The advantage and pleasure of not being a two week tourist in a place like Chiang Rai is that one has the luxury of time to explore the little places of interest away from the main visitor destinations such as the White temple and the Black House (separate blogs on both of these).

This entry is a mix of places we have visited around our home in Chiang Rai during the nine weeks we’ve been here. It will give you a taste of some of the more everyday sights in the area.

The Buffalo Temple 

One of my favourite places to drop in for some time of quiet reflection. We discovered the temple on an afternoon out exploring the road that leads to the Khun Korn waterfall. The blog entry for the waterfall can be found HERE.

Khun Korn waterfall.

Khun Korn waterfall.

The Buffalo temple isn’t its real name but on our first visit you might be able to guess why I’ve called it that from the photo below. Many temples have a theme – chickens, cows, dragons etc and I genuinely thought these two buffalo were statues at the entrance as I drove past. They are actually real, tied there because the grass was good.

Guardians of the temple

Guardians of the temple

We stopped to have a look at the temple building and were taken under the wing of this lovely Buddhist monk.

Inside the Buffalo temple building with "our" monk.

Inside the Buffalo temple building with “our” monk. Note the Thai Royal family mural on the walls.

He showed us around, gave us food to feed the fish out the back and even sent another monk to give us drink as we left, a move that had Gaun surprised as she’s never had a monk being pro-active towards visitors in this way before.

A fish feeding frenzy in the river at the back of the temple.

A fish feeding frenzy in the river at the back of the temple.

We have been back to the temple regularly since that day and feel quite the local.

I feel quite tall.

I feel quite tall.

Buffalo meets monk.

Buffalo meets monk.

The temple is still under construction, as this seems to be a permanent state with many temples. Once something is finished another construction starts. Buddhist merit can be best gained by building new I guess.

Here you can see the still to be painted dragon.

Here you can see the still to be painted dragon/snake and the completed effect on the right.

One of the more unusual features of the temple is the merging of Royalty and Buddhist themes. This reflects the status of the Thai Royal family and is a reminder of the high regard they are held in the country. The frieze around the temple walls has a story based around Royalty and above it a more traditional spiritual scene.

The mix of Royalty and Buddhist.

The mix of Royalty and Buddhist.

 The Chiang Rai Clock Tower

I have always associated the centre of Chiang Rai with the clock tower, which sits at a major intersection in the city. There are several decent coffee shops located here if you want to sit and watch the Thai world go by. The entrance to Jetyod Road can be found here too, which is Chiang Rai’s attempt at Phuket’s Patong nightclub/bar scene. A limited selection of small bars many serving some form of western food, and massage parlours, some legitimate and others not so much!

The clock tower at night.

The clock tower at night.

If you are in the area at night make sure you come to the clock tower at either 7, 8 or 9 o’clock to see the light and music show. It’s worth the effort.

Chiang Rai Clock Tower - city centre in the daytime.

Chiang Rai Clock Tower – city centre in the daytime. Jetyod Road behind the tower in this photo.

The Markets

Being Thailand one is never far away from a market of some sort day or night and Chiang Rai is no different.

If you want a memento of your trip to Thailand there are several options to pick up small handicraft items, clothes, shoes, phone covers by the thousands and other packable knick-knacks. Shopping makes Thais hungry (well anything makes Thais hungry) so you will find a wonderful selection of freshly cooked food super cheap too.

If we take the Clock Tower as the reference point there are three main options I have found for market shopping. One street to the North of the Clock there are huge undercover markets that cover an entire block. Narrow isles criss-cross this area with open faced shops offering a wide mix of fairly junky stuff in huge quantities but you may find a few treasures in there.

The second option is located in the street running parallel to Jetyod Road on the East side, called Phaholyothin Road in Google maps. Wander down this road in the evening and after a couple of blocks you will see the entrance to a night market on your left, centred on what is the bus station in the daytime. Well worth a visit it offers more in the way of local handicrafts, is better set out and transforms what is a pretty ugly area in daylight.

Make the time to spend an evening here as there is a huge outside eating area with an excellent choice of local food. A stage up the front provides Thai entertainment, which seems to involve a lot of talking rather than anything happening. In the off-season you might find yourself the only foreigner here, which is often the case in Chiang Rai.

There is a  second stage in this area and here they seem to put on a mix of music, some of it Western based and Thai dancing, which is so graceful to watch. There is a big central bar here so you can settle in to catch the show with a cold drink.

A well choreographed performance.

A joy to watch.

The third option is if you are in town on a Saturday evening from 6 pm. One street North of the clock tower is closed to traffic and a huge night market appears. Entertainment is provided with a Thai (surprisingly!) flavour in a huge food eating area set up with tables and chairs. A great mixture of food, clothes and speciality items. Busier than the market I mentioned above.

Setting up the Saturday night market.

Setting up the Saturday night market.

The night market in action.

The night market in action.

Local handicrafts - not. Thais love fluffy toys. The best way to a Thai girl's heart although Thai gold would do the trick too.

Local handicrafts – not. Disney has a lot to answer to. Thais love fluffy toys. The best way to a Thai girl’s heart although Thai gold would do the trick as well!

Most of the food is Western friendly. Some less so. I am happy to try and adapt to local culture but must say eating insects isn't on the agenda. It isn't on a lot of Thai's agenda either.

Most of the food is Western friendly. Some less so. I am happy to try and adapt to local culture but must say eating insects isn’t on the agenda. It isn’t on a lot of Thai’s agenda either. Tends to be more in the diet of rural Thais.

I’m a bit short of decent photos for this entry so will try and include some more before we leave Chiang Rai on 1 November.

