I was exhausted when I got to Chiang Rai. I slept alright on the night train once I was drunk enough to do so, but I got up at 7 a.m. to get off at Lampang. I was worried about my connection there since I couldn’t find any information online regarding it, but it was pretty seamless. To get from the train station to Chiang Rai, I just took a taxi from the train station to the bus station, which ran 50 baht. At the bus station, I found an old beater bus heading to Chiang Rai right away, it cost 140 baht or so. It was hardly luxurious and I didn’t get any sleep, and it took about four hours. Overall, pretty easy. The bus went right to the old Chiang Rai bus station, which is convenient since it’s right downtown.
I walked to a guesthouse from there, the extremely rasta Chockdee House. Everyone that worked there had dreadlocks and Bob Marley posters were everywhere. I was hoping somebody would bust out a spliff at the bar, but sadly it was not to be. Still, my room was nice enough and even had a balcony for 250 baht.
I rented a motorbike shortly after I checked in. I lied and said my passport was in Bangkok to get a visa processed, mainly because I’ve heard too many stories about people getting scammed at bike rental shops. No problem, I just left a 2,000 baht deposit and my driver’s license.
I rode down to the White Temple, aka Wat Rong Khun. This is basically the Sagrada Familia of Thailand. They started building it 15 years ago, and it won’t be finished for another couple of decades. Pictures aren’t allowed inside, but there are fairly unique and amazing paintings featuring Superman, Neo, an Angry Bird, the World Trade Center in flames, Transformers, and other images.
Unlike in Ayutthaya, I managed to get lucky and beat the rain home. I waited it out in my guesthouse, then rode out to Wat Phra Kaew, which used to house the famed emerald Buddha that no sits in the wat of the same name in Bangkok.
I parked next to a sleeping dog, and another dog barked at me as I walked away from my bike. Uh oh. I walked around the temple for ten minutes or so, but there isn’t all that much to see there anymore. As I walked back to my bike, a couple of dogs were hanging around, and immediately started barking. Five or six other dogs came out of nowhere and started barking at me as well, one even acted like it was going to attack. I yelled at them, but they didn’t seem to care. Of course, as always, a monk showed up, this one a teenage kid, and he said two words to the dogs in Thai and they immediately slunk away.
I spent some more time writing and researching and eating, then went to a bar. There was a Tiger Beer girl working there. This sort of thing happens all over Southeast Asia, especially Thailand, and I don’t know why other places don’t do this. It always works on me. Basically, a hot girl in a tiny dress comes up to take my order. I ordered a Leo Beer. She said I should order Tiger instead. Tiger costs 10 baht more, so what the hell do I care? I order Tiger, and she’s delighted. Brilliant marketing.
Later on, I went to the rasta bar and finally decided to be social. I sat down at a table and had a beer with a Kiwi dude, an Indonesian dude, two Chinese girls, and a Thai guy who thinks he’s Jamaican. Good times.
The next morning, I decided to head to the Black Temple, having already seen the white one. The Black Temple is a much smaller affair, a bit north of Chiang Mai. I was the only tourist there. Like the White Temple, this one was still under construction. It was filled with frightening and macabre images. There were long tables with long snake skins, and, well, I have pictures of that one, you’ll see.
I finished my time in Chiang Rai at the mall. Heading to Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, I’m not sure when I’ll see another mall or, more importantly, another McDonald’s, so It was a fitting last hurrah in Thailand. After that, I caught a bus to Chiang Khong, where I would move on to Laos.