What is this feeling as I exit the night bus after a 10 hour ride? No, it´s cold! The first time since I first arrived in Thailand. It is freezing. No wonder, we are in the mountains, almost in Myanmar. The girl next to me on the minibus is shivering. Should I offer her my jacket? We are driving towards the city centre of Chiang Rai and temperatures begin to rise. I look around: So this ist Chiang Rai. I am pleasently surprised: A lot of shops and restaurants but barely any traffic. What a relief after the smog-infested streets of Bangkok. I walk to my accommodation, the Sook Hostel, which is clean, spacious, has a small kitchen, free drinking water and a scooter rental.
After a short nap on the bean bag I head out to explore my surroundings. First thing I am interested in are the prices. Here on the main street I am offered a meal for 80 Baht (2,5 USD). Not particularly expensive, but more than I expected from the cheap north of Thailand. It is later that I find out that you can easily score a meal for 40 Baht.
The best spot for a midnight snack, I soon learn, ist the Night Market, a busy bazaar full of vendors and food stalls. If you can fry it, you will find it here – chicken, prawns, spring rolls… and all for just 30 Baht. Not bad!
On my first day-stroll I am positively surprised. Just walk a few steps outside the city and you will forget that you are in one of the busiest hubs of the province. Everything is lush and green, and quiet. The birds are chirping and nobody is bothering you. Luckily, the north of Thailand is yet to be infested with tourists. A few backpackers come here, most of them on their way to Laos. Of course all this laid-back atmosphere comes with a price. The night-life options are pretty limited, at least compared to Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and the like. But after a few nights near the Khaosan Road, it could not be quiet enough for me.
I pass one of Chiang Rai´s most iconic landmarks: the Clock Tower. It is nice to look at, however, the Clock Tower looks bigger in the pictures. But what doesn´t… After that I pass some beautiful temples that I plan to visit when I am dressed more modestly (with a T-Shirt instead of a jersey, that is).
Bevor I go back to check in to my room, I stumble upon a small museum. The Residence of former Prime Minister Phibulsongkram sports and idyllic park with a water fountain and an exhibition. Everything is in Thai only, but it is free, so I have a look. On the way back I start to feel how tired I am. Time to rest. Luckily, I would have enough time to explore this lovely border town more thoroughly.