Phu Chi Fa, Chiang Rai Cr. tourismthailand.org
As Chiang Mai is a more well-known city, travellers usually miss out on visiting its equally beautiful neighbouring city, Chiang Rai. In Chiang Rai, you can enjoy a pleasant atmosphere and a rich Lanna culture from plenty of stunning temples and architectures. There are also various fine local food, inexpensive accommodation, and notable cultural attractions for you to explore. Located near the border of Laos and Myanmar, this small city offers travellers a great trekking place. You can also visit hill tribe villages.
Traveling from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is easy. If you are on a tight budget, you may travel by bus, which is the cheapest and a convenient option. The Green VIP bus between Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai runs five times a day from Arcade Bus Station. The ticket starts from THB 129 per person, and the journey takes about 4 hours. Another option is to rent a private car. If you are driving yourself, please ensure that you have a permitted international driving license. The roads are generally in good condition, but you may find yourself driving up multiple hills on the winding roads. The traveling time is also about 3 hours.
In Chiang Rai, the two must-visit places are Wat Rong Khun and Doi Mae Salong.
Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is a one-of-a-kind Buddhist temple designed by renowned Thai artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat to glorify Buddhism. Covered by white plaster and glass inserts, this modern temple is sparkling-white under sunlight. There are also hundreds of impressive statues and sculptures with mirrors.
Wat Rong Khun – White Temple
Phone number:053 673 967
Another iconic spot in Chiang Rai for travelers is Doi Mae Salong, given its beautiful mountainous landscape. Located in Northwestern Chiang Rai, it is only 6 kilometers from Myanmar. The peak of the mountain is 1,367 meters in elevation. Hence, the road to this place is pretty steep. This mountain is also home to many hill tribes. Near its peak, you will find several types of tea, fruits, and coffee plantations
The most popular time to visit Doi Mae Salong is during the cold season, between November and January, as flowers are blooming.
Click here to learn more about things to do in Chiang Rai.
Apart from the hidden gem Northern city, Chiang Rai, there are other two worth visiting cities slightly off the beaten track: Lampang and Lamphun.
Wat Chalermprakiat, Lampang
Lampang Horse Carriage
In Lampang, you can enjoy a laid-back riverside charm with old buildings and visit some of their local markets. One of the highlights here is taking a horse-drawn carriage around Lampang city while appreciating its beautiful architecture. There are also many old temples for visitors to explore the traditional heritage.
The recommended way to travel from Chiang Mai to Lampang is by bus or train. Buses depart every four hours and operate every day. It will take approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes. However, if you take the train, it will take about 3 hours. During the train journey, apart from seeing the spectacular nature view, you will also pass the White Bridge and go through Khun Tan Tunnel, the longest train tunnel in Thailand.
Lamphun is one of the oldest towns in Thailand as it was once the capital of Hariphunchai Kingdom. It hosts many important and sacred temples. One of the must-visit temples is Wat Phrathat Hariphunchai as it is a symbol for Lamphun city. Other interesting places include mountain viewpoints, national parks, dams, and waterfalls for leisure activities. Lamphun is also famous for the Lantern festival which occurs annually in November.
Lamphun is around 31 kilometers from Chiang Mai. Taking a train from Chiang Mai to Lamphun is a scenic traveling option.
So if you are looking for places not too far from Chiang Mai to spend your holiday, Chiang Rai, Lampang, and Lamphun are the answers. Apart from offering you authentic experiences and food, these destinations are also peaceful and full of beautiful attractions and welcoming locals.