You somehow found yourself halfway around the world in the northern regions of Thailand and now are wondering the best way to get around. The answer to that my friends is always to SCOOTER! They are cheap to rent, even cheaper to fix if you have an off, and can be literally found on every street corner for rent. If you have 2 days to spare in Chiang Rai then I highly suggest grabbing one, or two in my case (with Nickle), and explore the surrounding area.
Our hostel (Stay In Chiang Rai) had a connection with a scooter rental place nearby so it made that process extremely easy. I will note that being such a bigger gent than Nickle, weighing in at 80 kilos, having the smaller scoot was not a great idea! Waivers signed, deposits made, and tanks filled we consulted Matthew (our hostel owner) about what to see and do. The list we compiled looked hefty but definitely doable so off we went on our 48 hour adventure!
Day 1 Itinerary:
Day 2 Itinerary:
WAT RONG KHUN (The White Temple)
There has been a lot of hype around this temple since people started posting on #IG a couple of years ago. Naturally the hype caught my interest and so I jotted it down on my never ending “list.” After arriving and fending off busloads of tourist groups we planted ourselves in front of the walkway. The ever famous walkway I might happily add – to feel the HYPE.
Aside from the incredibly well done artwork in the front, the main temple and everything behind it was still being worked on, I DIDN’T FEEL MUCH else. I think the area is so well caught up in its own fame that it didn’t live up to anything, not to me at least, other than a place to take a photo for one’s social feed.
Not everyone will agree with me on this and that is OK. There are plenty of other temples in Thailand that has so much more to offer. But that doesn’t necessarily make the White Temple any less magnificent. Everyone has their own cup of tea for that very reason.
Khun Korn Waterfall
From the White Temple we made way towards Khun Korn waterfall. The roads leading to the park was some of the best paved twisties I have ridden! Based off of this I knew we would be in for a treat as the road took us farther into the mountains. Once parked we searched for signs in order to figure out which way to traverse. It was quiet with only one car and a few other scooters littering about. Another good sign.
1400M the signed informed us to the waterfall. In my imperial mindset I thought this couldn’t be far, oh was I wrong. You will have to do a short hike to get there, but hey anything easy won’t be worth having, am I right? The time blew by quickly as Nickle and I shared more stories about life back home, both personal and work.
Use these opportunities to get to know your travel mates – you wont be disappointed.
I could hear the roar of the water rushing downwards, eventually crashing into the rocks below becoming louder and louder. Khun Korn Waterfall finally came into view. The path leading up to it could be described as magical. There was only one other couple there aside from our dynamic duo. Before we ascended to the base the said couple was gone, poof into thin air. We basically had the whole place to ourselves!
It was something to be cherished, indefinitely. I am glad to have shared such a moment with as cool a cat as Nickle. We hung out there for 30 minutes to an hour or so, chopping it up, looking back at the falls, dipping our toes in, listening to it roar. You could swim here but it being so early in the day the water was a little bit on the chilly side.
Not soon after our hike back towards the scooters did we run into a van full of typical British tourists adorning their bathing suits. I can only smile ear to ear knowing we dodged a bullet by going so early and skipping out on the hordes that followed. The magic of having something to yourself, even for a little bit, is never to be taken for granted.
BREAK FOR LUNCH
We saw a few riverside restaurants that had tables set up ON THE WATER on our way to the fall. On our way back we made sure we made a pitstop for lunch. Gems like this, eating on a river, are hard to pass up. The food you ask? Great! The experience? Priceless.
WAT RONG SEUR TEN (The Blue Temple)
Filled from lunch it was onwards to the infamous Blue Temple in Chiang Rai. By now it was prime tourist hour so don’t expect much in terms of elbow space. The temple was free to enter, a nice surprise! I hadn’t read much about the Blue Temple besides the fact that it was entirely constructed in different shades of, you guessed it, blue.
We didn’t spend much time here to be honest, more of a pit shop before our next destination, the Black House. If you go during off hours, super early or later in the evening, the vibes could be better, so keep that in mind.
BAAN DAM (The Black House)
By now I think you can deduce the theme for Day 1 of scootering around Chiang Rai (White Temple, Blue Temple, Black House — colorful), ha! Baan Dam was a museum unlike the temples we have been to earlier in the day. By no means is it just a house as the compound stretches far and wide, a collection of a dozen or so buildings.
The Black House, as it’s aptly known, is a collection of wood buildings featuring works by Thawan Duchanee & other contemporary Thai artists. Wandering the grounds you’ll see things from the normal to outrageous. A lot of skinned alligators and giant wooden chairs stood out to me. The place itself is worth the visit as Duchanee is one of Thailands more prolific … sculptors I want to say?
After we made the rounds at the Black House a question came up and needed much addressing. We had two more locations we wanted to visit but the sun was quick to set so what do we do? Nickle said if we rushed we can make both location, barely. I interjected and reasoned with him that if we rushed we won’t be able to enjoy either place. Instead we decided to visit ONE place and take our time. We chose quality over quantity. Something people forget to do on the daily while they’re traveling.
WAT HUAY PLA KUNG
Matthew told us of a GIANT Buddha (which is actually a representation of the goddess of Mercy) overlooking some majestic hills that would make for a killer sunset. Being the suckers for sunsets that we are we made our last stop for Day 1 to Wat Huay Pla Kung. Note that you CANNOT take public transit to this location so you either have to hire a tuk tuk driver, go on a tour, or rent scooters like we did!
