Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is a nice place, but there are only so many temples you can see before everything becomes a golden blur.
After visiting all the must-visit tourist destinations such as Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai Zoo and Sunday Weekend Walking Street, there doesn’t seem to be anything else I want to see in Chiang Mai.
I decided to do a day tour to the neighbouring Chiang Rai. I texted my Airbnb landlord to see if she could help me book the tour and she immediately sent me these 3 pages of Chiang Rai itinerary.
I am a greedy girl, I wanted to see everything but I know that with the limited time, I won’t have time for all the attractions. In the end, I chose the White Temple, Baan Dum and Blue Temple tour. This tour costs THB$1000 inclusive of all entrance fees, transportation and lunch.
There are also tours that brings you to see the Golden Triangle, Long Neck Karen Village and boat trip to Laos. I have read reviews from travelers who have done those and they feel it’s a waste of time. I am going to skip that and focus on the temples.
The bus came to pick me up at Fundee Story Guesthouse at about 7.30am. The bus went around picking up passengers from various guesthouses. Our group was mainly made up of mainland Chinese, Singaporean (me) and two Europeans.
Our guide is a young lady in her thirties who speaks English and Chinese fluently on top of Thai. The name of the tour agency is Terminal Green.
The journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai took around 3 hours.
Chiang Rai Day Tour: Pha Soet Hot Spring
Our first stop is at the Pha Soet Hot Spring. Entrance is free but access to the hot springs cost THB$30 for adults and THB$10 for children. The entrance ticket is included in the tour package. The temperature of the hot spring water is 73 degree celsius so you are advised to soak not more than 15 minutes.
Besides foot soak, there is also a mineral swimming pool where the temperature is around 39 degree celsius. You can rent towels for THB$20 if you do not have one. There are also locker, shower and toilet facilities. If you want more privacy, there are also bungalows with private pools.
There are various stalls selling snacks and fruits in front of the hot spring and there is also a small restaurant. If you want to buy a snack, get the hot spring eggs. The eggs are cooked in small bamboo baskets in the hot spring water. A basket of eggs (3-4 eggs) costs THB$20. Is it just my imagination or are these eggs more tender?
Chiang Rai Day Tour: Wat Rong Khun or White Temple
Our second stop is the famous White Temple which is known as Wat Rong Khun in Thai. Wat Rong Khun was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai visual artist. Chalermchai Kositpipat built Wat Rong Khun using money earned from selling his paintings worldwide.
Wat Rong Khun is made of white plaster and pieces of glass which sparkles in the sun. The white color signifies the purity of Buddha while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings.
Climbing the bridge to Wat Rong Khun is akin to taking the heavenly staircase to heaven. Just before the bridge are hundreds of hands on both sides that symbolizes human’s desires. Buddhism believes that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed and desires. Wikipedia has detailed explanation on the structure and their symbolism.
Photography and videography is not allowed in the Wat Rong Khun, hence I have no pictures of the the interior. Besides admiring the Buddhist painting on the wall, the walls near the entrance is decorated with drawings of pop culture. You will see Harry Potter, Po from Kung Fu Panda and Spiderman among many others.
This golden building is actually a public restroom, it is the most beautiful restroom in Thailand.
Wat Rong Khun is open daily 8am – 5pm. The entrance fee is THB$50 per person which is already included in the cost of the tour.
Chiang Rai Day Tour: Buffet Lunch
We stopped for lunch at a buffet restaurant. There is rice, noodles, curry chicken, vegetables and fried sausages. There is also a section where you can make your own salad. For desserts, there is cut fruits and jellies. You can’t expect international buffet for such a cheap day tour, but the food is hygienic and plentiful, so I have no complaints.
Chiang Rai Day Tour: Blue Temple
Wat Rong Suea Ten, which most people know as the Blue Temple, is a Buddhist temple just outside of Chiang Rai. This is a government-funded temple built by Chalermchai Kositpipat’s student, Phuttha Karbkaew, to allow people working in Chiang Rai to pray and make wishes because Wat Rong Khun is too far away.
The exterior of Wat Rong Suea Ten is painted blue and gold surrounded by tall statues and cultural structures. The interior is even more stunning, exquisite gold and blue paintings fill up the entire ceiling and walls. There is a large white Buddha statue at the back of the hall, which many people pray to.
When you visit Wat Rong Suea Ten, be sure to try the coconut ice-cream. This special coconut ice-cream has an additional scoop of blue-colored glutinous rice, the blue color is derived naturally from butterfly pea flower.
The blue temple is open from 6am – 7pm and the entrance fee is THB$60 per person.
Chiang Rai Day Tour: Baan Dam Museum
Many people call Baan Dam Museum “Black Temple” which is a misconception because it is not a temple. In Thai, “baan” means “house” and “dam” means “black”, so “black house” is a more appropriate.
Baan Dam Museum is the private collection of Thai national artist, Thawan Duchanee. Baan Dam used to be Thawan Duchanee’s art studio and home, but now it has been become a museum showcasing the artist’s collection.
Baan Dam Museum is not just one structure but a collection of forty buildings in various shapes and sizes housed in a big garden.
Thawan Duchanee loves to collect animal skin and various other items. You will see crocodile skin, snake skin and buffalo horns among other things.
Baan Dam Museum is open daily 9am – 5pm and the entrance fee is THB$80 per person.
On the way back to Chiang Mai Old Town, we stopped at this Patta Shop for toilet break. You can buy snacks and souvenirs here but I won’t advise it. Things are more expensive at tourist rest stops like this. We reached Chiang Mai Old Town at about 7pm.
The whole Chiang Rai Day Tour take around 12 hours. The price of THB$1000 including all transportation, entrance fees and lunch which is very reasonable. Our guide speaks fluent English and Chinese and the service is good. I strongly recommend Terminal Green’s Chiang Rai Day Tour. ”