I can’t tell you much about Chiang Rai. We used it as a stop off point between Chiang Mai in North West Thailand and Northern Laos. We visited just so we could see the White Temple.
‘Known as the White Temple, Wat Rong Khun…is the artistic vision of noted Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat. The temple has a stunning whitewashed facade and several avant-garde sculpture installations representing Buddhist principals. Contemporary historic scenes as well as pop culture references have replaced the typical images of village life and Buddha figures found in temple murals.’ (Lonely Planet: South East Asia on a Shoestring, 2014)
The temple as a whole is striking. The white walls are dappled with small square mirrors. The bridge up to the temple is wrought with scary, torturous images but shortly after you progress through to imagery of calmness and tranquility. Inside the actual temple there were men painting over some images. It was bright, colourful and modern. On one wall minions, superman, rocket ships and other modern images were painted discreetly.
The toilet blocks were the fanciest I’ve ever seen in my life. The temple is definitely worth a trip if in North Thailand. A sawngteaw might cost about twenty baht per person one way from the town centre.
In the town it’s worth a trip to the clock tower as it emits music and lights up in varying colours every evening. I was also given a free fresh coconut water for good luck after my friend bought one off a lady in the market.