This article on the best things for locals to do in Chiang Rai comes to Dot Property from Lazudi.
In Thailand’s most northern province, Chiang Rai sees expats from around the world enjoying a relaxed, inexpensive, and quiet lifestyle. Top international schools recruit English-speaking teachers; some expats work in higher education. Others choose to retire in Thailand, finding Chiang Rai property prices much sweeter than other Thailand destinations.
Whatever your reason for considering living in Chiang Rai, you will find a good range of accommodations, from private pool villas to detached houses, townhouses and condos, new and pre-loved. Although a relatively small city compared to Chiang Mai, it has excellent health care facilities, a range of shopping, and other required facilities. Chiang Rai also punches well above its weight regarding things to do.
Within Easy Reach of Chiang Rai City
Explore the various night markets featuring delicious Thai and distinctive northern Thai dishes. Locals and expats love the purpose-built Lan Muang Market with fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, meats, nuts, flowers, grocery lines – everything.
Embrace the Thai Culture
Learn about the history of the region and the peaceful Buddhist philosophy. Visit temples like Wat Phra Kaew, the original home of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Rong Seua – the Blue Temple, and Wat Huay Pla Kang, affording amazing district views through the eyes of the giant white Buddha.
Wat Rong Khun – the White Temple, is privately owned and in the style of a Buddhist temple. Likewise, the Baan Dam Museum – the Black Temple, houses artworks in Lanna-style buildings.
Mae Fah Luang Art Museum, under Royal patronage with strong connections to Doi Tung and Oub Kham Museum, reveals its fascinating history and culture. The city’s Clocktower emanates radiance with its evening light show.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
Jetyod Road leading to the Clocktower features bars with pool tables and low-key entertainment and is a pleasant spot to meet friends and have fun.
Many restaurants, from food carts to international cuisine, are represented. Seek out Khantoke, a northern Thai speciality with an array of dishes, ‘Tok Tong’ restaurant is a popular choice.
Journey Along the Kok River
The river originates in Myanmar and flows through Chiang Rai city to Chiang Mai. Activities include Chiang Rai beach for eating, swimming, and chilling; cruising along the river through villages to Chiang Mai; cycling along the riverside; working out at free fitness parks; dining in trendy and authentic eateries; going river rafting.
Stay in Shape
A good variety of fitness and recreation facilities are available, including fitness centres, CrossFit, Muay Thai boxing, Jiu Jitsu, Taekwondo, boxing, running, trekking, skating, football, squat diving, tennis and more.
Singha Park, just out of town, offers ziplining, rock climbing, scooters, cycling, walking trails, and hot-air ballooning in a relaxed, family-friendly environment.
Day Trips and Weekend Getaways
Escape to Chiang Mai
A three-hour drive or a short flight will have you sipping a latte in a chic cafe in Chiang Mai. Definitely an overnight trip and longer, this beautiful city oozes history, museums, markets, temples, shopping centres, arts and crafts, entertainment, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, massage spots, parks, national parks and more.
Tour the Golden Triangle
Once famous for producing opium, this region in Thailand has turned over a new leaf and is excellent for exploring. Visit Chiang Saen, one of the oldest surviving cities in Thailand, featuring ancient ruins, the excellent Chiang Saen National Museum, Mekong riverside restaurants, and an old town feel.
Follow the Mekong to Sop Ruak, the junction of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. An excellent exhibition at the Hall of Opium, part of the Doi Tung Royal project, depicts the change from opium production to coffee, tea and other crop production.
In Mae Fah Luang district, Doi Tung has the well-maintained Doi Tung Royal Villa, sweeping hillside gardens, a treetop walk, artisan shops, an informative museum and viewpoints. Being in the mountains, it has a cooler climate and is particularly popular in Winter.
A Caffeine Hit
In the higher altitudes of this mountainous region, several tea plantations, like Choui Fong Tea, offer delicious beverages and take-home products. High-quality Arabica coffee is also extensively cultivated. Visits to high-profile hill-tribe-run facilities like Doi Chaang provide insight into cultivation and production. Doi Panghkon and Mae Salong are two other destinations worth seeking out.
Visit Tham Luang Cave
Stop by the site of the incredible rescue of 12 boys and their football coach from a flooded cave in mid-2018. Although the cave has been closed most of the time since that rescue, it reopened to visitors in mid-October 2022. A monument in tribute to ex-Thai Navy Seal, Saman Kunan, who died in the 18-day-long ordeal, has been erected, plus new landscaping and more accessible roads for the elderly and less mobile are additions.
On a Cliff’s Edge
A visit to Phu Chi Fah, especially in winter, is worth the effort. Phu Chi Fah is on a knoll overlooking the Laos border, with 360-degree views making it famous for sunrise or sunset. The drive up is remarkable, with hillside farms, glamping and breathtaking drop-offs.