Blogger: Grace O’ Donnell
So Chiang Rai is a little town north of Bangkok, about three hours bus journey from Chiang mai. Although small, it really packs a punch.
First on your list has to be Wat Kohn Ruhn, better known to us travel folk as “the white temple” for fairly obvious reasons. So you’re probably thinking, I’ve seen a lot of pretty temples in Thailand why go to another? This is not just another temple, rebuilt in 1997 by a visual artist, it incorporates modern symbols with traditional Thai Buddhist art. In what other temple can you see Predator emerging from the ground, murals of Michael Jackson and Star Wars or sit with a Transformers statue. Half the fun of a visit is spotting these references. These western tributes symbolise the value we misplace on attributes such as fame and fortune, which according to traditional Buddhist teachings will only lead to continued suffering. Beautiful prayer tokens, hanging from the ceiling, create a comforting carpet overhead. Lizards roam the grounds, their bodies streaked with vibrant colours.
The temple is free to visit and you can either catch a songthaew (red truck) or a local bus for one dollar. Don’t be worried when they just stop in the middle of a busy highway and ask you to get off, you are actually in the right place!
The jade temple, Wat Phra Kiew, is really beautiful too, if you’re not too jaded by temples. If you missed the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok then now’s your chance to see it, the Emerald Buddha (actually made from jade, bit of a misnomer) was found here in Chiang Rai and they currently house a replica. This has the plus side of there being much fewer tourists here in Chiang Rai, when we went we had the temple to ourselves.
Also, at the temple, there’s an enclosure full of turtles which is super fun. You can see rare flat headed turtles, tiny baby turtles and one giant daddy turtle. Full disclosure we spent a lot more time checking this out than the temple. There’s a museum with some lovely artefacts on site which is well worth checking out too.
At the centre of town is a golden clock tower, designed to celebrate the king. Every evening on the hour there is a light and music show, which we were fortunate enough to catch. We went to a lovely little cafe called Yoddoi by the clock tower and ordered some delicious Butterfly Pea tea, which was a blue colour but, much to our delight, turned a purple colour after squeezing in some lime juice.
I could not recommend Mercy Hostel more, we managed to snag a crazy good deal and got one night’s accommodation for 40baht (1US dollar), but even at average prices of 200BHT it’s well with it. There’s amazing rain head showers, pristine white feather duvets, your own snug wee beds equipped with lights, shelf and electric port. After roughing it for a while staying at this hostel was such a luxurious treat. If that’s not enough to convince you, there’s a fully equipped kitchen, pool table and the most adorable dog in the world. Hmm just realised this makes it sound like I’m getting a kick back from them but unfortunately that’s not the case, it just really is that nice.
Even the streetlamps are this pretty in Chiang Rai, seriously what are you waiting for?
All the photos of myself -the red-haired girl- are by the very talented photographer and designer Mike Weinhandl, to see more of his photos check out his instagram account @weinhandlm. All the other photos are my own, for more of them or to see my videos, check out my website www.fallinggracefully.com