Thailand's North

CHIANG RAI

Global Mark : 12.83 (up)

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
3 1 2 3 5 5 2 5 3 12.89

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 86% (19) 50% (11) 73% (16) 5 to 18 12.89


Description : 
A medium sized town with little sights but an active night life.

Comments : Not much to do during the day, things improve drastically at night with the night bazaar & food markets

What to do ? Just off the bus, start a collection of guesthouses' leaflets distributed by touts / Save your energy for the night (walking the few town temples & the market would be just fine) / You could also visit the Handicraft Center (bus to Mae Chan, 10mn away on road 101), the 70m high Khun Korn waterfall (30km) or touristy Laan Tong Village (28km north) for the world's largest gong (3 tones), tribes cultural performances & elephant shows / Prepare your expedition to the north / Finally at night, wander around the bazaar market and try to resist the temptations / Meet Akha salesgirls / Listen to traditional music or watch dances while sipping a cold beer / Feel like watching a show at a go-go bar for your general culture ? / And of course, trekking is also a big business here...

What you may not like ? Seeing somehow more tourists on a tour than backpackers / Having not much to see / The feeling of being in Bangkok's Patpong or the feeling of not being in real big extravagant Patpong / Being offered a girls by all the Tuk-Tuk drivers you pass by / 

How long ? Half a day, on transit but some travelers stay much longer...


Where to stay ? 

Hotels  << Get precise info, book online and save money ! >> Hostels

- Near the bus station on Jet Yot Rd (5mn walk) : convenient, lively & noisy bus station-night bazaar area

  • Boonbundan Guesthouse (717040), off a Soi next to the temple / Sgl or Dbl w. cold shower 100 or 140 / Small garden / Go there for the good price and relative isolation from the noisy street but the rooms with basic furniture would appreciate some refreshment. 
  • Baan Hua Guesthouse, off a Soi on the right / Sgl or Dbl 180 or 200 w. HW shower / Pleasant garden / Go there to see the rooms & double check the prices as it was full and no staff were around during my two visits (prices given by Japanese so maybe inflated a bit)
  • Other places include Tip House (managed by Cat Bar) at 150 w. shower (not a bargain) or better Easy House (600963) w. nice rooms and good outside HW shower above the bar-restaurant for 150. The later would be an excellent choice if it was not so noisy...


- In the North of town : (10 to 20mn walk from Bus Station or B20 ) :  

  • Kijnakorn Guesthouse (744150), 24 Reuang Nakhon, between Wat Phra Singh and Wat Phra Kaew / Expensive at 300 but the rooms are cozy, and well equipped (TV, fridge, tel)
  • Chat House (711481), Trairat Rd, Soi just after Wat Phra Kaew / Dorm (4) 50, Sgl or Dbl 60 or 100, Dbl w. HW shower 150 / Go there for the cheapest bed in town and the small garden but the rooms smell a bit musty and there is only one toilet-shower for everybody.
  • Maekok Villa (711786), 445 Singkhlai Rd, opposite the hospital / Sgl, Dbl or Trpl w. cold shower 120, 150 or 180 / HW outside / Sgl or Dbl w. HW and bathtub in nice teak house 140 or 190 / Go there for the open space & the charm of the rooms in the house / What you may not like : the somehow ghostly atmosphere
  • Bowling Guesthouse (712704), 399 Singkhlai Rd, actually well off on Soi Santirat (left after TAT office), then off again / Small rooms w. shower 100 / HW outside / Small garden
  • Lotus Guesthouse (681 1884), 247 Singkhlai Rd, on the same Soi as the above / Sgl or Dbl 100 or 150 (80 or 120 LS), Dbl w. HW shower 180 (150 LS) / HW outside / Korean management / Big open space and clean but it somehow lack charm and the rooms are real basic.
  • Mae Hong Son GH of Chiangrai (715367), 126 Singkhlai Rd, next to the above, inside a small garden / Sgl 75 or Dbl in nice teak house 100 / HW / The best address in town : go there for the cheapest Sgl, the nice atmosphere in a small garden, the light jazz music
  • Pintamorn Guesthouse (715427), a big concrete building at 509/1 Ratanaket Rd, on the corner with Thanalai Rd / Dorm (3) 60, Sgl or Dbl 90 or 120, Sgl or Dbl w. shower 170 or 200 / HW outside


Where to eat ? At the night market, watching singers, even so it looks designed more for tourists than local people. Otherwise, a small restaurant at the corner of Ratanaket and Utarakit offers a basic & spicy dinner buffet for B20.

Internet ? The basic cost here is B30 per hour. Two places for example in the bus station area, opposite Wang Come Hotel

Change ? The small exchange box of the Siam Commercial Bank on Phahonyothin Rd, near Bus Station and next to Boot's shop (open 8:30 to 21:30) was offering the best rate. Shop around.

