Enchanting Chiang Rai

Enchanting Chiang Rai

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Situated about 60 kilometres south of the bustling Myanmar border town of Mai Sai, Chiang Rai is an oft forgotten gem on the travel itinerary of most people visiting Thailand. Whilst many travellers visiting Northern Thailand will undoubtedly visit Chiang Mai, Chaing Rai is overlooked and ignored as the sleepy, less interesting and awkward younger brother. Personally however, I’m ever so grateful that I took the time to visit and explore for myself, and in fact, it is probably my favourite city in all of Thailand.

Whilst Chiang Rai city is relatively small and there are not a huge amount of tourist attractions, there are some notable points of interest within close proximity. The most well known, the White Temple (or Wat Rong Khun in Thai) is absolutely beautiful and conjures vivid images of the fantasy novels Narnia. Inside, the artwork is extremely unique if not a little bizarre with murals containing Michael Jackson, Kung Fu Panda and Elvis amongst many other. Sadly, in May 2014 the temple suffered severe earthquake damage and it is yet to be seen whether it is salvageable.

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If you have your own set of wheels, about 15 minutes past Wat Rong Khun is Khun Korn Waterfall, a wonderful place to escape the other tourists and enjoy some picturesque scenery. Without a map I found the entrance to the national park very easily and it was a gentle walk from the car park to the waterfall. Along the way there were some small bridges to cross made from bamboo, which made the walk seem more like an intrepid adventure rather than a meander through some shrubbery. Whilst the waterfall itself is certainly not Victoria or Niagara Falls, it is well worth the time and energy.

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Back in the city, I decided to finish the day in the centre of town with a glass of beer, some people watching and the evening performance of the Golden Clock Tower. Each evening as the clock strikes 7, 8 and 9pm, the clock changes colour and plays music to the delight of tourists and locals alike. The glowing clock tower accompanied by the cacophony of sounds that is everyday Thai street life, makes for a magical way to end the day. Even the next day, sans music and light display, the clock tower is an architectural wonder and tourist attraction in its own right deserving of a wonder around and some holiday snaps.

Whilst I never would have envisioned uttering these words before visiting, I feel that I will be back in Chiang Rai in the not too distant future.

/// Written by Evan Jones, Bangkok, Thailand