unlike any other museum you have visited before, the Black House is a collection of art installations that showcase the distinct and unconventional artistic style of Thawan Duchanee.


Thawan Duchanee, a renowned Thai artist, created the Black House as a space to explore the duality of life and death, light and darkness, and beauty and decay. The Black House is a collection of over 40 structures, each designed with dark and intricate details that evoke a sense of mystery and contemplation.


As you wander through the museum, you’ll come across various buildings, each showcasing a different aspect of Thawan Duchanee’s artistic vision. The structures are adorned with animal skulls, intricate carvings, and unusual artifacts, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.


One of the highlights of the Black House is the main building, which houses an impressive collection of local and international artwork, including sculptures, paintings, and antique furniture. The interior of the building is equally fascinating, with dark wooden panels and unique decorative elements.


Another notable feature of the Black House is the surrounding gardens, which complement the dark aesthetic of the museum. The serene landscape is dotted with sculptures, inviting visitors to reflect on the themes of life and death as they meander through the lush greenery.


While the Black House may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it offers a refreshing departure from traditional museums and a chance to engage with art in a thought-provoking manner. The museum’s unique atmosphere and striking installations provide a glimpse into the mind of an extraordinary artist.


When visiting the Black House, keep in mind that it’s an active museum, so dress respectfully and follow any guidelines provided by the staff. Photography may be restricted in certain areas, so be sure to ask for permission before taking pictures.


A trip to the Black House is an opportunity to experience the unconventional and embrace the darker aspects of art. It offers a captivating and introspective journey that will leave a lasting impression on your visit to Chiang Rai.


Wander around the Golden Triangle

If you’re fascinated by history and intrigued by the allure of hidden gems, a visit to the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai is a must. The Golden Triangle is a region where Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar converge, forming a strategic point historically associated with the opium trade.


As you wander around the Golden Triangle, you’ll be immersed in a captivating blend of cultural heritage and stunning natural beauty. The area is known for its lush landscapes, majestic mountains, and the convergence of two important rivers, the Mekong and the Ruak.


One of the best ways to experience the Golden Triangle is by taking a boat ride along the Mekong River. You’ll have the opportunity to witness the remarkable sight of three countries coming together, each with its distinct customs and traditions.


While exploring the Golden Triangle, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Hall of Opium Museum. This educational museum provides a comprehensive understanding of the historical and social impact of the opium trade in the region. The exhibits offer a balanced perspective, shedding light on the trade’s impact on societies and the efforts to combat drug addiction.


In addition to the fascinating historical sites, the Golden Triangle also offers stunning viewpoints that provide panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape. These viewpoints allow you to appreciate the beauty of the area and marvel at the natural wonders that make this region so enchanting.


Furthermore, the Golden Triangle is home to vibrant local markets where you can immerse yourself in the local culture. Explore the stalls, indulge in traditional cuisine, and interact with the locals to truly experience the unique charm of this region.


It’s important to note that the Golden Triangle remains a sensitive area due to its historical associations with the opium trade. While the region has seen significant development and a shift towards sustainable tourism, it’s advised to respect the local laws and regulations, and engage in responsible travel practices.


A visit to the Golden Triangle is an opportunity to delve into the rich history and natural beauty of Chiang Rai. It’s a chance to explore a region that is both geographically and culturally significant, offering a deep insight into the complexities of Southeast Asia’s past and present.


Marvel at the Chiang Rai Clock Tower

The Chiang Rai Clock Tower is not just a functional timepiece; it is a stunning work of art that has become an iconic symbol of the city. Designed by renowned Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the clock tower stands tall in the heart of Chiang Rai, captivating both locals and tourists alike.


Located at the intersection of Thanalai Road and Phahonyothin Road, the Chiang Rai Clock Tower is a sight to behold, especially when illuminated at night. Its unique design draws inspiration from traditional Thai and Lanna architecture, incorporating intricate details and golden embellishments.


Every evening, the clock tower comes to life with a mesmerizing light and sound show, which takes place at 7 p.m., 8 p.m., and 9 p.m. The show includes a play of colorful lights that dance across the tower, accompanied by a captivating musical composition.


Visiting the Chiang Rai Clock Tower during the light show is an enchanting experience that showcases the artistry and creativity of Chalermchai Kositpipat. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture stunning photographs and immerse yourself in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.


The clock tower holds cultural significance as well, being a symbol of Chiang Rai’s unity, pride and progress. It serves as a testament to the city’s flourishing arts scene and its commitment to preserving and celebrating its rich cultural heritage.


While you’re there, be sure to explore the surrounding area, which offers a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s a bustling hub of activity, and you can find local souvenirs, enjoy traditional Thai cuisine, or simply relax and absorb the lively ambiance.


Visiting the Chiang Rai Clock Tower is a delightful experience that combines art, culture, and a touch of magic. It’s a must-see attraction that should not be missed on your trip to Chiang Rai.


Explore the Hill Tribe Villages

For a glimpse into the rich cultural diversity of Chiang Rai, exploring the Hill Tribe Villages is a must-do experience. These villages are home to various ethnic minority groups, each with their distinct traditions, customs, and way of life.


