Chiang Rai in Thailand wasn’t on my radar until very recently. It’s neighbour Chiang Mai usually steals the spotlight but I am here to tell you that you simply cannot miss going to this beautiful bit of Northern Thailand. I explored the area for a few days and found some epic off the beaten track places and things to do!
Here are some of my favorite places I visited!
Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Gardens
When we went inside the Mae Fah Luang gardens in Doi Tung it was like stepping into a wonderland! Beautiful blooms surrounded us as we strolled down the pretty paths and manicured lawns. It really is the most beautiful landscaped garden in Thailand and for me love at first flower! The garden is located in front of the Royal Doi Tung Villa and was built in accordance with the Princess Mothers wishes to give Thai people a place to enjoy a garden like the ones she saw in Switzerland.
I also loved the little extras like the coffee shop that serves the most delicious ice coffee made from beans that grow organically all over the garden! It was really hot when we visited so after running around the gardens it was the perfect way to beat the heat.
They also offer a treetop walk where you get harnessed in ( remember to wear pants otherwise you will rock their denim tie arounds like I did! ) and walk in between the greenery high above the ground.
Wat Rong Seua Ten – The Blue Temple
“Seua Ten” literally means dancing tiger and the name comes from the Tigers that used to jump over the river in this exact area! I loved that little fact as well as the beautiful interior and exterior of this relatively new temple. The temple’s construction started in 2005 and there are still some parts that are being built. It’s not very known to tourists yet so you wont feel overwhelmed when you visit and the entry is also free!
Mae Salong Organic Tea Plantation
One of my favorite experiences in Thailand was picking tea leaves with the local ladies at Mae Salong. It is quite a drive up some windy roads to visit the hill tribes that have made this area their home. It is absolutely worth the visit though with valley’s filled with rows of tea plants and green as far as the eye can see. This area was known as a hub for opium trade back in the day but now it has taken on a new identity.
We spent the morning picking the new soft leaves that will eventually become aromatic tea. In January the area gets dusted in pink with Cherry blossoms showing you the way to the various villages and the air cools down giving you relief of the usual Thai heat. Our day was not cool though and I have great respect for these woman working in their traditional clothes in the sweltering heat!
Jinnaluck Community Centre
This little community center was founded 22 years ago and with the aim to manufacture eco friendly “green paper”. We got to make our own beautiful paper as well as get a very welcomed hot foot soak here. I love seeing communities get together especially for the good of the planet!
Don’t leave before eating lunch at their homestay! We had the best noodles there as well as some pretty cool purple rice that I have never seen before!
Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple in Chiang Rai
I had my heart set on going to the White Temple while in Chiang Rai. I knew it would be crowded but the insane detail and beyond interesting temple is a must! This unconventional, privately owned art exhibit in the style of a buddhist temple was built in 1997. In 2014 the temple was badly damaged by an earthquake in the area and is still currently being renovated in certain sections.
I was completely obsessed with the insane amount of detail at the temple. The artist wanted you to walk over “hell” and into the gates of heaven. In front of the bridge there are hands that reach up and if you look closes only one hand has red nails symbolising the only female in hell.
It is definitely worth getting here early to beat the crowds!