Backpacker's Tips : Amtrak Amtrakker, Australia (April 03)  
« Chan GH is a pleasant place to stay in Chiang Rai and has single rooms for 70THB with fan. Nicer option is Kae GH around the corner for 125/175THB for single/double with fan - share toilet/shower for both GH. Kae GH also has best internet access in all the places I've been to in Thailand for 20THB an hour. Good night market nearby as well.
A one day overnight circuit can be done from Chiang Rai to Golden Triangle. Take p.m. bus to Mae Sai (every 15 -20 minutes - 25THB - 1.5 hours). Mae Sai a typical border town, stayed at Mae Sai Plaza GH with some very rickety, wooden looking buildings, but clean enough and fantastic views over into Myanmar - 100THB single with en-suite and fan. Main street seems to act as night market, although lot of stalls close by sun-down. Still $5 to enter Myanmar for the day.
First songthaew to Sop Ruak (Golden Triangle) leaves at 9a.m. 30THB. The opium museum at Sop Ruak -20THB is excellent and informative, plus there are good views of the junction of the Mae Ruak and Mekong Rivers from the neighbouring wat. Sop Ruak extremely touristy and over-priced - seem to be more signs for Golden Triangle than trees! Plus the noisy speed-boats don't give any tranquility to the place.
Songthaew to Chiang Saen costs 10THB - a dusty sleep town but with lots of ruined wats to explore. There is a good museum showing the relics and antiquities on the western edge of town - 30THB. Buses back to Chiang Rai run every 15-20 minutes for 25THB.
Buses to Chiang Khong from Chiang Rai leave on the hour and take various times so check information boards. Bus from platform #18 took 2.25 hours and cost 42THB. The 7.a.m. departure got me to Chiang Khong at 9.15, then a 5 minute tuk-tuk ride (20THB) to the immigration post. 15 minutes to clear Thai immigration (queue of backpackers already there). 5 minute for crossing Mekong, and then 30 minutes to be processed into Lao and to change money.
»

Backpacker's Tips : Burt Blackburn (Sept 00)  
« French dinner and film party every Friday evening at the Alliance Francaise. I think that anyone would be interested. Actually, about half the attendees when I have been there were not Francophones. It is a good party, the food is great (and a nice change when only Thai food is available for so long). They usually offer two different set French meals for about 150 baht. Not that I do not like Thai food, but I do like variety ! The movie is free and has English subtitles. / Address: Contact: Guy Heidelberger / Alliance Française de Chiang Rai  1075/6 Moo 1  Rajayotha Road Soi 1 Chiang Mai 57000  Tel. (053) 600 810 / email: guyh@gmx.net  »

    Alliance Francaise in Chiang Rai

Bus Schedules :

To Price Class Duration Time Nb Freq.
Mae Chan 10 fan 45mn 6 to 18 a lot 15mn
Mae Sai 20 fan 1.5 6 to 18 a lot 15mn
Chiang Saen 20 fan 1.5 6 to 18 a lot 15mn
Chiang Khong 37 fan 2.5 6:30 to 17 a few hour
Phayao 30 fan 2 8 to 15 a few hour
Nan 90 fan 5 to 6 9:30 1 na
Lampang 71 fan 5 5:20 to 15 a lot 20mn
Chiang Mai 66/119 fan/ac 4 6:30,9:45,12,15:15,17:30/8:30 to 17 5 / + na / hr
Mae sot 176/246 fan/ac 10 7:20/9:20 2 na
Bangkok 229-241 fan 11 16,17:30,17:45,18:15,20 5 na

Notes : To Mae Chan, change at Mae Sai intersection for Tha Ton & Mae salong / To Chiang Khong, also via Thoeng (5 to 17:45, every 45mn, B46, 3 hrs) / Connection from Phayao to Nan (B60, 3 hrs) / To Bangkok, also ac2 (B321), ac1 (B412) & VIP (B640) at around 8:00 or evening


The trip to Tha Ton : SSSSS / B200 / around 5 hrs / boat 
OK, most people are doing the trip the other way, downriver from Tha Ton. Going up, you will not stop along the way to buy drinks in the villages but it will take longer and you will have room for your legs as the boat can be near empty. Boats leave at 10:30 from the bridge after Dusit Island (B20 from town).
Let's be honest : I did not test the above. I had done the trip downriver a few years ago (see comments at Tha Ton section) and was not in the mood to spend 200B to do it again. Also, I thought that the bus would be much faster. It was but by two hours only. Indeed, going there is a bit tricky : you first take a bus to Mae Chan (B10, 45mn), then wait at the Mae Sai intersection (restaurants and wood benches) for a songthaew to show up (every 30mn in theory) and drive you up to the Mae Salong intersection (B20, 40mn) from where you finally take a yellow songthaew to That Ton (B20, 40mn). Ouf ! On the positive points, the road is superb as well and you travel off the track with tribes people alongside small villages. 

See also the trip from Nan