There are several Hill Tribe Villages around Chiang Rai that you can visit, including the Karen, Akha, Lisu, and Lahu tribes. Each tribe has its own unique traditions, language, and clothing, making every visit a fascinating and immersive cultural experience.


One of the most popular Hill Tribe Villages to visit is the Karen Long Neck Village, where you can witness the remarkable sight of women wearing traditional brass neck rings. These rings are added gradually over time, creating a distinctive elongated appearance. You can interact with the villagers, learn about their daily lives, and purchase traditional handicrafts.


Another notable village to explore is the Akha Village, known for its vibrant traditional clothing adorned with intricate embroidery. You can immerse yourself in the Akha culture, learn about their farming practices, and even participate in traditional ceremonies or festivals if your visit aligns with these events.


When visiting the Hill Tribe Villages, it’s essential to be respectful of the local customs and traditions. Remember that these communities welcome visitors to learn about their way of life, so it’s important to be mindful of their privacy and preserve their cultural integrity by not treating them as mere tourist attractions.


It’s recommended to hire a local guide or join a responsible tour operator to ensure an authentic and respectful visit to the Hill Tribe Villages. This way, you can have a deeper understanding of the tribes’ customs, the challenges they face, and the efforts being made to preserve their cultural heritage.


Exploring the Hill Tribe Villages offers a unique opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and learn about the rich tapestry of cultures that make up Chiang Rai. It’s an experience that will broaden your horizons and leave you with lasting memories of the warmth and hospitality of the local communities.


Take a boat ride on the Kok River

Embarking on a boat ride along the Kok River is a delightful way to experience the natural beauty and tranquility of Chiang Rai. As you cruise along the river, you’ll be captivated by the picturesque landscapes, lush greenery, and idyllic villages that line its banks.


The Kok River is a tributary of the Mekong River and is known for its calm and gentle flow, making it ideal for a leisurely boat ride. You can choose to take a traditional long-tail boat or a motorized boat, both offering a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


During the boat ride, you’ll have the opportunity to witness the rural life along the river, passing by local villages, rice paddies, and emerald-green forests. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, such as birds and water buffaloes, which are often spotted along the riverbanks.


One of the highlights of the boat ride is the chance to interact with the local communities. You can stop at riverside villages and get a glimpse into the daily lives of the locals. You may even have the opportunity to learn about their traditional crafts, such as weaving or pottery.


As you continue cruising along the Kok River, take in the peaceful surroundings and let the tranquility wash over you. The gentle breeze and the soothing sounds of the water create a serene atmosphere, allowing you to unwind and connect with nature.


It’s recommended to plan your boat ride in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday heat and enjoy the soft sunlight reflecting off the water. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.


Whether you choose a short excursion or a longer journey, a boat ride on the Kok River offers a refreshing escape from the bustling city. It allows you to appreciate the natural beauty of Chiang Rai and provides a unique perspective on the local way of life.


So sit back, relax, and let the Kok River carry you away on a memorable journey through the enchanting landscapes of Chiang Rai.


Visit Wat Huay Pla Kang

Wat Huay Pla Kang is a magnificent Buddhist temple located just outside the city of Chiang Rai. Known for its impressive size and striking architecture, this temple offers a unique and awe-inspiring experience for visitors.


When approaching Wat Huay Pla Kang, one of the first things that will catch your eye is the towering statue of the Goddess of Mercy, also known as Guan Yin. As one of the tallest statues in Thailand, standing at a height of 25 meters, it’s a sight to behold. The statue is surrounded by smaller statues and intricate carvings, adding to the temple’s grandeur.


As you enter the temple grounds, you’ll be greeted by a serene ambiance and intricate decorative elements. The complex features various buildings and structures adorned with colorful ceramics, detailed dragon sculptures, and ornate designs.


One of the highlights of Wat Huay Pla Kang is the main prayer hall, where you’ll find a collection of Buddha statues in different poses, each representing different aspects of Buddhist teachings. The hall is adorned with beautiful artwork depicting traditional Buddhist stories and symbols.


Another notable feature of the temple is the pagoda, which consists of multiple levels and offers a panoramic view of the surrounding area. Climbing to the top of the pagoda rewards you with breathtaking views of Chiang Rai’s landscapes, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.


Wat Huay Pla Kang is also home to a large meditation hall and a museum where you can learn about Buddhism and its significance in Thai culture. The museum exhibits a wide range of artifacts, religious relics, and historical information, providing visitors with a deeper understanding of the Buddhist faith.


During your visit to Wat Huay Pla Kang, take some time to explore the beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the temple. The gardens are adorned with flowering plants, tranquil ponds, and walking paths, creating a peaceful and serene atmosphere.


It’s important to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang, as it is an active place of worship. Take off your shoes before entering the temple buildings and be mindful of your behavior to maintain the serene atmosphere.


A visit to Wat Huay Pla Kang allows you to immerse yourself in the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of Thailand. It’s a place of tranquility, architectural splendor, and spiritual reflection.


Explore the Night Bazaar

One of the must-visit attractions in Chiang Rai is the vibrant Night Bazaar, a bustling market that comes alive as the sun sets. Located in the heart of the city, the Night Bazaar offers a delightful mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment, providing visitors with a memorable experience.


