If you think you have come a long way north up to Chiang Mai, think again. There is a whole bunch of attractions further to the north in Chiang Rai district. In your recent search of Chiang Mai, you must have seen the awe-inspiring white temple with the background of clear blue sky. Yes, welcome to Chiang Rai. And to be truthful, the white temple is just the cherry on the top in this 400+ kilometer day travel. Let me tell you how it went on my day
Also see: Best of Chiang Mai in 5 days
The scariest part: getting up at 5. As the tour is very long, as we had to travel almost 200 kilometers in hilly roads, that too under construction in some parts, I had to start from Chaing Mai at 7:00. When I was ready for my breakfast, Thai, my driver for the day, was already waiting in the hotel lobby. I could swallow my breakfast in a few minutes (thanks my hotel had buffet breakfast so I didn’t have to wait) and start soon
After an hour or so, when I was almost compensating my sleep deficiency from last night, Thai stopped at a hot spring.
Ahh.. Definitely not something I was eagerly waiting for. However, he was driving for some time and it is good time to give him some time to stretch his legs. So I got down and went to it. Hot water coming out in a well. It was boiling, not sure naturally or artificially. Locals were selling eggs that one can pour in the hot spring water boil them. They also built a nice garden in the back, nice to spend couple of minutes.
Worrying part is that, a huge number of buses are parked in the hot string area, which are surely going to the most attractive part of the tour: Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple. So we didn’t spend much time at the spring and started moving quickly,
After about another hour driving, we finally reached it: Wat Rong Khun. The White Temple I was dreaming since my first day of planning. What a beauty she is! Surely, the place in practice is not as dreamy as it looks in pictures, thanks to hundreds of tourists (yes, I am one of them), but it cannot reduce the magnificence of the temple.
Unlike most temples in Thailand, which are golden, this one is stunningly white. Made with porcelain and decorated with pieces of glass, the temple was glittering in the bright day light.
Most travel bloggers will suggest you to reach early to avoid crowd, but believe me, it is not possible unless you are staying nearby. The surrounding are not yet developed much that one can spend a couple of night in, especially those who are in tight schedule like me.
By the time I completely indulged in the beauty of the temple, it was time for lunch. Thai took me to a very nice (you guessed it right: also very expensive) restaurant in a tea garden. The day was bright, and long time in the white temple almost caused a sunburn. The cool breeze from the mountain really helped when I was waiting for my food. Food was drink. So was the drink, and the stuff. After an hour, I was again ready to move. Although, the main attraction was done, there were still quite a number of places to see in the district.
We then went to Baan Dam Museum or the black house. An art museum and souvenir shop. From the crowd, I can see the place is quite common, though not my type of place. I spent about half an hour and asked Thai to start for the Blue Temple.
Wat Rong Suae Ten or the blue temple is another impressive temple, built by the students of the white temple. As the name suggests, the temple is painted with blue color and decorated with golden jewelry, giving it a contrastive appearance. Although smaller in area than the white temple, it also exhibits impressive Thai art in all its parts.
After the blue temple, I was ready to call it a day. But Thai had more surprises for me.
On my way back from the blue temple, I was able to locate a huge Buddha idol from a distance and was wondering what it was. To my surprise, Thai turned the car towards it and before I knew anything, I was in front of Wat Huay Pla Kang, a temple complex with three temples.
First, I went to the 9-storey pagoda, where one can climb the stairs to see form of Bodhisattva. In the center of the pagoda standing is Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion and mercy.
Beside the pagoda, there is the white hall, quite some steps ahead. From the base of the steps, mini-buses take people to the base of the large white statue commonly called Chiang Rai’s Big Buddha. The bus ride is free of cost. There is also stair to climb to the statue, but after the day, I preferred the ride.
When I was wondering how the temple administration recover the cost of building the statue and maintenance, I finally found my answer. There is elevator that took me to the top of it and I was practically inside the head of Guan Yin. From there I can look upon the valley through his third eye. Impressive. And that costs 40THB. The inside is also decorated with white dragonheads and other statues. The modern day art is making the place very famous quite fast.
There, a stunning sunset was waiting for me. Then I climbed down another most beautiful stairs I saw in Thailand.
That concluded my one day tour in Chaing Rai. When I finally started from Wat Huay Pla Kang, it was already getting dark. I had another 4 hours drive left for the day which I mostly spent sleeping. Whenever I was looking outside, I gleaming full moon was greeting me for taking this awesome tour for my last day in Chaing Mai.