10 Destinations in Chiang Rai Not to be Missed During Winter




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Chiang Rai is one of the hottest tourist destinations in Thailand nowadays and it is perfect for winter getaways. Cool air and chill atmosphere are what we need some time of the year. We know that when the rain stops, it is the time for the cool breezes to sweep in. This phenomenon let us know winter has replaced the rainy period. Winter normally starts from mid of October to end of February. Where would you be during this period? No doubt, Chiang Rai is among the top places to be in during winter time.

Chiang Rai city is a relatively small town but is surprisingly popular with tourists, both Thai and western. While the center city itself is small, the the country areas of the province are huge. Most package tours normally include a few days in Chiang Rai, probably because it’s a very pretty town surrounded by countryside and mountains.

 

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Rice field in Northern Thailand. Photograph: Michael Myerscough (Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk)

Besides beautiful scenery, there are many fun and interesting things to do and see in the province. When to compare to Phuket, Pattaya and Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai is less well-known. Normally tourists would be thinking at first arrive it was so small that it would probably be boring and dull. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. It’s certain that the level of excitement in Chiang Rai is less than those of top Thailand’s tourist destinations. However, the diversity of landscape, nature and culture make Chiang Rai more interesting.

One or two days really wasn’t enough to do everything most tourists want to do, many tourist would think they have to take a return trip there later to explore more about Chiang Rai. Chiang rai is the ideal place for winter for many reasons. Out of all the things to see and do in and around Chiang Rai though, there are 10 top places you really shouldn’t miss during winter.

 

1. Phu Chi Fah

phu chi fah

Phu Chi Fah (sometimes written as Pu Chee Fa, Phu Chi Pha) is the ideal place for winter. In Thai, Phu means mountain, Chi means pointing to, and Fah the sky, so Phu Chi Fah simply means mountain pointing to the sky. It is located in Amphoe Thoeng in the Chaing Rai Province, or to be precise it is located in the area of the Pa Mae Ing and Pa Mae Ngao National Forest Reserve, Amphur Thoeng,  Chiang Rai Province.

The area also falls within the Forest Conservation Area (Zone C) with total area of approximately 2,500 Rais announced by the Royal Forest Department as a Forest Park on 6th February, 1998. The distance to the area is quite far from Chiang Rai City, Normally you will need to drive 2 – 2.5 hours to get there.

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If you choose a bus as your transportation, it will probably take at least 4 hours. However watching the sunset or sunrise, and trekking to see the sea of clouds atop the mountain are a few activities that are worth that long trip.

From here a trail leads up to the viewing point on top of the hill, a distance of 1.8 kms. It has a perfect spot for taking photos is the area of 50 meters before going to the top. The sheer cliff of Phu Chi Fah can be seen spectacular scenes, especially the sea of mist at sunrise. If the sky is clear, you will be able to see the views over Mekong River and deep into Laos. In the morning, the fog covers the mountains, and all you can sea are the peaks peaking out of the fog. Thai people call it islands in the fog (ทะเลหมอก).

You probably have seen some beautiful sunrises before, but we are sure that that one in Phi Chi Fah  will be one of the most spectacular you have seen.

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The cool climate during winter produces colourful flowering shrubs of various species. The best way to enjoy the place is to stay over night. There are plenty of resorts on the hill and along the road to the top of the hill, also a lot of camping site nearby the hill. The area is very popular  during winter (from mid of November until early January).

Opening Hours: All day
Location: Amphoe Thoeng, 130 kms from Chiang Rai city
How to get there: Buses, private vehicles (cars, motorcycles, etc)
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Winter only

Tips:

  • Only go there during winter (Oct – Feb). There is nothing there in other season, however there will be a lot of travelers there during that period (mostly Thai). To avoid the crowd, you probably plan the travel somewhere between Oct-Nov. If you like to be the in crowd, the peak time is 15 Dec – 10 Jan.
  • If you decide to setup a tent near the peak, plan to get there during midday to set up or save spot your tent because they do fill up by mass crowd quickly. If you arrive at night, there will be plenty of accommodations in the area, but they will be 3-4 kms to the peak.

How to get there:
Directions from Chiang Rai:
By car:
Leave the city southbound on Route 1 (Phahonyothin Road). Take the turn off for Road 1020 which will lead you south and then east. 1020 eventually splits in a rural town – with a left turnoff continuing as the 1020 and ‘straight on’ becoming the 1021. Follow the 1021 – you will begin to see signs for Phu Chi Fa and will take a left turnoff for the 1155 before reaching the town of Ngao. This road passes through some incredible scenery but you will need to keep an eye on signs at junctions – eventually you will come to a checkpoint, keep right. A little further you will reach a T junction – take a right, following the signs for Phu Chi Fa Forest Park. From now it is a direct road and you will see signs for the amenities – parking, camping, information, and the ‘viewpoint’, i.e. the peak. (Source: Wikitravel).

