Chiang Rai is a city in the most northern part of Thailand. It is close to both Laos and Myanmar. We stopped for 2 days on our way to Chiang Mai.
Piman Inn Hotel — A huge hotel complex but still walkable to downtown area (although kind of a long walk). It was $14 for big room with a window and A/C and good WiFi. WIN.
We were also able to rent a motorbike through a company that partnered with our hotel. The cost was 200 baht/day (or a little under $6), which is a bit pricey, but the bike was super nice and they dropped it off at the hotel (and picked it up afterwards). #worthit
When in doubt, always eat at the food stand located right outside the 7/11 really close to your hotel. For $1, we got BBQ pork and rice. It was delicious and the lady at the stand was nice to us. For breakfast, we found another food stand near our hotel that served jok (rice porridge). Ours was served up with pork meatballs, pork liver, chives, and ginger. It was delicious (except I couldn’t “stomach” much of the liver) and it was $1. Thailand is awesome.
In general, there was a lot of good food in Chiang Rai. There was a mixture of local delights and western duds, and they were all pretty cheap. Much cheaper than Laos for sure.
- Explore Town. We spent a bit of time just exploring the city. It had a neat downtown area (see: around the big clock tower) with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.
- White Temple. The White Temple is really cool and really weird. It’s probably the #1 tourist attraction in Chiang Rai. From the outside it looks like an ice kingdom. The inside is weird as heck. It contains a mural with the most eclectic collection of figures including Michael Jackson, minions, Hello Kitty, Matrix people, Harry Potter, and more. The guy who created the temple is talented, but he seems very odd. There are cut outs of him everywhere, as well as a museum and gallery selling his paintings. They also sold metal trinkets for $1 to hang as part of the temple. You can’t say the guy doesn’t know how to make money.
- Singha Park. Singha Park is a huge park with a lot to do. It has restaurants, gardens, bikes to rent, rock climbing, and running/biking loops. They have a trail festival and a bike time trial there as well. We didn’t completely get it (like there is a big section with animals? #southeastasia), but it seemed like a neat area.
- Black House. The Black House is an eerie collection of buildings and structures made by a Chiang Rai artist. It is a very dark and somewhat (very) phallic collection of pieces. Items on display included: animal skins, bones, black everything, blood, and tons of objects made to look like penises. There are a bunch of buildings on the property, too. Tons. To me, it felt like it was trying too hard. It was just too much. In addition, there were a few tiny enclosures with live animals. On had a HUGE snake. One had an owl. In my opinion, the enclosures were much to small for the creature. I don’t even think there was anything in the snake cage besides the snake. Maybe I just don’t get it, but it seems pretty shitty to just throw a huge living thing in a tiny cage with nothing else. We didn’t stay long at all. However, the saving grace of the trip was the ice cream at Dolce Italiano located right near the complex.
- Cat N A Cup. This was my first experience with a cat cafe. For those of you that don’t know, it’s exactly as it sounds: a cafe with a bunch of cats roaming around. There were probably 20 cats. We had mixed feelings on the experience. I like the idea a lot, but the follow through was a bit lacking in my opinion. First, usually cat cafes have rescue cats that can be adopted. This cat cafe did not. The cats were permanent residents. Secondly, they had a set of rules such as “Do not bother a sleeping cat” and “Do not feed cats your food”. Common sense type things. However, many patrons were doing whatever they wanted. Manhandling the cats. Making the cats take selfies with them. I don’t know if this is product of not as many people having pets in Asian countries? Anyway, it really irked me. Especially that the staff wasn’t enforcing any of their own rules. On the plus side, the cats were pretty cute, and the food and coffee at the cafe was good.
Our hotel also had a gym and pool for drop in rate of $1.50. It was a really nice building too. The gym had good equipment, air conditioning, and cold water available. Sam and I were like kids in a candy store. I think we spent like 3 hours there. And paid for it dearly the next morning.
Overall, I was happy that we stopped in Chiang Rai. We were considering just skipping it, but it was a neat little town without a ton of tourism.