Chiang Rai – Sightseeing Tours, Activities & Must-See Attractions

Chiang Rai is a land of outstanding natural beauty, where visitors looking to avoid the hordes can visit remote hill tribes and spot some really exotic wildlife.

Chiang Rai is a traveller’s paradise, endowed with abundant of natural attractions and antiquities. The attractions span from Buddhist shrines and ancient settlements to hill tribal villages and magnanimous mountain ranges.

Those interested in nature and soul surfing can go for jungle trekking which is a magical experience; explore the mountains of the north along various hiking trails. The food here is definitely spicy and the ethnic composition includes a good percentage of hill tribes and Myanmar exiles such as various varieties of Karen tribe’s people.

Here are some of the top attractions in Chiang Rai

1) Wat Rong Khun

This beautiful Buddhist temple is the brainchild of Chiang Rai-born visual artist and painter Chalermchai Kositpipat.  The temple is filled with Buddhist symbolisms, from its layout, architecture, all the way to the ornate reliefs and mirror decorations. You can only enter the ubosot (main chapel) from the front, via the narrow bridge that passes over a pool of upturned, beseeching hands representing suffering souls in hell.The astounding all- white building is embedded with mirrored glass in the exterior. The inside décor however swiftly drifts from pristine white to fiery and bewildering. The Murals are particularly interesting as they depict swirling flames and demon faces interspersed with western idols like Michael Jackson, Freddy Kruger and a T-800 series Terminator. There are images of warfare, terrorist attacks along with the presence of Harry Potter, Superman and Hello Kitty.

2) Chiang Rai’s Golden Clock Tower

The Chiang Rain Golden clock has a similar design to the White Temple. This is not surprising as both the structures were designed by Mr. Chalermchai Khositpipat. The clock tower is a popular landmark in Chiang Rai and a beautiful structure located in the heart of the city. The structure comes to life in the evening with laser lights and musical accompaniment which make for a surreal night-time scene as pick-up trucks, tuk-tuks and motorbikes continue to buzz around the golden clock tower.

3) Hilltribe Museum & Education Centre

If you’re planning to visit the tribal village, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the unique culture of the hill tribe people of northern Thailand. The Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre in Chiang Rai gives an excellent overview of the different groups and the exhibits show traditional costumes, dwellings, and tools. All of the main hill tribe cultures are represented including the Karen, Ahka, Hmong, Lisu, Lahu, and Lawa. The Hill Tribe Museum and Education Centre staff is very passionate about their work and offer useful advice about visiting hill tribe villages.

4) Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park

Set in a lovely landscaped lake garden is a cluster of teak structures, constructed in the styles of traditional Lanna and Tai hill-tribes. You can learn about the kingdom’s 400-year history, as you browse through the museum’s fascinating collection of secular and religious art and artefacts. You learn about animist and Buddhist rituals, which still co-exist in modern-day Lanna culture at Haw Kaew. It also houses a permanent exhibition of teakwood artefacts. The museum’s admission fee, along with sales at the museum’s crafts shop, is used to support the northern ethnic hill-tribes and their crafts.

5) Oub Kham Museum

This slightly zany museum houses an impressive collection of paraphernalia from virtually every corner of the former Lanna kingdom; some of which truly are one of a kind ranging from a monkey-bone food taster used by Lanna royalty to an impressive carved throne from Chiang Tung, Myanmar.

You can take guided tours which include a walk through a gilded artificial cave holding several Buddha statues adorned with disco lights and torches. The grounds of the museum are equally kitschy and include a huge golden naga (a mythical serpent-like being with magical powers), waterfalls and fountains. It eventually amounts to a bizarre and enlightening experience.

6)Wat Phra Kaew

Originally called Wat Pa Yia (Bamboo Forest Monastery) in the local dialect, this is the city’s most revered Buddhist temple. The octagonal chedi behind it dates from the late 14th century and is in typical Lanna style. The adjacent two-storey wooden building is a museum housing various Lanna artefacts. Guarded by a pair of serpent deities, the main chapel (ubosot) houses the principal Buddha image, Phra Jao Lan Thong, cast from brass and copper in the beautiful Chiang Saen style.  Believed to be at least 700 years old, Phra Jao Lan Thong was relocated from the temple of the same name in the old town of Chiang Saen.

7)The Naval City Pillar

The Navel City Pillar is atop Doi Chom Thong (Chom Thong Hill) on the grounds of Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong. The main pillar and 108 surrounding pillars were constructed in Khmer style “Banom Ba-Keang” based on Lanna beliefs. The outside area symbolises river & land, and the inner part symbolises the six tiers of the heavens. Together, the entire site has a supernatural air to it. While up here, catch aglimpse of downtown Chiang Rai, the Kok River, or visit Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong located in the same vicinity.

8) Wat Klang Wiang

The Wat Klang Wiang is one of the most ornate temples in Chiang Rai. Every structure in the temple complex is richly decorated. Located at the epicentre of Chiang Rai City, Wat Klang Wieng houses the original city pillar shrine as well as a spectacular temple complex built in a contemporary Lanna style. Although the temple is much older and probably dates back to at least the 15thcentury, most structures were built during the 20th century. In 1903 a violent storm severely damaged much of the temple, after which many of its structures were rebuilt. The main structures are the ubosot, the viharn, a scripture library, the chedi and the city pillar shrine.On each level, there are small niches housing golden Buddha images or amulets – a typical characteristic of northern-style chedis.

(Picture Credits –

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