24 Hours in Chiang Rai, Thailand

After a much-awaited return in Thailand after so many years, I was able to make a journey to Chiang Rai, the smaller sister of the more famous Chiang Mai. Over the years, I've watched many Instagrammers post stunning photos of the White Temple, which inspired me to visit this city. 

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun aka White Temple.
Alas, I arrived in the late morning and only had less than 24 hours to visit the top sites. Although the most cost-efficient option is to join a larger group tour that would pick up guests in their hotels at 8 am, I had no other choice but to hire a private taxi driver for an hourly rate of 300 baht per hour ($9), which is a bit steep in Thailand. What can a solo traveler do?  

I visited 3 temples- namely the White, Blue and Black Temples- and the Karen Long Neck Village all within 4 hours. Suffice to say, I was templed out like when I was in Taipei by the end of the day, but did have ample time in the evening to chill at the night market eating hot pot like the locals and at a cat cafe drinking Thai tea like the other foreigners, and even got a one-hour Thai massage, which I will not recommend. 

I will let the pictures tell you what you can expect because, unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to read about each of the temples. In terms of architecture, I was most impressed with the Blue Temple with its intricate carvings and colors that embody that sun and the sky. The Buddhist statue inside the temple is also fixated with blue floor to ceiling art.

Rong Suea Ten Temple aka Blue Temple.
The weirdest of them all is the Black Temple located in a huge compound filled with wooden artifacts and art by Thawan Duchanee and other contemporary Thai artists. I highly doubt this was meant to be a place of worship but rather was built as a museum.

Baandam Museum aka Black Temple.
Visiting the Karen Long Neck Tribe is a similar experience to visiting the Masai Mara in South Africa. Note that the tribal women sell goods that are more expensive than in downtown Chiang Rai bazaar, but I still bought a scarf and magnet anyway from the lady who let me wear the ring and take a selfie with her. She was murmuring something to me in their language, which I could not comprehend, while we were both giggling like little girls. LOL! They are already used to the tourists, so they will readily smile for you.

Burmese tribe
Such a funny experience with this woman.
The Karens are known for their custom in wearing golden rings, particularly on their neck, to create the appearance of a long neck. Historically, they came to Thailand from Burma to escape the war and violence in their country although now they are somewhat confined in their village.

golden ring
Unfortunately, the younger generation don't look too happy :( 
Finally, the best part is eating in Chiang Rai's night market and bazaar. A few steps away from my hotel, the Chiang Rai market offers many kinds of seafood, meats and other peculiar creatures, such as the crickets below. I was already starving by the time I finished my whirlwind tour and couldn't decide what to get for myself. I looked around to see that most local diners had a hotpot on their table so hotpot it is- I later learned that this is a traditional Northern Thailand meal!

Want some protein? Doesn't look too tempting, eh?
As I was trying to decide which massage place I wanted to go to, I passed by a window filled with cats. I'm not a cat lover but was missing my puppy. In order to go inside and play with the cats, I got a warm Thai tea and met some cats that had the largest eyeballs!

cat cafe
Cat n a Cup Cafe, Chiang Rai. Who has the larger eyes?
I capped off the night with a Thai massage, but I soon realized that a Thai massage is too boney for me, I prefer deep tissue or the Filipino-style hilot. The selfie with the cat above says it all.

Bye for now, Thailand!

Chiang Rai
Pin the image above. 

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