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Chiang Rai

white temple chiang rai

Chiang Rai is a sleepy provincial town with a charming atmosphere. It is the ideal place to stay if you want to chill out and savour each moment as it comes. Compared to its sister town Chiang Mai, it has a more relaxed and down-to-earth feel but is not short on historical and cultural attractions of its own. In fact, it has an impressive collection of temples, art, cuisine and music. But unlike Chiang Mai, the city offers little diversity when it comes to nightlife, entertainment and shopping. Instead, most of these activities are concentrated in the area around the Clock Tower. The city is gradually developing its tourist sector, beginning with its own Night Bazaar, Saturday Walking Street and Jazz Festival. There is still plenty to do during the day. Be sure to check out the Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park. In addition to a museum that houses one of Thailand’s biggest collections of Lanna artefacts, this vast, meticulously landscaped compound includes antique and contemporary art, Buddhist temples and other structures. Another important landmark is Wat Phra Kaew, which was once referred to as the Bamboo Forest Monastery in the local dialect. This is the city’s most revered Buddhist temple and the octagonal stupa behind it dates from the late 14th century and is in typical Lanna style. The adjacent two-storey wooden building is a museum housing various Lanna artefacts.  Culture vultures should also check out Wat Phra Singh. This temple dates back to the late 14th century, and its oldest surviving original buildings are typical northern Thai–style wooden structures with low, sweeping roofs. The main wí·hăhn sanctuary houses impressive wooden doors thought to have been carved by local artists, as well as a copy of Chiang Mai’s sacred Phra Singh Buddha. The riverside remains mostly undeveloped, albeit with a few luxury hotels along the waterfront. To fully appreciate its beauty, it is best to hire a longtail boat and take in the scenery along the two riverbanks.