What To Do in Chiang Rai
White Temple is the “what to do in Chiang Rai” without a doubt. In fact I don’t actually know anyone who’s been there and not been to it or who has been to Chiang Rai and done anything else, although I’m sure there are probably other things to do there too.
Although as I mentioned before when I had gotten to Chiang Mai I was already a little bit templed out to say the least and then proceeded to see even more of them so when I was told that the bus and boat trip I was taking into Laos would stop at the White Temple in Chiang Rai on the way, I actually asked if there was a version of the trip which didn’t include it.
There wasn’t and I’m so grateful there weren’t as the White Temple is amazing. It’s unlike any temple I’ve ever seen before in my life.
If you go on your way to Laos the bus will stop at the White Temple for an hour or so to allow you to explore. It’s so beautiful you’ll find that not a lot of time to do so. It’s also easy to get a bus from Chiang Mai there and back if you’re not planning on carrying on up to Laos. The bus ride will take about 3 hours each way.
The White Temple Chiang Rai
There is no way I could explain in words quite how incredible the White Temple is so I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
The intricacy of the carving on the temple is incredible as you can see above but fair warning there are some slightly more disturbing elements of the temple such as all the outstretched hands below holding skulls.
To me it looked like something I’d expect to see at a holocaust memorial to depict the horror that took place but it actually has a much more uplifting meaning that that. The outstretched hands represent desire and the human suffering that is believed to take place in our cycle of death and rebirth. The bridge leading up from there is then supposed to signify freedom from that suffering by rising above and becoming no longer a slave to worldly temptations such as greed and desire.
The horrifying sculptures are used to contrast with the glory that awaits us if we can detach ourselves from materialism.
I can get on board with that.
There’s a beautiful wishing well outside the white temple after you’ve walked through it too which is mesmerising.
Where to Stay in Chiang Rai
Since I just went for the day I have no advise on this one for once, sorry. You probably won’t need accommodation there either though.
How Long to Spend in Chiang Rai
Just go for the day or on your way elsewhere. No need to stay overnight.
Moving On: How to Get from Chiang Rai to Laos
You might as well make your life easy and just go on an organised slow boat trip from Chiang Mai to Laos.
On the first day you’ll stop at Chiang Rai anyway to see the white temple, make sure you get back to your bus in time though, our’s almost left without someone. He literally turned on the engine and started driving. The poor late comer only didn’t miss the bus since as soon as we all realised what was happening and that there was still one empty seat on the bus that hadn’t been there before we called out for him to stop and the driver then sat their grumpily looking like someone had just spat on him until the last passenger finally arrived.
After Chiang Rai you’ll then go onto a small Thai town to spend the night in accommodation that’s included as part of your booking. They’ll sort out your visa to enter Laos that evening at the accommodation too and then the next morning you start the journey to the boarder and get on the slow boat later that day.
If you have the time to do the journey into Laos overland via the slow boat I really recommend it. Yeah it takes 3 days but it’s a beautiful way to travel there and you’ll meet some great people on the way too.