• Michael Acevedo

A Pedacito of Chiang Rai, Thailand

Chiang Rai is a city and province in Northeastern Thailand, about a 3-hours drive from Chiang Mai. I chose to visit Chiang Rai as a Day Trip from Chiang Mai with hopes to see lots of unique temples. I started the morning with a typical breakfast at a street vendor near my hotel adjacent to the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

A small van picked me up, along with a few others, and we set off toward the north. We stopped at a popular rest area about midway to Chiang Mai. The Mae Kachan Hot Spring and Geyser was definitely a tourist trap but it was a nice place to stop for a little break.

Apparently, every single tour group that passes this location makes a stop. It was a pretty place, and you could find everything from fresh grilled Thai sausage, fruits, coffee, and all sorts of souvenirs. Oh, and you have to pay to access the restrooms... I opted for some fresh mango and sticky rice - YUM! I'm still not convinced that the "geyser" was just a pool with a water heater and pump...

Wat Rong Suea Ten - Chiang Rai's "Blue Temple"

Our first stop in Chiang Rai was at Wat Rong Suea Ten, known as the "Blue Temple". While this is a relatively new temple (doesn't have a long history) it truly is stunning! The name "Suen Ten" means dancing tiger and this comes from the fact that tigers would jump the nearby river. The temple has a very vivid blue color with golden accents and many carvings throughout.

If the amazing statues or architectural elements of the exterior haven't wowed you, wait until you see the inside! That vivid blue color is carried throughout, along with gold filigree, ornate portraits, and a magnificently white Buddha in the "earth touching" pose. Even though this is a new structure, it is still inspiring to see this space. There's something about the community coming together to create an amazing place of worship.

Inside Wat Rong Suea Ten, Chiang Rai's "Blue Temple"
Inside Wat Rong Suea Ten, Chiang Rai's "Blue Temple"
A closer look at the Buddha alter within the Wat Rong Suea Ten, Chiang Rai's "Blue Temple"
A closer look at the Buddha alter within the Wat Rong Suea Ten, Chiang Rai's "Blue Temple"

Baan Dam Museum - Chiang Rai's "Black House"

Created by the Thai artist Thawan Duchanee, the property consists of about 40 small black houses made of wood, glass, concrete, bricks, or terracotta in a variety of designs and styles. The smattering of structures each contains Thawan's collections of paintings, sculptures, animal bones, skins, horns, and silver and gold items from around the world.

Several of the structures contain elements of Balinese and Burmese architecture and art dating back to the Ayutthaya Period. If you quiver at seeing taxidermy on display, This is definitely not a place for you. The art is absolutely exquisite and the property is very peaceful making it comfortable for an afternoon stroll.

Chiang Rai's Hill Tribe of The Longneck Kayan

After our leisurely stroll through the grounds of the museum, we set off through the Chiang Rai countryside, passing many rice patties along the way. The drive was only about 20 minutes but when we arrived it felt worlds apart.

The Kayan people are originally from Myanmar and consist of a few different subgroups, Kayan Lahwi (also called Padaung) being the most prominent. Many Kayan tribes fled Myanmar in the 1980s and early 1990s due to a military regime that ran the country, which is how some settled in Thailand.

Women of the Kayan tribes identify themselves by their forms of dress. Women of the Kayan Lahwi tribe are well known for wearing neck rings, brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. There is lots of speculation as to the reason women wear brass rings.

Hypothesis range from making them less attractive to men, to protecting themselves from tiger attacks since they aren't as strong as men (I'm sure men made this one up). I'm no anthropologist, so I am not sure which is true, but I am glad to see that they are keeping their traditions alive even with the small population at the village I visited.

The village was very primitive and the bamboo structures didn't have a floor. The thatched roofs of the buildings provided much-needed shade. I have to say, it was kind of weird being here... It felt somewhat like a human zoo or maybe akin to what it must have been like to see circus sideshows.

The women were all very humble and quiet. There were women of all ages, kids included, and each did their part to create some unique handmade goods for purchase.

You can find wood-carved figurines, blankets, coin bags, and lots of other knick-knacks. I did buy a couple of things from the village that I proudly display in my home. I really hope the money does go mostly to help them. At least they have solar panels!

Wat Rong Khun - Chiang Rai's "White Temple"

Wat Rong Khun, perhaps better known as the "White Temple", is a privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple. It is owned by Cha