After spending an extra night in Chiang Mai and deciding to spend a night at the Laos border (to make crossing less stressful) we didn't have much time for Chiang Rai. I am sure you could spend some significant time there, but we had an afternoon. We made it work!
Hello Chiang Rai!
Chiang Rai has the feel of just about all mid-sized third world cities--low buildings, a lot of telephone wires, traffic--until you get to it's main drag. There's a clock tower in the center and lots of similarly fancy light posts branching out from there. Bling, bling!
Chiang Rai was also especially toasty. Despite our best intentions we seemed to always find ourselves out exploring in the hottest part of the day. Chiang Rai unfortunately was no exception. It was so hot that, before we dropped our backpacks off at the luggage storage in the bus station, I pulled out my umbrella. I might've looked a bit odd to a western eye, but the umbrella provided ready made shade. Supy took to running from shade to shade.
Quickly after finding the main street Supy and I fell into our normal routine. First things, first: find food.
We found a grandpa with a food cart who whipped us up some tasty noodles and got Thai teas from another cart. I thought the carrying bags they gave us were brilliant!
Supy also find's grandmothers to be irresistible, so we ended up with about 2.5 pounds of lychee. I had never tasted them before, but, while a bit weird, they were delicious.
We binged on them all day. The next day I woke up and my feet, ankles and hands were swollen. I started to wonder...Am I allergic?
I had a severe allergic reaction in high school and since then have been panicky when my hands or feet swell. It turns out that I was just swelling because of the ridiculous heat, dehydration and for sitting on so many trains/buses/boats for hours on end.
Next, we continued our routine and took in some temples.
According to the sign outside: I was regarded that was built in 1385.
You can just hang out and relax in the temples. Usually they are pretty cool and breezy so we took a break and sat in this one for a little bit. Actually we sat there long enough for me to want to stretch out my legs--where I accidentally pointed my feet at the buddha (a huge no, no!). Thankfully I quickly caught myself before anyone saw. (In Thai culture it's extremely rude to point the bottoms of your feet at someone. To point your feet at an image of the buddha is a huge cultural faux pas.)
This particular temple also had very old, fancy carved wooden doors.
We also found ourselves a mosque
To round out our stay we toured several 7-11s (Thais love 7-11s. They are on probably every second corner in most cities. We loved them because they had cheap water and air conditioning.)
Did you know that Red Bull originated in Thailand? You see it everywhere.
We also felt the need to continue taking as many of these kinds of pictures as possible.
Finally, we spotted a picture of the current king (whose public image is very carefully guarded) in a realistic manner. It was fitting for the afternoon. I like to call it:
In Chiang Rai, Even The King Sweats
We shade hopped our way back to the bus station at the end of the afternoon and took a local bus (with the windows down through some beautiful farmlands) to the Thai/Lao border. Next stop: Laos!