Venturing north in Thailand with my sister, we decided to jump straight off the night bus to Chiang Mai, and onto a bus bound for Chiang Rai. Unfortunately, even though we arrived at 6am, the buses had sold out until 10.30. For future reference, the McDonald’s at Chiang Mai bus station is great…we charged our phones, used the WiFi, and of course got breakfast hash browns.
The bus to Chiang Rai costs 129 baht (about £3) and takes three hours, with a quick stop along the way, where’s there’s plenty of fresh fruit to buy for the second half of the drive. It stops at Chiang Rai bus terminal out of the main area you’ll be wanting, so stay on and be dropped off right in the heart of it.
We stayed at Mercy Hostel, which is hands down one of the nicest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. For 250 baht a night (£6) it was amazing. The staff were super helpful, the bathrooms are fantastic, with more toilets and showers than I’ve ever seen in a hostel. The rooms are really clean, with king single mattresses that are the most comfortable I’ve ever slept on in a hostel! It’s set around a pool area, with a black temple across the back fence. There’s a decent kitchen, and a great chill out communal area. It earned its high rating on Hostelworld for a reason!
We rented a scooter from the hostel, which was 200 baht for 24 hours. It was almost out of petrol, so we screamed and laughed our way to the petrol station. Traffic rules are pretty much just merge carefully and give way to anything bigger than you. You just have to set out confidently, which was something it took a while to master!
Petrol sorted, we did some laps of town, and found the night bazaar and the fresh market. A giant avocado set us back 20 baht, and was absolutely perfect inside. So much fresh fruit, and interesting bugs and meat to look at.
We got up early to head to the White Temple, which is called Wat Rong Khun. Turns out my navigation wasn’t quite up to scratch. Half an hour in, I was sure we should almost be there. I pulled over, turns out I’d taken the wrong fork, and we were further south in a different direction, than even the temple was. Opps! I’m glad I was brought up with making the most of the scenic route. A Thai man stopped to ask if we were ok, so kind! We told him we were just lost, he laughed with us, and back we went.
Finally arriving at the White Temple, we tucked into a black bean bun to keep us going. I’d read online that you don’t have to be covered for the temple, since it’s not a proper temple. Ignore that, you do! Decked in our beautiful new wrap arounds, courtesy of the shop outside, we paid the 50 baht entrance fee and explored. It’s such a beautiful mix of religion and art, but like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Marvel mixed with Buddha was incredible. I can see why people make the trek to Chiang Rai. Even the toilets are golden!
We had planned to visit the Singha Park as well, complete with zebras and giraffes, but my navigation meant we didn’t have time. We checked out, and got food before we got on the bus. Accidentally managed to order a culinary wonder, for 35 baht. It was super spicy, and I’ve done some research since to find out it was a Chiang Mai delicacy, Kao Soi.
We got the bus back to Chiang Mai without any problems, it even left on time! If you’re headed to Chiang Rai, definitely stay at the Mercy Hostel. And I’m sure you’ll be going to the White Temple, I don’t have to tell you twice. It was nice to be somewhere less touristy after staying in Khao San Road in Bangkok. I’m sure you’ll appreciate it too!