Driving to Chiang Rai from Loei with stops in between: April 21-April 23, 2019
Chiang Rai is one of my favorite places in Thailand. There is so much to do, from waterfalls to elephants. The food is amazing in this region as well, and the weather is cooler since it is up in the mountains. Chris lived in Chiang Rai for six months and loved it there, and it was one of the highlights of our trip when we went back together 9 years ago. We had planned on spending more of our time in Chiang Ria and even more time in Chiang Mai this trip, but the air quality was pretty bad up north, the,first part of our trip. We watched the air quality forecast, and when it looked like it was clearing up we would go. If it never cleared up we would go there to spend a day with elephants then fly home.
Luckily we saw that the air quality was clearing up and we decided that we could start our drive to Chiang Rai. It was hard leaving Loei, but we were all excited to start our journey to Chiang Rai! We did get a late start leaving Loei since we had gone back to the bamboo rafts, but we decided to drive until we were tired and then we’d find a place to stay.
We made it to Dan Sai (about 1 1/2 hours from the bamboo rafts). We found a cheap hotel that had beds for everyone and we crashed for the night. In the morning we decided to go to some Wats before we headed out. We went to two different ones that were very different from each other.
The first Wat we went to was Wat Phra That Si Song Rak. This particular Wat is a super religious Wat, even the king has worshiped there. I’m not sure what makes this one so special, but it is very sacred. There were sections of the Wat that had signs that said “no lady”. Ryan did feel the unjustice of that, and didn’t think it was fair. He also thought it was kind of funny that he could go wherever he wanted there, but Lillian and I couldn’t. There were so many people here worshiping and again I was amazed at the reverence of my kids. It is very different to go to a Wat that a lot of tourists go to, and one that is primarily for worship.
The next Wat we went to, Wat Neramit Wipatsana, also had a lot of worshipers. This one the grounds were beautiful. It was a very pretty place to walk around. The first Wat seemed strictly for worship, and this one seemed like it was for worship, but also to walk around and enjoy nature.
After visiting some Wats in Dan Sai we headed on to Phitsanulok. Phitsanulok was a place Chris lived only for six weeks, so when we had been to visit we did not go there. I was excited to go and see the last city of where Chris had lived! My sister Beth also lived in Phitsanulok for 4 months so I was excited to see where she lived as well. Between Phitsanulok and Dan Sai there was another Wat, called Wa Phra That Pha Son Kaeo. Its the Glass temple on the hill. Beth had been here and recommended it. We thought it would be worth the stop!
We got to the Glass Wat and found parking. There were shops set up so we knew it was definitely more of touristy Wat. (Although it was mostly Thais or other Buddhists.) It was definitely on the top of a hill/mountin and it was surrounded by hotels, shops, and restaurants. It was definitely stunning and quite the site to see. We walked around for awhile enjoying all the mosaic glass work. Its definitely a beautiful place and worth the stop!
The kids were getting hungry and hot and tired so we didn’t stay as long as we could have, and we were off to Phitsanulok. We told the kids we could go to McDonalds for them so that’s where we headed. The kids were happy to get some more familiar food, but Chris and I waited to eat so we could get Thai food. After McDonalds we drove around to try and find where Chris lived and to find where Beth lived.
As we drove through the city it jogged Chris’ memory of living there and more and more memories were coming back. It was fun to hear him reminisce of his time in Phitsanulok! We were able to find Beth’s school, where she lived and taught, and it was very close to where Chris spent a lot of his time. We then found some Indian food and ate and ate and ate. So much better than McDonalds! We enjoyed our time in Phitsanulok more than we thought we would, but it was time to keep driving.
We did our longest stretch of driving on the trip (Five plus hours) and we made it to Phayao. We thought we might stop sooner, but we both felt like going so we kept on driving. Phayao was the first and only time we really had a hard time finding a hotel and it took us six tries to find one. All the other hotels didn’t have enough beds for us. This hotel cost just as much as the hotel in Loei, but not as nice. It also had a pool and a buffet style breakfast, but the pool was getting cleaned and we weren’t even able to swim in it. The kids were really bummed about that, but what can you do?
Phayao is only about an hour from Chiang Rai, and some of the things we wanted to do were on the way. It ended up being a great stopping point, even if we didn’t get to swim! We were excited that we were finally going to be in Chiang Rai, and have a few nights in a row in the same hotel!