Wat… no beach?

We’re now into our second day in Chiang Mai so I thought I’d write a little update about our last stop, Chaing Rai, the capital city of Thailand’s northernmost province of the same name, and our first stop away from the relaxing beach life we’ve been getting used to over the past couple of weeks. Well, it had to come to an end at some point, although Alexandra probably would’ve extended it for about another 50 weeks if she could.

So, Chiang Rai…

We arrived quite late, so it was good to have had somewhere booked that was able to come and pick us up from the airport, and even better that the room was decent and the breakfasts (usually pancakes and fruit) in the central garden were fantastic.

We spent the first morning looking for a trek to do, and ended up booking a 2 day trek with an overnight stay in a hill tribe village with a non profit organisation called the PDA, to make sure the cash actually went to the tribes involved. We also found out there that the famous Long Neck tribes are not native to Thailand and were ‘imported’ into the country by a rich businessman purely to create a tourist attraction – we didn’t want to get involved with that. So armed with our knowledge and happy with our booking we went to explore the city. Chiang Rai actually feels more like a town, you can walk from one side to the other in 15 minutes. Still, it was big enough to warrant yet another motorbike hire (it doesn’t take much) and we ended up figuring out the city pretty quickly. It’s such a relaxed place.

The White Temple Khun Korn Waterfall

We took a day trip out of the city on the motorbike to see the White Temple and Khun Korn Waterfall. We visited Wat Phra Kew and immediately realised the amazing sense of calm that Wats can create. I was amazed how different the atmosphere could be inside the walls surrounding the buildings, knowing that there were hundreds of motorbikes, cars and people buzzing along on the other side. Unlike the Forbidden City in Beijing, where I felt like I’d seen it all when I’d only seen an eighth of the place, I certainly felt like I could happily spend quite a bit of time strolling around a few Wats. Just not quite enough to make me want to put on an orange robe and shave my head.

Something we noticed about Chiang Rai is the oddly high number of over 50s westerners that seem to love hanging out here. There were a few mornings when we’d be sitting at the breakfast table and we’d look around to find that we were surrounded by the elderly. Fortunately, they didn’t all club together at try and join us on our hill tribe trek.

The trek started with a longtail boat ride along the Kok River to a Karen village that runs elephant treks. We were a bit hesitant about elephant rides until we did some research and realised that the tourism industry helps to support the Karen tribe to keep the elephants alive and well, train them and keep them away from being used for entertainment in the cities. We spent two hours on elephants and were amazed at the narrow spaces they can pass through. We then had a short walk to a Lahu village where we had lunch and spent the afternoon getting to know the village. We spent the night at there on a thin mattress on a bamboo floor – not the most comfortable night, but an experience all the same. We were woken at 4am by the sound of quite a few cocks crowing and pigs running about and squealing underneath the floor of the raised hut, an experience made all the more strange by the weird anti-Malaria tablet dreams we were having! That morning we had breakfast on a verandah overlooking the mountains and set off for a few more hours of trekking on foot to an Akha tribe village. Learnt a lot, walked a lot, and met some great people, perfect.

Lots of pictures below…

The next day we said goodbye to Chiang Rai and jumped on a bus for the 3 hour journey along winding roads to Chiang Mai…

Anthony Written by:


  1. Guyle Goodsell
    November 26

    Hey those temple pictures look much better than the glitz and gold that the royal palace has in Bangkok.

  2. November 27

    Well, we’ll realise that soon enough ourselves as we leave for Bangkok tomorrow on a gruelling 7 hour bus journey. Needless to say we bought VIP tickets, but I still think a whisky and a sleeping pill is in order.

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