Guest post and pictures by Jen Curcio, founder of Decisive Cravings

Chiang Rai is Chiang Mai’s quieter cousin, and if you are looking for a break from Bangkok, Chiang Rai is the perfect green paradise. Chiang Rai offers cooler weather (both day and night), more of a small town feeling, plenty of temples and above all fairly uninterrupted nature.

For a green change and a bit of quiet, Chiang Rai is well worth the trek up to Thailand’s far north. After a number of visits to the area, here are some of my favourite things to see, eat and do.


Nangnon Coffee – Jetyod Rd, Tambon Wiang, Chiang Rai

Apart from Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai also boasts some of Thailand’s best coffee, locally grown. At Nangnon Coffee you are literally drinking bean to cup, as the management use and roast the beans from their own farm. The cafe itself is relatively small but is ideal for groups of up to four. They offer breakfast and lunch but I highly recommend trying their coffee – one of the better Americanos going round. If their darker roast style resonates with you, they sell their beans by the bag to take away, as well as a range of teas which are perfect souvenirs (flavours include butterfly pea and bael fruit.)

Barrab – Thanon Baanpa Pragarn Rd, Tambon Wiang

Barrab is one of the most well rated restaurants in Chiang Rai and for good reason. A bite of their food and you will understand how much time and effort goes into each dish, they are closed on Saturdays just to make all the sauces that accompany certain menu items. A family run business, Barrab run a tight ship – consistency and service are commonplace. During mango season they serve some of the best mango sticky rice and mango shakes – and stop serving when the mangoes are no longer in their peak (no chemically grown mangoes here!). In terms of food offerings you should try the BBQ chicken salad (hard to share), the traditional north easter style sausage (made at their factory) along with the khao soi (curry noodle soup traditional of the north). This is a great spot for a low-key lunch or dinner, and very group friendly.

Chivit Thamma Da – 179 Soi 3, Rimkok, Chiang Rai

Overlooking the Kok river, Chivit Thamma Da is a stunning place to while away some time, alone or with company. The most striking thing about Chivit Thamma Da is the building it’s housed in – a huge colonial style white mansion flanked by smaller adjoining buildings. As you step through the main entrance into the restaurant the beauty continues with antiques scattered throughout, a wonderful deck outside and a few outdoor tables canopied by trees and edged with beautiful plants, flowers and bushes.

The menu at Chivit Thamma Da is extensive and impressive, a mixture of Western and local fare, including some Scandinavian dishes – a nod to the owners husband. Supporters of the Slow Food movement, many of the ingredients sourced are locally produced in the Chiang Rai area, you can read more about the business’s responsible efforts here. From breakfast to an early dinner, Chivit is a fabulous setting to feast on local, responsible fare with Western sensibilities, or a simple coffee with a slice of one of their vast selection of cakes.

Chiang Rai Travel Guide


Khun Korn Waterfall – Highway 1208 , Mae Kon, Chiang Rai

This is one of my favourite things to do when in Chiang Rai and it’s free! A short 30 minute leisurely walk through the lush Khun Korn Forest Park will lead you to its jewel, the Khun Korn Waterfall. During rainy season there will be more than enough water to go for a dip, alternatively you can rest on boulder rocks nearby to take in all the surrounding beauty.

Baan Dam/The Black House – Nang Lae, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai

Baan Dam or The Black House is probably one of the most curious museums I’ve ever been to. For those of you familiar with MONA in Hobart Australia, Baan Dam feels like a well suited exhibit. Created by the late Thai national artist Thawan Duchanee, the museum is a collection of 40 Lanna style buildings filled with dark and sometimes disturbing artefacts like bones and crocodile skins. Despite the macabre feeling evoked, it is a must see while in Chiang Rai.

Wat Rong Khun/ The White Temple – San Sai, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai

No visit to Chiang Rai is complete without a visit to The White Temple, a former temple rebuilt after a state of disrepair by artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The main exhibit and building is majestic and a true work of art  peppered with religious symbolism throughout its design.

Chiang Rai Travel Guide


Bambuh Boutique Homestay – Rural Road Chiang Rai 3303, Tambon Nang Lae, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat, Chiang Rai

About a 15 -20 minute car ride from the town’s centre, Bambuh Boutique Homestay is an absolute haven for travellers in need of a good dose of nature and rest. The homestay is a collection of rooms across one plot of land and two properties – both giving a generous view of the surrounding green beauty and contained garden. There is something so relaxing about the rooms and property that it’s hard to place, but I put it down to the remoter location and quiet. On our recent stay pineapples were sprouting from the ground, and fire flies glowed floating in the night.

The hosts Da, and Mark are incredibly friendly and helpful always offering a hand and information about the area and things to do.

Chiang Rai Travel Guide


Doy Din Dang Pottery – Nang Lae, Mueang Chiang Rai District

About a 10 minute drive from Bambuh Boutique Homestay is Din Dang Pottery, a stunning property, ceramic factory and outlet. After a brief walk of the property I highly recommend picking up a ceramic treasure or two to take home. There are two to three rooms that house ceramics at very good prices.

 The Roast – Rop Wiang, 124/3, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai

Apart from Nangnon Coffee, The Roast is another terrific place to get your caffeine hit. They are somewhat slightly more commercial than Nangnon, with a much vaster offering of take home packs, and roasts including the very handy pre-packaged drip filter bags. The attractive packaging (and flavour of the coffee – also local) make for great gifts to take to friends back home.

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