Chiang Rai, Thailand is a land all on its own. Just outside of Chiang Mai, it is a smaller and less touristy city. It is in the northern most part of Thailand and is referred to as the “Golden Triangle”. Founded in 1262, it is know for it mountainous region and large green spaces.
While I’m sure there are many great places to stay, I loved The Four Seasons Hotel. It has this amazing traditional Thai design aesthetic to it that is breathtaking.
When you get to Chiang Rai though, make sure to get a tour guide to show you around the area. However, don’t let them trick you into going to Mi Kong River. While it is supposed to be a “must see” in Chiang Rai, I found it to be very touristy and not worth the trip.
There were three places I went to, though, that I absolutely loved: the White Temple, Black House, and Botanical Garden. The White Temple is a Buddhist temple that was built by Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat, a teacher and artist. He has dedicated his life to building this temple and has ensured that the work on it continue long after he passes.
The entire temple is pure white and if you look closer, it is designed with tiny mirrors all over it. When it is sunny and bright out, the building almost appears blinding to the eye.
Just beyond the White Temple, you’ll come to the Black House or ‘Baan Dam’. Besides the fact that the outside of the house is covered in black wood, it definitely got its name for a reason.
Built by Thawan Duchanee, Kositpipat’s former student, the inside of the house has a unique style that is quite eerie to the eyes. The items used as décor are skulls, bones, skins and furs of different animals (elephants, tigers, bears, and more).
The design used in these rooms is very creative and unique. Though the skulls and bones may not be something you necessarily want to use in your own home, the overall visuals of each room is something you can’t take your eye off of. (Something I always strive for in my own designs)
The third place I would highly suggest to go in Chiang Rai is the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden. Chiang Rai is known for their Poinsettias and Orchids and this Botanical Garden does not disappoint.
The gardens are located on land that was originally the Akha village of Pa Kluay. This village was used as a route for illegal activities until the Doi Tung Development Project took over and relocated the village. After the relocation, the Princess Mother wanted a place atop the mountains for Thai people, who have never travelled overseas before, to go to enjoy a temperate flower garden.
There are many different areas within the gardens: tropical, temperate and desert plants. You’ll also see a fern house, cactus house and rock garden. The Botanical Gardens are so beautiful you could spend an entire day just wandering around.
One of the beauties of Chiang Rai is the different buildings that you’ll find. My favorite is the one below with an entire exterior wall built of broken ceramic pieces. How creative!
The architecture and design of the buildings I came across in Chiang Rai are what I found most pleasing. Each building was so unique on its own and you could literally spend hours at each location. Chiang Rai’s sites are so distinctive; it is definitely a city I recommend visiting.