Chiang Rai and on to Laos

We moved on to Chiang Rai, from Pai, to take a step closer to the border with Laos. Chiang Rai is closely-related to the fantastic Chiang Mai, like a little brother, so we had high hopes.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Exterior of one of the temples in Chiang Rai

Unfortunately, it rained consistently for the few days we were there so no trekking or motorbike exploration….and we found the town itself to have little of the personality of its big brother.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Intricate work extends outside the temples

Our highlights of Chiang Rai were a couple of lovely temples, one with a fantastic museum; a huge labyrinth of a day market stuffed full of fresh foods and haphazard collections of dry goods and a pleasing night market (but with the same sort of jewellery, clothes and ornaments that we had seen many times elsewhere). We also had cause to visit a local hospital, which proved successful.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

A rather glorious Buddha in a Chiang Rai temple

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Rear of the Emerald Buddha replica at Wat Phra Kaew. This most sacred of Buddha images first resided in Sri Lanka, followed by Cambodia at Angkor Wat, then Ayutthaya. Chiang Rai from 1391 to 1436, then Chiang Mai, onto Laos, and Bangkok since 1678.

Chiang Rai has some very touristy-looking restaurants, alongside the traditional local eateries with their glass cabinets and cooking stations virtually on the pavement. We found the quality of food to be hit-and-miss, unlike everywhere else in Thailand, which had been consistently good. A splendid bowl of chicken noodles, however, was found down an unattractive side alley.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Wonderful or hideous? A question that could be applied to some of the more lurid decorations around a lot of the temples. More on the wonderful side in the flesh!

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

The Saeng Kaeo museum at Wat Phra Kaew. Two stories of wonderful artifacts and historical pieces.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Statue in Saeng Kaeo museum at Wat Phra Kaew

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Another fine seated buddha in the museum

We luckily found a nice hotel with wi-fi and sheltered in our room and planned the next stage of our trip – the journey to Laos, as we were ready to leave. Other than the splendid temples, we struggle to recommend a visit to Chiang Rai but no doubt didn’t see it as it’s best.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Ganesha, God of the Arts

So, we got on the bus and headed to the border town of Chiang Khong, situated alongside the Mekhong river. We were going to stay overnight in Chiang Khong and then do the crossing in the morning…but on a whim, we thought let’s just go for it and go to Laos. We got a tuk tuk to the small border post and then a small boat 5 minutes across the river to Huay Xai. We were in Laos! The passport and visa admin was satisfyingly quick and efficient. We double-checked we got the exit stamp from Thailand and that our visa on arrival in Laos had the correct time period of 28 days.

 Chiang Rai and on to Laos

Bronze drum known as a frog drum or rain drum, originating from Vietnam, 5th century BC, used in ritual ceremonies.

For some reason we hoped the weather would be different; it wasn’t. We spent an afternoon and night in pouring rain and freezing cold temperatures (more like a bitter English winter than a Laos hot-season). We sipped on our first Lao coffee – wow! – deep, rich, and a luxurious helping of sweet condensed milk.



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