Canary Coffee

Thailand is a place of surprises. Many attractions aren’t advertised either on the internet (in English anyway) and neither signposted or promoted. If you see something that looks interesting just go for it. The Thais are really accommodating and even if you’re not supposed to be there they make allowances for strange farang. Canary Coffee was one of those occasions.  It is just a sign on two large metal gates one of which happened to be open so…………………..

Once again on the road that leads to the Khun Korn waterfall Canary Coffee is a turn to the left several kilometres from the turn off Route 1211.

This is a large estate owned by a Bangkok man who inherited it from his father. It is both a high class resort, a coffee production business, the beans are grown in the hills outside Chiang Rai not on the estate, and a restaurant/cafe.

When we visited we were the only people there and the staff were pleased to have something to do. I presume it picks up in the high season but I have no idea how many places I have visited survive financially.

Entry to the restaurant at Canary Coffee.

Entry to the restaurant  and main reception area at Canary Coffee.

The manager is an older Bangkok lady who had only been there a couple of months when we met her. She doesn’t have any transport and I did wonder how she was going to cope with the lifestyle change from a city of ten million, that never sleeps, so being in a Thai rural setting that never properly wakes up!

The seating area.

The seating area at the front of the restaurant. The coffee preparation area to the left.

The main building is on a hill so has great views over the property and surrounding country.

The view to the Khun Korn river.

The view to the Khun Korn waterfall river.

Inside the main reception, living area. Note the fireplace. Chiang Rai gets cool at nights in the winter time.

Inside the main reception, living area. Note the fireplace. Chiang Rai gets cool at nights in the winter time so it may not be just for show.

My relaxed at Canary Coffee photo.

My relaxed at Canary Coffee photo.

The road through the estate.

The road through the estate. Reception on the left and cottages on the right.

The luxury cottages are beautifully set up scattered on the hillside. A candle-lit bath with a bottle of bubbly anyone?

The luxury cottages are beautifully set up scattered on the hillside. A candle-lit bath with a bottle of bubbly anyone?

For the record the coffee was reasonable, the cake baked on-site was good but the food pretty ordinary with a very limited choice. More expensive than normal perhaps reflecting the aspirations of the place as up market resort. Worth a coffee visit though.

Supermarket Shopping

Not all shopping has to done at the roadside markets, which are totally geared to the local Thai population. There are items us foreigners would consider essential for our Western tastes that just can’t be found in the local markets. I am sure that some permanent farang residents do all their shopping at places like Tops Supermarket, which in Chiang Rai is based in the big Central Plaza.

Hunting and gathering.

Hunting and gathering.

It’s not just us that shop here. There are far more middle class Thai filling their trolleys with sweets, ice cream, chips and soft drinks than Westerners. All the things that have made Australia such an obese nation is being enthusiastically embraced by Thais. Welcome to the developed world.

We do most of our daily shopping at a local market just down the road from our house. Here we buy meat, fish, vegetables, bread (sliced) eggs and spices. For basics like butter, milk, tea, cooking oil, sugar, western style cuts of meat then a place like Tops is where we go maybe once a week.

On the lower level of Central Mall in Chiang Rai if you're looking for it.

On the lower level of Central Plaza in Chiang Rai if you’re looking for it.

There is a price to be paid literally for sticking with our food tastes here. You will pay much the same as you would in Australia for anything imported – maybe more. The jar of Salsa below at 215 THB is about A$7.20.

Locally mass produced items are cheaper – maybe half the cost of Woollies.

Look familiar?

Look familiar?

Packaged meats available. Double or more local market cost.

Packaged meats available. Double or more local market cost.

Nothing third world about this presentation.

Nothing third world about this presentation.

Two large carrots 15 THB in local markets and 80 THB here.

Two large carrots 15 THB in local markets and 80 THB here.

As a Canberra boy I had to take this photo. Bega seems a long way away. Note prices - expensive. Parmesan cheese at 418 THB equals A$14.00. If anyone is visiting me in Thailand please bring cheese not grog!

As a Canberra boy I had to take this photo. Bega seems a long way away. Note prices – expensive. Parmesan cheese at 418 THB equals A$14.00. If anyone is visiting me in Thailand please bring cheese not grog!

 Miscellaneous Photos

One of my favourite photos. Thais on motorbikes with umbrellas are common once the rain hits. Not sure what effect this has on dryness but one handed riding in the wet certainly would spice up life.

One of my favourite photos. Thais on motorbikes with umbrellas are common once the rain hits. Not sure what effect this has on dryness but one handed riding in the wet would certainly spice up life.

Great nurseries here. This hanging basket cost 100 THB or A$3.50.

Great nurseries here. This hanging basket cost 100 THB or A$3.50. Wonderful tropical plants and at a fraction of the cost back home. I can;t wait to move into our more permanent home at Chiang Mai and stock the garden with some of these flowers.

More tropical colours.

More tropical colours.

The Hidden Wat

Had a couple of goes finding this Wat that I could just see poking up through the trees from the road but had no idea of get to it. Gaun’s ability to chat to locals was the answer and it’s just down the first Soi (street) 5, not the second Soi 5, and through the paddy fields on the right.

The Wat was nothing much. A Buddha statue, the stupa tower you can see here and a toilet block. No buildings. However it supported three monks living there (a Wat – temple – has to have three resident monks to be classified a Wat). We met one of the monks who had visited Perth three times on Buddhist “business”. How he finds himself in the wilds of Thailand in this tiny outpost must be a story in itself. Maybe he had too much of a good time in Perth!

The Perth monk Wat.

The Perth monk Wat.

I will finish up here. I have enough material for another selection of local sights in the Neighbourhood, which I will publish soon.

Thanks for reading.