The bus trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai took about two hours and dropped us off in the center of town. After dropping our stuff off at the guest house, we headed to the Hilltribe Museum and Educate Centre.
The museum was very well done, and had a section on each of the local hill tribes - the Hmong, Karen, Akha, Lhao, Yahu, & Lisu. The curator purchased quite a few artifacts and traditional costumes, in an effort to keep these examples in the community instead of exported by a tourist. The museum also offered ethical tours to the local tribes, and warned about the exploitative nature of other tours.
After the museum, we were treated to the Saturday Night Bazaar - at least 2 miles of shopping stalls featuring delicious foods, goods we hadn't seen before, and performances by local children. We ate from almost every other stall - but couldn't bring ourselves to eat the crickets or water bugs. Apparently, they're a hit!
The next day, we took the city bus (10 baht!) to the White Temple, south on the main road. We didn't really know much about the temple before we got there, and it really blew us away. The White Temple is actually modern, and was designed, built & funded by one man. Get there early to get some photos before they open the grounds.
In the evening, we took a tuk tuk just outside of town to Doi Kong Khao. First, we went up the steps & down into the cave, where the locals set up shrines to Buddha and local monks in the three caverns. Next, we climbed a steep path to the top, and saw a beautiful sunset overlooking the region under a standing buddha shrine.
Culture and experiences
Saturday night market just across from the clock tower at the center of Chiang Rai. Stop for a smoothie before you try the water bugs!
Very well done museum, which aims to promote a better understanding of the hill tribes and their culture. It's worth the unsanitised view of how the hill tribes are exploited by some in the Thai tourist industry.
Baan Bua Guest House
Affordable guesthouse in the heart of chiang rai, with a lovely garden center.
Points of interest
Wat Klang Wiang
Beautiful wat in the lanna style, with a notable "No Killing Area" sign.
Wat Phra Kaeo
Wat Phra Kaeo is the original home of the most famous Thai depiction of Buddha - the Emerald Buddha. The current statute is a replica, as the original was sent to Bangkok.
The White Temple is a must see if you're in Chiang Rai. A unique modern lanna temple, beautiful ornate with small mirror pieces. The artist also mixes modern influences - like Batman, Harry Potter & Predator with old buddhist demons.
Cabbages & Condoms
Upscale restaurant underneath the hilltribe museum. Profits go to support local family planning and education.
Doi Kong Khao
Just a little outside the town, you'll get a stunning view of the city atop the hill shrine. Inside the hill is a three-cavern cave, with more local shrines.