OK, I don’t want to mislead you, this is not the busiest street in Chiang Rai and there is lots of traffic in the city but it’s easy to feel like it’s not busy in this town and surrounding area with a population of around 200,000.
To start your exploration of the town there are at least half a dozen temples worth visiting in Chiang Rai including Wat Jed Yod built in 1844.
Jed Yod means 7 peaks represented by 7 chedis on the site. In keeping pace with the town the gatekeeper is pretty laid back and once you get past him you are greeted by an impressive giant Buddha in the main hall.
Wat Jed Yod is probably the least visited of Chiang Rai’s most significant temples so you usually have lots of space to yourself. The temple is a copy of one by the same name in Chiang Mai which is a copy of an Indian temple, Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya, the very same spot where the Buddha found enlightenment.
You will find some of the traditional features of Thai temples including the typical red and gold colors and naga serpents, above all a quiet spot for peace and reflection.
The favorite part of my visit? Seeing the glowing sunset shine directly on an ornate window at Wat Jed Yod.
Chiang Rai sees many people extend their stay in the town I think because there’s such a huge selection of cafes and places to eat for a town of this size. Once you’re done having a coffee, which could be from beans grown in Northern Thailand move on to the market which pretty much operates all day and through the evening. Perfect for self-catering you can get everything from seafood to cheap noodle dishes.
This market is located close by Chiang Rai’s most famous landmark, the gold clock tower. This tower was designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the same man who created the White Temple. Check out the special show of music and lights every evening on the hour from 7 to 9pm.
Wat Phra Kaew is Chiang Rai’s most important temple, the place where Thailand’s Emerald Buddha was discovered. Now and since 1784 Thailand’s palladium, the Emerald Buddha has been kept at Wat Phra Kaew in the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok.
In the last almost 600 years the Emerald Buddha has been on a epic trip with stays in Lampang, Northern Thailand, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, Laos before eventually ending up in the Royal family’s private chapel at the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The one here was carved out of Canadian jade in China in 1990 in honor of the princess mother’s 90th birthday. It’s an exact replica of the original.
Wat Phra Kaew is a tranquil spot and only a short walk from the clock tower, worth setting aside a hour or so to enjoy the many statues, ponds, and buildings that are in the complex.
Within the Wat Phra Kaew site is it’s museum which houses many gifts from it’s followers seeking merit over the past few hundred years.
Being one of the most important temples in Chiang Rai province it owns many significant religious art works, some of which are on display in the museum. Each item is labeled in English, Thai, and Lanna, the language of Northern Thailand.
Chiang Rai is charming, laid back and full of friendly Thai people. If you do decide to linger around the town a bit longer than your stay, try to plan it around the Saturday Walking Street Market. A chance to get up close to the locals who love to visit the market, see some of the hill tribe goods on display for sale and enjoy the music of Northern Thailand.
How about a snack of bugs? Insects are very much apart of the diet in Southeast Asia, I’m actually a non-meat eater, but I’m not really an insectivore, but I guess I’ll try it.
Didn’t taste like chicken, just kind of crunchy and salty, but they do have chicken if that’s what you’re craving.
Maybe something sweet to kill the cricket taste. These Thai doughnuts look tasty!
You’ll find the Chiang Rai Saturday and Sunday Walking Street markets are far less crowded than the ones in Chiang Mai and other large cities so there’s lots of places to stop and eat and listen to the birds, thousands in this park.
Head back for the light show at the clock tower and you’ve completed your day in Northern Thailand’s haven and retreat from the speedier pace of the rest of the world, charming Chiang Rai.
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