Yes, it seems complicated, but when you are in Chiang Rai and experience the trip yourself, you will agree with us that it its very easy to go there. To make it simple, heading from Chiang Rai City to Thoeng District. The continue about 10 kms there will be intersection to Phu Chi Fah, just turn left and rind all the way to the view point. Anyway, if you have a mobile device, you can use Google Maps for you direction. There is internet connection all the way to Phu Chi Fah, and best of all there is Google Street View from Chiang Rai all the way to Phu Chi Fah viewpoint. It is very easy to go there.

 

2. Wat Rong Khun

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Wat Rong Khun is also known as the White Temple. Wat Rong Khun is the place to be visited throughout the year. Whereas most temples visited by tourists have a history going back many centuries, this magnificent place of worship was built only recently.

As a traveler, you probably have seen hundreds of temples over the years, but this one is one of a kind. Guess you already see its photos in magazine of all over the internet. When you see it yourself, it every bit as sparkling as you see in the photos. The white stone has thousands of little mirrors embedded in it, to make the temple sparkle in the sunlight.

For those who understand art, it is described that this temple is the realization of a dream for Thailand’s noted artist, Mr Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed and is supervising the construction of this beautiful white temple and its many statues of figures based on religious beliefs. The construction started in 1998 and now the construction is still not completed yet, and as according to Mr Chalermchai, it would take 90 years even after his death to finish.

Wat Rong Khun is completely unique and greatly differs from other temples. The whole building is held in white and consists of many mirror glass mosaics which are embedded in cement. The concept for this temple is from Chalermchai Kositpipat, one of Thailand‘s most popular artists. The white colors of these temples are a symbol for “Buddha’s purity“.

The beautiful Wat Rong Khun or White Temple is located about 15 km South of Chiang Rai. Today, the white temple of north Thailand“ is a national landmark and one of the most popular temples of Thailand.

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Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:30
Location: About 15km sounth of town, on Phahonyothin Road.
How to get there: Hire a songtaew or rent a motorcycle
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Any time of year.

Tips:

  • Don’t forget to use the temple’s toilet. It is one of the most beautiful toilet in Thailand.
  • If you can recognize Mr. Chalermchai, the designer and person who fund the construction, you can ask him to take a photo. He is around the area most of the time.

 

3. Boon Rawd’s Singha Park 

Singha Park Chiang Rai

This huge park belongs to Boon Rawd Brewery. In case you don’t know, Boon Rawd Brewery is the Thailand’s biggest beer producer with 69% of market share as of 2012-2014. Boon Rawd’s Singha Park was originally developed to grow barley for Boon Rawd Brewery’s beer. Yes, that is right the initial intention for creating this park is to farm rice in order to make beer. But now it is showcasing itself as a spectacular agro-tourism attraction in Chiang Rai.

The site is commonly known as Singha Park. The area reveals that the well-known beer maker (Singha and Leo Beer) is also a large exporter of Oolong tea. The area concise of the 8,600 rai of land for plantation of several kinds of fruit and crops such as para rubber trees, jujube fruits, barley fields, strawberries, star fruit, mushrooms and salad vegetables.

The Sun hemp with its colorful yellow flowers stretches out as far as the eye can see, just begging to be photographed. Adventurers on two wheels can enjoy the challenging mountain bike track.

 

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While the farm is open throughout the year. However, the best time for sightseeing is during winter time, from October until late January, as the sun is not too strong and the breeze is cool. During the day, it’s best to take the sightseeing car for the tour, which runs daily from 10am to 5pm and comes complete with a guide (THB50 for adult and THB25 for children).

After retiring from sightseeing, you can enjoy delicious food in Singha Park’s own restaurant, Bbu Bhirom.  Bhu Bhirom is an ideal place to enjoy good food with a glorious sunset and romantic atmosphere  Without any annoying buildings blocking your eyes, the al fresco dining area with comfy sofas upholstered in colorful shades is a relaxing perch for dinners overlooking scenic green and yellow agricultural lands stretching out as far as the eye can see.

Opening Hours: Early morning – Midnight
Location: About 15km sounth of town, on Phahonyothin Road.
How to get there: Cars, Hire a songtaew, motorcycle
Admission fee: None for visiting and wandering. But it’s THB50 from farm tour for adult and THB25 for children.
When to visit: Any time of year.

