What’s it really like up here in the North

Wat Chedi Luang

Other than just being a Tourist in Chiang Rai and visiting all the sights and sounds of this remote northern city of Thailand, there are also a number of options here should you be wanting to stay awhile.

Perhaps as a foreign expat or even as a retiree. Deciding whether to live in this wonderful part of the world as opposed to Chiang Mai down the road, has its ups and downs just like any other city in the country.

You may not find any soft sandy white beaches or idyllic islands around these parts but what you will find is room to roam around without the hustle and bustle of big city life or the noise and pollution.  

And with a little effort you could easily visit some of the most enchanting places not found anywhere else in this land of smiles. Yes, places like Chaing Khong, Chiang Saen, Chiang Kham, Wat Rong Khun, Nan, Mae Sai, Wiang Chai, Phaya Mengrai, the Mae Kok River and then some. Find out more about the White Temple at Wat Rong Klun here. 

One thing that’s certain is that you’ll get to experience a much better understanding of the real Thai culture, cleaner air, cooler climate and cheaper living conditions. Chiang Rai is a great city to explore, what with its high mountain peaks, hill tribe villages and splendid temples. 

Where to go as a Tourist in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai even has some fine boutique hotels where you can relax in relative luxury. There are some great coffee shops in town and some fine farang friendly restaurants and even a brand new Tesco store.

It may not have the same exacting standards and amenities as its nearest neighbour Chiang Mai. And it doesn’t have nearly as many beer bars or a thriving nightlife like Bangkok or Pattaya. If you’re looking for a laid-back place to rest your weary head, then this could certainly be right up your alley.

There is a small airport here with just one daily flight from Bangkok but no proper railway system. However, there’s a sincere sense of serenity about this special place that makes it worth visiting. For some, this place may appear somewhat primitive as western standards are almost non-existent. Some love it here. Some not so, but you simply cannot ignore its immense beauty or its majestic mountains.

Scenic View of Mae Sai Town 

What to do as a Tourist in Chiang Rai 

Here are some of the things you can consider when visiting Chiang Rai as a tourist or living in Chiang Rai as an expat or retiree. Ten minutes out of town you can be in the countryside with stunning mountain views in just about every direction.

It’s a two-hour drive to Chiang Khong near the border of Laos and only thirty minutes by car to Mai Sai near the border of Burma. It’s forty minutes to Lake Phayao on your way to Nan and Lampang and three hours from Chiang Mai. And there’s notably fewer tourists and no real sign of congested traffic.

Border Crossing at Chiang Khong

What to expect as a Tourist in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai has some of the best weather Thailand has to offer and that’s simply because it can get a lot cooler up here. Some say that the locals are more friendlier, though, in general I find most Thai’s friendly anywhere in the Kindom.

If you’re looking for an English teaching job, you’ll find one easier here than any other city in Thailand. I currently hold a TEFL certificate to teach English though I haven’t taught here. The scenery in Chiang Rai is to die for. (Well, maybe that’s taking things a bit too far) But you’ll understand my meaning once you get here.

Rice Farmers in Chiang Saen

What to do as a Tourist in Chiang Rai

The only real downside is that Chiang Rai doesn’t have much in the way of book shops or big shopping malls. In fact, it doesn’t have much in the way of trendy beer bars (though there are some) and all that other stuff you’ll find in cities like Chiang Mai or Bangkok. Other than that, as a tourist in Chiang Rai, an expat or retiree, there are several things you can do and see to keep you busy and occupy your curiosity.

For one, you can spend hours watching the locals go about their rice crop harvesting in Chiang Saen. You can go to the markets and spend hours browsing through an array of products and produce. You could wander around the food markets, sampling stuff you’d never recognise back home. But I suggest you keep your nose closed, but your eyes open when passing the seafood section at the Big C supermarket.

You can watch as local monks go about their daily routines or you can simply observe as new monks receive their introductory ceremonies while their families and friends look on with profoundness.

Wat Phra Nang Din at Chiang Kham

Where to go as a Tourist in Chiang Rai

You could take a boat trip down the Mae Kok river from Chiang Rai to Tha Ton then spend the night in one of the garden bungalows in town. You could spend time observing as the locals sift through gravel in the Mae Kok with the hope of finding hidden gemstones.

Even better you could take a motorbike ride along the Mae Kok and not see another motorised vehicle in either direction. You could also go river rafting on the Mae Kok river or go elephant trekking on several jungle trails. Being an expat or tourist in Chiang Rai has many advantages.

Tha Ton Town on the Mae Kok River

More things to do as a Tourist in Chiang Rai

Being at the right place at the right time also has its advantage as this would afford you the opportunity to attend the annual flower festival in Chiang Rai.

You could also simply sit on a bench at Wat Mengrai and just enjoy the absolute solitude. But if you’re energetic you could climb the many steps to the top of Wat Doi Kong Khao and survey the spectacular scenery.

And anytime, be it day or night you could relax over a drink in one of the beer bar gardens. Also, don’t forget to check out all the locals and other tourists at the city’s night market or simply go and watch the light show at the clock tower in Chiang Rai.

Judging by the limitless things you can do and see as an expat, retiree or tourist in Chiang Rai makes it a good enough reason to make your next trip to Thailand to this often missed out part of the world.

Elephant Trekking in Chiang Rai