Hi globetrotters! My name is Roberta Magro Malosso and I am the content creator behind @globetraveldiary. Welcome to my travel guide on the best things to do in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I’m from Italy and grew up in sunny Palermo, Sicily. I work as a Jurist but travelling is my true passion.
Thanks to my family, travelling has always been a normal part of my life. Every summer we used to go somewhere around my beautiful country of Italy. I fell in love with both travel and photography a long time ago – when I first visited Paris in 2006. That was the moment I realised the world has so many things to see and endless adventures and new experiences to live.
I have travelled a lot in my life. I was fortunate enough to live in two different countries during my time at university – Warsaw for a year and Zaragoza for six months. Living abroad helped me discover different parts of Europe, especially the less touristy side to this amazing continent.
Two Amazing Weeks in Thailand
In the end, I don’t know why or how we ended up with Thailand – but we never regretted it. We travelled around this gorgeous country for two weeks from north to south. In total, we spent six days in Bangkok, five days in Phuket and three days in Chiang Rai – the underrated gem of the north.
Inspiration to Visit Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai was on our bucket list because we knew about the White Temple thanks to many popular Instagram posts and from photos that friends shared on Facebook. However, we didn’t know much about the city.
At the beginning, we thought this temple was in the highly popular Chiang Mai. After some research, we realised that the White Temple was located further north in a less known city called Chiang Rai. So we decided to go!
Favourite Place in Chiang Rai: White Temple
My favourite place in Chiang Rai was the White Temple because I dreamed of visiting it for so long. Seeing it with my own eyes was a special moment. The temple is completely different from other temples that I saw around Thailand and the meaning behind each decoration is incredible.
Top 7 Things To Do in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is a cozy little city with a relaxed atmosphere. The people are friendly, the food is phenomenal and there are plenty of fantastic accommodation options scattered around town. From here you can visit temples and take excursions to the hidden gems of Northern Thailand. Below you will find my Top 7 Things To Do in Chiang Rai:
1. Admire the Famous White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
The White Temple is the most famous attraction in the city. You simply can’t miss it! Wat Rong Khun was the strangest temple I visited in Thailand but at the same time one of the most interesting. The intricate details are insane and you can stay there for days to appreciate them all.
This temple was designed by the Thai architect Chalermchai Kositpipat and the white colour signifies the purity of the Buddha. It’s the main attraction of Chiang Rai, so you should visit early in the morning or right before closing time in order to avoid the crowds which can get big.
2. Explore the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten)
Construction on this majestic blue temple started in 2005 and was eventually finished in 2016 with the completion of the main hall. It’s a beautiful place – decorated in different shades of gold, yellow and blue. Stay there for sunset and watch the temple illuminate beautifully at night.
3. Stroll and Shop around the Night Bazaar
The Chiang Rai Night Bazaar is another famous spot that I highly recommend visiting and exploring. Inside you will find all kinds of different souvenirs and clothing stalls. Prices are way cheaper than Bangkok and Phuket. I recommend buying all your souvenirs and gifts here. Also, try the food stalls. The quality of the food is incredible.
4. Take a Cooking Class in Chiang Rai
When visiting Thailand, one thing you must do is a cooking class. Our hotel offered free classes for its guests during which you can learn how to prepare the iconic Pad thai. We cooked our own Pad thai and even brought the receipt home with us. We’ve been using it for months now!
5. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary near Chiang Rai
I have never seen elephants in their habitat and I didn’t want to miss the chance when visiting Chiang Rai. If you want to see elephants in Thailand, it’s important to visit a sanctuary (instead of a touristic place) which shows respect to these majestic animals. Try to avoid places that allow elephant rides because they are not particularly ethical in my opinion.
6. Try the Delicious Khao Soi of Chiang Rai
Khao Soi is one of my favourite Thai dishes. It is typical from this region and it isn’t that easy to find on the menu in the rest of the country. Khao Soi is a coconut soup with crispy fried noodles and boiled noodles. It comes in three different versions: chicken, fish or beef. A true Northern Thai dish!
7. Watch the Clock Tower Night Show
Every evening at 7pm, 8pm and 9pm – the clock tower comes to life in a light and sound show. Jump in a tuk tuk and take a couple of laps around the clock tower which is located in the center of a traffic roundabout.
Staying at Nak Nakara Hotel
We stayed at Nak Nakara Hotel which was an awesome and welcoming hotel. I highly recommend it. The staff were helpful and the breakfast was phenomenal too. They had endless options – sweet and salty breakfast but also typical Thai breakfast with noodles, fried rice and spring rolls.
The hotel has a pool which is perfect to relax at during the warmest hours. Plus it has many free services for its guests such as a shuttle service to the night market and airport. You can’t go wrong with Nak Nakara Hotel!
Favourite Memory of Chiang Rai
I loved every moment of my trip to Chiang Rai because I had the chance to spend some quality time with my brother in one of the most gorgeous and interesting cities in the world. One of my favourite memories was the morning spent at the Elephant Sanctuary. We learnt so much about these gorgeous animals and even had a chance to feed them!
Need to Know Before you Go
A couple of things to keep in mind for your trip to Chiang Rai. For starters, public transport is not that developed but the city is small enough that you don’t really need it. If you want to reach the temples outside of the city, you can use Grab – basically the Southeast Asian version of Uber.
Please show your respect to the Buddhist tradition and religion when visiting the various temples of Chiang Rai. You have to dress appropriately. Always cover your knees and shoulders. I usually brought a scarf with me. To enter inside the temples, one should take off their shoes. So make sure you bring some socks if you don’t want to enter the temple barefoot.
That’s all the advice from me. Thanks for reading my travel guide on the best things to do in Chiang Rai. I hope you enjoy your visit to this amazing city. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or would like more information. Happy travels to Thailand everyone!