4. Mae Sai

mai sai

Just an hour and a half drive from Chiang Rai, Mae Soi is a small town that shares a border with Myanmar. Mae Soy itself isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s fascinating to visit as you get to see a chunk of what it’s like living in a border town.

Standing on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, you’ll see streams of people constantly traveling backwards and forwards between the two countries – most of them poor and most of them pulling carts piled with goods to sell or trade. Snotty nosed little kids will appear in huge packs begging for money and, once you cross over into Myanmar and see the small town on that side of the border, you’ll see how poor Myanmar really is.

At Mai Sai, there in really nothing much to see in Thai border. It is strongly recommend to cross the bridge into Tachileik, Myanmar. There are plenty of small shops lining both sides of the street leading to the border crossing that sell cheap jewels (rubies, emerald and jade) imported from Myanmar, cheap curio items (many of which are imported from China), cloths and fresh fruit.

My recommendation is if you are not a fan of shopping local stuff or have no intention to do visa run, you can skip this place.

Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:30 (Custom control)
Location: 70km north of Chiang Rai City, on Phahon Yothin Rd/Route 1/AH2.
How to get there: Cars, Buses, Songtaew.
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Any time of year.

 

5. Chiang Rai’s Night Market

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Unlike Chiang Mai’s night market, that’s full of mass-produced items made specifically for tourists, a lot of what you can buy at the night market in Chiang Rai are unique items made by hill-tribe people. I bought several antique bags, a mask, some hill-tribe silver earrings, a handmade traditional Thai doll, a carved wooden bowl and an embroidered bag.

As we know, the hill-tribes of Thailand produce beautiful products, all unique and all lovely quality. The best places to buy these products are from the stalls the hill-tribe people set up by just placing a blanket on the street and selling from there. Prices are cheap here. You may find the same items in Bangkok but the price may rise to many folds.

The night market also has a lot of food stalls, and most of them offer Thai food that cooked a little less spicy to cater to tourists’ taste and there’s even live music and dancing girls to keep you entertained while you eat.

After dinner, you can finish up by walking across the street to get ice cream in ice cream shops or a few beer in nearby bars before going back to your hotel for the night. Chiang Rai’s night market really is a must see event.

Opening Hours: 18:00 – 02:00
Location: Center of town
How to get there: Tuk-Tuk, Songtaew, on foot from city center.
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Any time of year but the weather is great during winter.

 

6. Chiang Saen’s The Golden Triangle 

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The Golden Triangle covers an area of about 195,000 square kilometers and covers three separate countries; Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. The golden triangle was once a place where opium was grown widely, but this no longer exists on the Thai side of the border.

The location at Golden Triangle area where the border of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos is called Sob-Ruak Village are. meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Maekhong rivers. It is something of a tourist attraction with many things to visit and stay with Thai Lanna culture style touch with local style stay at home-stay or Golden Triangle Guesthouse.

My recommendation is if you are not into history of Indo-China, you can safely skip the Golden Triangle and Sob-Ruak. It is just the area to see huge river where local sale local stuff and nothing more. Head to the House of Opium or historic temples instead.

The House of Opium is at the Golden Triangle, about an hour from Chiang Rai, and as the name suggests is a museum dedicated to the opium trade in the Golden Triangle (the Golden Triangle being Thailand, Burma and Laos). In this area of the world, the opium trade was a huge operation for hundreds of years.

Most of the people living in the area smoked opium, it was traded or sold quite easily, and much of the revenue for the area came from it. The House of Opium is fascinating though as it has an enormous collection of old opium pipes, weights and scales, and other drug paraphernalia.

The museum also has a great collection of religious items, miniature carved jade animals, ornate boxes, necklaces and much more. It’s a 3-storey museum that also has a large gift shop that sells some extremely cool stuff – reproduction opium scales and pipes, posters, t shirts, books, etc. Entrance fee is only around 50 baht (about $1,25) but well worth it.

Opening Hours: 18:00 – 02:00
Location: North of Chiang rai, in Chiang Saen
How to get there: Buses, Cars
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Any time of year.

 

7. Doi Chang

Doi Chang 02

Doi Chang (also written as Doi Chaang) is the largest coffee grown community in Thailand. It is also known for being the agricultural research center in Chiang Rai started by the King Bhumibol some many years ago. There are series of coffee plantations, macadamia, and all kinds of seasonal fruits, which these products will be distributed throughout the country.

