Friends who’ve been to Chiang Rai recommended it as much quieter and more rural than Chiang Mai but as soon as we left our hotel we found the same dusty streets, the same noisy traffic, the same lack of sidewalks that require iron nerves and a purposeful stride to make it to your destination without being clipped by a motorbike. But a new town is always fun to explore and we pointed our feet toward the city center.
Right smack in the center of a roundabout stands the fanciful golden clock tower, designed and built by Thai artist Chalermchai Khositpipat in 2008 in honor of the king. You’ll hear more about the artist in the next blog post.
We did our usual café crawl then hired a tuktuk to take us across the Kok River to the Garden of Reeds. There was a flower festival going on with an arts fair on the grounds of the adjacent cultural center. We usually miss festivals so it’s a nice coincidence that we’re here for this one. The downside is that it was crowded, this being a weekend, but it’s always fun to see events that are local and not just put on for tourists. In fact we saw very few tourists all day.
There was a huge food tent, and the roads were blocked for vehicles and lined with craftsmen of all stripes and mediums. The textiles and clothing were particularly beautiful and once again I had to restrain myself from scooping up a new wardrobe.
This is the first time we saw bugs on offer, and no, we weren’t tempted to try them.
We grabbed some bug-free food and cold drinks and parked ourselves in the middle of the cultural center among the examples of different hill tribe houses.
Then it was time to enjoy the flower show. We loved this display from the Northern Bonsai Club. I’ve always been intrigued by bonsai, and decades ago I made an feeble attempt to create one, but the art requires a degree of patience I don’t possess. Some of these examples were obviously quite old.
Jack got distracted by the longtail boats giving 15-minute rides up the river and back.
We walked through the park and admired the flower displays until it got too hot and crowded.
We walked along the river for what seemed like miles, watching the longtails zoom by, until we reached the famous Blue Temple. Sure, you can take a tour to the “important” sites, but we are the Escapees. We don’t do tours. Feet don’t fail us now.