As you stroll through the Night Bazaar, you’ll be greeted by a lively and colorful atmosphere. The market is filled with a vast array of stalls, offering a wide variety of products such as handcrafted items, clothing, accessories, local snacks, and souvenirs.


It’s a great place to shop for unique and affordable items, including traditional Thai handicrafts and textiles. You can find beautiful hand-woven textiles, intricately designed silver jewelry, and exquisite woodwork that showcases the craftsmanship of the local artisans.


Aside from shopping, the Night Bazaar is a food lover’s paradise. You’ll find a wide range of delectable Thai street food, ranging from aromatic curries and grilled skewers to sweet and savory snacks. Take the opportunity to savor the flavors of Northern Thai cuisine and indulge in a culinary adventure.


While exploring the Night Bazaar, you can also enjoy live music performances, traditional dance shows, and cultural performances that add to the festive ambiance. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the local culture and witness the rich artistic traditions of Chiang Rai.


The Night Bazaar is a perfect place to interact with the locals, who are often friendly and welcoming. Strike up a conversation, practice your negotiation skills, and experience the warmth and hospitality that Chiang Rai is known for.


It’s worth noting that the Night Bazaar is held every day, but it’s particularly vibrant during the weekends when additional stalls and activities are set up. The market is usually open until late at night, offering a fantastic way to spend your evenings in Chiang Rai.


Visiting the Night Bazaar is an opportunity to embrace the lively atmosphere, explore the local culture, and discover unique treasures. It’s an experience that engages all your senses and allows you to take home a piece of Chiang Rai’s vibrant energy.


Experience Wat Rong Seur Ten (Blue Temple) Evening Light Show

A visit to Wat Rong Seur Ten, also known as the Blue Temple, is a mesmerizing experience, but witnessing its evening light show takes the enchantment to a whole new level. Located in Chiang Rai, this relatively new temple entices visitors with its stunning blue facade and intricate architectural details.


As the sun sets and darkness blankets the temple grounds, the evening light show at Wat Rong Seur Ten begins. The temple’s vibrant blue exterior is illuminated with a carefully choreographed play of colorful lights that dance across its surface, creating a spectacle of illumination and beauty.


The elaborate light show enhances the already mesmerizing design of the temple, highlighting the intricate details and intricate carvings. The play of lights creates a magical ambiance, evoking a sense of wonder and awe. It’s a visual feast that showcases the architectural brilliance and artistic vision of the temple’s creator.


Each evening, the light show at Wat Rong Seur Ten is accompanied by serene music, adding to the ethereal experience. The combination of lights and music creates a serene and transcendent atmosphere, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the spiritual ambiance of the temple.


During the light show, take your time to explore the temple’s interior as well. The main hall houses a stunning blue Buddha statue, surrounded by intricate murals that depict Buddhist teachings and mythology. The soft glow of the lights adds an extra layer of enchantment to these beautiful artworks.


Whether you’re a photography enthusiast capturing the breathtaking spectacle or a visitor seeking a moment of peace and reflection, the evening light show at Wat Rong Seur Ten is an experience that should not be missed. It’s a chance to witness the temple’s beauty in a different light, literally and figuratively.


It’s important to note that the evening light show at Wat Rong Seur Ten is usually held every evening, starting at dusk. However, it’s always a good idea to confirm the showtime in advance, as the schedule may vary depending on weather conditions and other factors.


Experiencing the evening light show at Wat Rong Seur Ten is an enchanting and transcendent journey. It combines art, spirituality, and innovation, offering visitors a unique and captivating glimpse into the magic of Chiang Rai’s Blue Temple.



Chiang Rai, with its captivating blend of rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and unique attractions, offers a truly unforgettable experience for travelers. From the mesmerizing White Temple to the vibrant Night Bazaar, this city has something to delight every visitor.


Exploring Chiang Rai allows you to delve deep into the enchanting world of Thai culture. The White Temple and the Blue Temple showcase the architectural brilliance and creative vision of renowned artists in Thailand. The Black House offers a thought-provoking encounter with unconventional art, while the Hill Tribe Villages provide a glimpse into the diverse cultures and traditions of ethnic minority groups.


Beyond the architectural wonders, Chiang Rai offers natural beauty as well. The Golden Triangle presents a fascinating mix of history and breathtaking landscapes, while a boat ride on the Kok River allows you to immerse yourself in the peaceful serenity of nature. The Chiang Rai Clock Tower and the Night Bazaar offer glimpses of the vibrant local life, where art, music, and delicious food come together.


As your journey in Chiang Rai comes to an end, you’ll be left with memories of captivating temples, smiling locals, mouth-watering cuisine, and the warmth and hospitality that is characteristic of this region. Chiang Rai offers a unique and immersive experience that leaves a lasting impression on the hearts of its visitors.


So, whether you’re searching for spiritual enlightenment, cultural exploration, or simply a taste of the rich Thai traditions, Chiang Rai is the perfect destination. Immerse yourself in the beauty, heritage, and serenity of this captivating city, and let it leave an indelible mark on your travel memories.