Not only for coffee and development project that make Doi Chang interesting. Doi Chang has a perfect spot for sightseeing, along the way uphill. At the top of Doi Chang, many sightseeing spots, especially for sunrise and sunset, are provided for tourists, including the national park and the community’s research facility.

There are a few places to see in Doi Chang such as Vegetable plantation, Plantation of Arabica Coffee, Holly Well in Doi Chang national park, Doi Chang Lookout point, and Doi Wawee community.

The best thing in Doi Chaang is coffee. At any Doi Chaang coffee shop on top of the hill, you will get a variety of choices of coffee planted and fresh made from on the hill. Starbucks once used coffee from this area for its special blend – called Muan Jai. My recommendation is if you plan to go to Doi Chaang, go during during winter. Then have cup of coffee there. Don’t just stop at Doi Chaang, visit Doi Wawee too. Check Mark Wiens’ nice trip review about Doi Chaang here:  https://migrationology.com/visiting-doi-chaang-coffee-thailand.

Overnight staying ouside winter time is not preferable as there are not many activities to do. There are several resorts available in Wawee village near Doi Chang Lookout point and national park. Camping sites are also available but mots people tend to come back to city in the same day.

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Getting to Doi Chang is quite an adventure  Starting from Chiang Rai city. Ran through the intersection of Highway 1211, about 21 kilometers to its five-way intersection, Huai San village pavilion. Turn right and follow the road straight through the pouring rubber dam to store water for about 9 kilometers Mae Mon.

Ban Huai San Lisu. He started up the steep slopes along the gravel road for about 7 kilometers from the Experiment Station at the V distance of 43 kilometers high that takes about an hour.

Doi Chang 01

Opening Hours: All day
Location: 70km South west of Chiang Rai city
How to get there: Cars
Admission fee: None
When to visit: Any time of year, but best during winter

 

8. Doi Tung

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Doi Tung is located on the high hill area, about 1,300 meters above the sea level. It has a sacred hilltop Buddhist shrine built in 911 AD and it is believed that the left collar bones of Buddha is enshrined in the twin pagodas. Doi Tung is a popular destination both Thai and foreigner because of beautiful scenery with many interesting sites including the Doi Tung Palace, the Mae Fah Luang Garden and Akha and Muser tribal villages. On your way up, enjoy the panoramic view then drop in to visit the Akha and Lahu hill-tribe village famous for their hand woven textiles and silver jewelries.

Nestled in the hills of Doi Tung, It can be found at Doi Tung Royal Villa, also known as Mae Fah Luang Garden.  It’s built in 1992 on an area of 12 rai. This park/garden grows winter flowers and decorative plants with beautiful flowers taking turn to bloom season by season. The garden was built for the Princess Mother, Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindara (Somdej Ya). The surrounding of the Royal Villa is decorated with different cold weathered flowers that grow beautifully throughout the year.

Mae Fah Luang Garden was created in order to appreciate the very beauty of nature. The 25 acres garden is covered with different variety of plants and hard-to-find flowers, in which it is designed to be seen in its best during the whole 365 days. Recently the park extends additional 13 rai for stone, water, palm and other winter flower gardens. The Sculpture of Children Standing on one another in the center of the Park. It received PATA GOLD AWARDS in 1993 of Pacific Tourist Associations on behalf of Thailand in terms of good development of attractions.

Opening Hours: 18:00 – 02:00
Location: 50km North of Chiang rai, in Chiang Saen. Route 1/AH2
How to get there: Buses, Cars, Motorcycle
Admission fee: None for Doi Tung, THB50 for entering the garden
When to visit: Any time of year, but best during wither.

 

9. Doi Mae Salong

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 Doi Mae Salong or officially known as “Santikhiri”  is a is a village and at the same time the mountain lies within he Daen Lao Range, in Mae Fa Luang district. Doi Mae Salong is located at an elevation close to 1,800 meters, it is one of the highest peaks in Chiang Rai. The mountain is unique not only for its beautiful alpine-like landscape and climate, but also for its short, but intriguing history that has led to a distinctive and mixed population to settle there. The origins of the Mae Salong community go back to 1949 after Mao Zedong’s communist party victory in China the defeated KMT army escaped to Taiwan, except for the 93rd Division.

The army of the 93rd Division fought the way out of China via Burma for many years to a mountainous sanctuary in Mae Salong in Chiang Rai in 1961. Not long after that, in exchange for asylum, the Thai government allowed them to stay on the understanding that they would assist in policing the area against communist infiltration. In later year the Thai government awarded the KMT with citizenship status and a new settlement on Doi Mae Salong. As a result, most of the village’s inhabitants today are ethnic Chinese and direct descendants of those KMT soldiers.