On the grounds you will find three structures, the statue of the goddess of Mercy, a nine level pagoda in which you can ascend, as we did, and also a white hall lined with marble in any direction you look. We spent ample time at all three starting with the pagoda, white hall, and then the statue perched atop a hill. The views were incredible with the golden sun setting in the background, casting the ubiquitous yellow glow upon everything it touched.
Entrance is free to all three but if you wanted to ascend the statue it will be 40 Thai baht. The crowds weren’t too bad here if we were to be honest. The grounds are so big that you most likely wont run into another soul for a little bit. We headed back once the sun was past the horizon, a good end to Day 1.
We saved the farthest destinations for Day 2. I am glad we did considering we didn’t have to rush to get the scooters in the morning. With some toast, fruits, and coffee in our system we mounted our trusty steeds and headed north.
I want to point out the usefulness of having an INTERNATIONAL license when you’re abroad. Nothing is worse than having to be stopped by authorities and then having to bribe them off because you don’t have paperwork. Trust me that this happens!
TEA PLANTATION 101 DOI MAE SALONG
Nickle is a big tea drinker so it made sense that we hit up a few tea plantation while this far north in Thailand. If the roads yesterday was the main course then the mountainous ones we traversed this day was dessert. It was insane how amazing they were, and me being a motorcycle enthusiast, took full advantage of ripping loudly through them. We did have about 50km until we got to the plantation so plenty of shenanigans were had!
The plantation was a dead zone when we arrived a little past 11am. Not one single vehicle in sight as we parked our scooters. Eerily quiet is how I would put it but alas we dismounted and made way towards the vista lined with rows of tea bushes. We explored the grounds a little bit, soaking in the meticulously kept rows upon rows. Eventually we headed inside the little cafe where we were met with a pleasant surprise.
In it housed a Thai woman plucking chilis for what seemed was dinner service. We approached her and scared her half to death. What can we say, we’re ninjas like that. She sat us down at the long table filled with tea bags, cups, and a plethora of other knick knacks I couldn’t make out. She quickly assembled all the instruments for a tea tasting, the pleasant surprise I had mentioned earlier.
I have never had a tea tasting so I was ecstatic to give this a go and she knew it from my enthusiasm. She prepared three varieties of tea from a darker, more earthy flavor, to a lighter colored, more oolong type and finished off with one of the best matcha teas I ever tasted. Watching her work her hands was quite a scene, one that I enjoyed very much. Her movements precise and well choreographed. Her knowledge of the process impressed me much, even though we couldn’t communicate with her our gratitude.
Oh we also picked up some matcha tea packets for 100 baht, it was that good!
CHOUI FONG TEA FARM
After that tea experience we went onwards towards the next tea farm: Choui Fong Tea Farm. This one was a little tricky to find, for us at least. It took a little while to get to as we made plenty of pit stops to soak in the mountain views. These roads up here were amazing but also treacherous if you are not familiar with a scooter. So get familiar!
Choui Fong Tea Farm is BIG! It has two cafes set apart from each other atop hills with a building solely for team building exercises. We went to cafe one for some lunch and of course tea, what else. The setting was that of some posh shindig you wouldn’t expect a tea farm but would need a tux and tie to get in. Nickle was giddy as he is an architect admiring how the building was constructed. I will admit I was taken aback as well, it was truly a modern piece of art.
This place didn’t seem to offer a tea tasting as the last plantation we visited but the views were incredible! The food here wasn’t bad to boot either, both relishing in some more western fare. You can enjoy a nice breeze sitting inside the cafe because it has no WALLS whatsoever! Cafe one housed a koi pond as well as a deck you can look out to the rows of tea bushes. The pond was a nice touch and it had maybe the biggest koi I have seen to date! The deck overlooking the whole shebang was an opportunity for many to take a photo for social media.
We honestly lost track of time here as we just enjoyed the view. Sometimes it’s best to just slow it way down. No regrets.
Our final stop on our two day adventure on scooters brought us to Doi Tung deep in the Thai highlands. By now we were mere kilometers away from the Myanmar border! This boggled my mind as to how far we have ridden that day. Anyone up for a visa run? Ha!
Doi Tung houses the Mae Fah Luang Garden as well as the tree top walk, both of which I wanted to see. It does cater more towards the touristy crowds, with food vendors outside its gates with their offerings. When we got there we were informed that the tree top walk was about to close and we had MINUTES to rush over before it does. I have never ran so much in my life to walk among tall trees!
Luckily we made it just in time to get strapped up for the last walk. If you have a fear of heights this is the perfect place to conquer them, as I told myself over and over again. The tree top walk provided some great views of Doi Tung and you also get to zip line from one platform to the next, another fear conquering moment, albeit a small one, for this guy!
Once back on solid ground we explored the garden with its plentiful array of colors. The park was quiet at this time, nice and peaceful once the crowds have left for the day. It’s a very great place if you want to take your family, I would highly recommend this for kids.
NOTE: that the admission for the tree top walk is not included with the admission of the park so be prepared for that!
Day 2 was wrapping up with the sun setting fast over the mountains. We had a lot of KMs to cover if we were to make it back for dinner time and the long awaited Thai massage to ease our bodies! 48 hours, two scooters, and numerous memories made later that is how you should spend your time in Chiang Rai!