Chiang Rai might not be as famous as its northern sister-city Chiang Mai, but don’t let that put you off visiting this little gem. Without the brash tourist bars and Western-style restaurant joints found in its neighbor, you’ll surely have a more authentic Thai experience. If you plan to explore the laid-back city, your best bet is scoring a car rental Chiang Rai to have the freedom to move from one place to the other without having to rely on taxi drivers. Here’s our rundown on the best things to do on a day trip to Chiang Rai.
Marvel at the White Temple
It would be unthinkable for a Chiang Rai newbie to not visit the Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple, one of the most astonishingly beautiful and iconic pieces of architecture in Thailand. This modern wonder was built using plaster laden with shavings of glass that make it sparkle in the sun. It was the brainchild of Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai artist who is still working on the unfinished project today.
Catch a glimpse of the Clock Tower
Next up is the golden Clock Tower, another piece by Chalermchai Kositpipat. It serves as the centrepiece of one of Chiang Rai’s central roundabouts and was built in 2008 to honour the Thai king. It’s a highly elaborate piece of work best seen when lit up at night or by driving around it in your car rental Chiang Rai.
Gorge on Northern Thai cuisine
Northern Thai cuisine is quite different from its southern counterpart, but no less delicious. With less of a focus on coconut milk and maximum use of herbs and spices, there’s a dazzling array of curries, broths, and noodle dishes influenced by neighboring Myanmar and Laos. Grab a ball of sticky rice rolled up in your hand and dive right in!
Learn about Northern Thai ingredients
Once you’ve eaten, have a wander around one of Chiang Rai’s fresh markets to learn about the complex set of ingredients that go into Northern Thai dishes. You can even pick up some dry herbs and pastes to take home with you. This activity is best done accompanied by a knowledgeable local foodie.
Get a Thai massage
You know what they say: no pain no gain. And that’s exactly the mantra with Thai massages! Though you can ask them to give you a softer version, a true Thai massage should feel a little uncomfortable when your muscles get stretched. This pays dividends though when you leave as you’ll be feeling like a million dollars. If all that pain doesn’t sound like your thing, try a relaxing foot massage instead.
Sip on Northern Thai tea
This area of Thailand is well-known for its tea leaf production. If time permits, take a drive with your car rental Chiang Rai out of the city to one of the plantations to see how and where the plant is grown. If not, you can always make do with one of the tea shops where you can sample some of the 25 different varieties, including the famous Oolong.
Mingle with the locals at the weekend night market
Thailand is well-known for its night markets and Chiang Rai’s is no exception. In the cool of the evening you can nab an ice-cold beer tower, listen to the sounds of Thai musicians, and shop for locally created handicrafts and clothing at bargain prices.