Doi Mae Salong is the site of Santi Khiri village, a community settled by the former Chinese 93rd Division who moved from Myanmar to reside on Thai territory in 1961. The village became well known for its enchanting scenery and tranquil atmosphere.

It is a major tourist attraction with its small-town ambiance  delicious native Chinese dishes, small hotels and guesthouses catering to visitors and tea, coffee and fruit tree plantations. At an elevation close to 1,800 meters, it is one of the highest peaks in the province and commands some breathtaking and far-reaching panoramic views.When the mist comes, the views change dramatically, especially at sunrise or sunset. The air is crisp, cool and refreshing all year round.

Mae Salong was not initially set up to be tourist destinations. It is the area where groups of hill-tribe people live. The communities there have heavy influence from China because much of he recent settlers moved south from China some forty years ago. You can read more about it HERE. As a result the decoration style and accommodation standards are more indicative of China than Thailand. It is quite hard to see Thai-style modern resort there. You will mostly see architecture that are not usually seen in North Thailand.

My recommendation is if you prefer more comfortable stay, look for a hotel outside somewhere before you reach Santikhiri village. According to my experience and other travelers’s experience I read in pantip.com, many of the hotels are pretty rundown with lower quality and low upkeep. What it means for travelers is do not expect fantasy or high-end resorts here. But if you like the feeling of staying like local, backpacking and to spend good time to get in touch with local life, there are plenty of good hotels in Mae Salong’s Santikhiri village waiting for you.

Opening Hours: All day
Location: About 60km north of Chiang Rai City, on Route 1/AH2 and Route 1089
How to get there: Hire a songtaew, buses, cars
Admission fee:  None
When to visit: Winter

 

10. Chiang Khong

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Chiang Khong is a small, sleepy town with one main road and first impression it seems to be no night life. At first look, there seems to be no  significant tourist attractions in there.

Chiang Khong is not like any city in Thailand. Besides  an entry or departure point for travellers to Laos, Chiang Khong has nothing for visitors to do at all. It has unique culture, atmosphere and life style. It’s quiet but it has something existing that you can’t tell. One day you may feel there is a lot is going on in the city. Next next you may feel it has lives here are so dull.

No famous sites to be seen, no museums, no ancient monuments, no national park, no site of trekking opportunities, no night club, no tourism authority office,  and no known exciting adventure to be seen around. So what it has to offer?

If you’re a tourist who seeks peace of mind, get centered and want to experience real Northern Thailand’s way of life, Chiang Khong is the place.  This is exactly the place for you to relax, the place you can get centered, because you have nothing to do and nothing to worry. How about that?

Chiang Khong is the city you can truly relax without doing and worrying about anything! It is the city that will make you king of the world. If you want to find a place to finish your 3-inch book, Chiang Khong is perfect for. If you want to get away from cynical world, Chiang Khong will give warm stay.

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If looking at the aspect of uniqueness itself, it is not that all dull. What the town does have is a great vibe, friendly chilled out locals, lively little markets, a bunch of good places to eat, sleep and meet fellow travelers, local people are incredibly friendly and it’s also surrounded by stunning riverside and mountain scenery. Coming from Chiang San to Chiang Khong town, there are beautiful scenic along the way. Nice view of Mekong River and lonely corn farms can be seen the side of the road.

Romantic lives can go well in Chiang Khong. It is a kind of city that help you to embrace your romantic relationship. If you’re a broken heart one, not a problem. The city atmosphere could mend your broken heart. However, while you have a broken heart, don’t too much consume of the city’s loneliness as it can break your heart even more.

chiang-khong-04

One thing to be sure, more remote yet more lively than Chiang Saen, Chiang Khong is an important market town for local hill tribes and for trade with northern Laos. Much of local economics has been boosted by hill tribes and people from Laos.

Currently, Chiang Khong- Houei Xai Friendship Bridge is under way of construction. When complete, the bridge will help promote trade and investment, facilitate transportation, and boost tourism between Chiang Rai and Kunming, capital of Southwest China’s Yunnan province. Then life @Chiang Khong will never be the same again.

 

Images Sources:
Boon Rawd Farm’s Fan Page https://www.facebook.com/boonrawdfarm  http://www.concierge.com
http://www.ourechoes.com
http://doichaangcoffee.net
http://www.doichaangcoffeehouse.com
http://www.guardian.co.uk
http://mantadoctor.multiply.com
http://www.phayaophotoclub.com
<Chonburi Cycling> http://www.thaimtb.com
https://www.facebook.com/bass031

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