Chiang Rai city, Chiang Rai province, Thailand - Miasto Chiang Rai, prowincja Chiang Rai, Tajlandia

Chiang Rai – The City

Chiang Rai is the capital city of the Thailand’s northernmost province of the same name. It’s probably one of the best places to live in Thailand (in my humble opinion – I’ve spent here two beautiful years). The city’s population is about 70,000. You won’t find tall skyscrapers here, everything is spread out on a huge area and has more of a “huge village” feel rather than a “city” feel.

The climate here is much more comfortable than the one in central or southern Thailand. In fact, it can be really cold in winter! I remember crazy situations when the thermometer was showing over 20 degrees Celsius, yet the wind was so strong and cold that we wore jumpers and jackets and it was still very cold. At night, the temperature can drop down to just few degrees above zero.

As I already mentioned, the city is quite spread out and the best way to get around is by bicycle or motorbike. The city centre is rather modest – but still there are a few sights worth seeing – The Temple of Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), the Clock Tower and the colourful Night Bazaar.

Perhaps you have heard about the famous Temple of Emerald Buddha located on the grounds of Grand Palace in Bangkok. Well, this Emerald Buddha (in Thai: พระแก้วมรกต) was discovered in Chiang Rai, Lanna kingdom in 1434. A lightning storm truck a temple where the Buddha image was kept. The statue felt down and became chipped. It turned out that the figure was covered with stucco. Upon removing all of the stucco, the monks discovered a perfectly made Buddha image from a solid piece of green jade (not emerald as the name suggests – “emerald” in Thai simply means “of green colour”). The statue was never closely examined by experts, therefore the exact composition and origin is unknown. It was probably crafted around XIV century in Thailand, but it can also come from India or Sri Lanka. The Emerald Buddha has changed its location a number of times – from Chang Rai it was transported to Lampang, later to Chiang Mai, then Luang Prabang (currently Laos), Vientiane (Laos) and eventually Bangkok, where it stays until this day. The Buddha image in Chiang Rai is an exact copy of the original.

On the grounds of the Temple of Emerald Buddha in Chiang Rai there is also a small yet interesting museum. The green Buddha pavilion is quite small but nicely done and the green-coloured glasses make quite a unique feeling about the place.

The Clock Tower seems to be located in the very centre of the city, not too far from the above mentioned temple. It was designed by a famous Thai artist Chalermchai Khositpipat (who comes from the area and also designed the very famous Wat Rong Khun – the White Temple) and is quite incredible. Everyday at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 in the evening the Tower plays a music and is changing colours. There is also an extra show at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

The Night Bazaar is a great place where one can eat well and cheap, buy souvenirs (or other useful things) and even watch the shows on the stage. Sometimes those are the traditional dances of northern Thailand, sometimes drag queen shows (lady-boy) and other times a local musician makes our time pass more pleasantly by playing good songs.

Chiang Rai city (A – Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of Emerald Buddha, B – Clock Tower, C – Night Bazaar)

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