Cycling Around Chiang Rai

Cycling Around Chiang Rai

When I was in Chiang Rai, I hired a bicycle and explored the gorgeous countryside. What surprised me was the lack of people, there was hardly anyone around, even the people who lived there seemed to be missing. So, I had no problems cycling on the roads, I wouldn’t have dared in Bangkok!

First stop was Wat Huay Pla Kang and an enormous statue on the hill, which is so large, I could see the top of its head from my accommodation, some 2 kilometres away. Locally known as the Big Buddha, it’s not a Buddha at all. This impressive hillside statue is a depiction of the Goddess of Mercy from Chinese Buddhism – Guan Yin also known as Kuan Eim (กวนอิม) or Prah Mae Kuan Eim in Thailand.

As you approach the temple complex, the huge statue looms over the countryside.

Places to go in Thailand

There are several buildings there and this 9-tier pagoda is guarded by a couple of golden lions at the base of the staircase leading up to the entrance.

Places to go in Thailand

The day I visited it was delightfully empty of tourists, so I happily scampered around the grounds taking photos of all the temples. This white temple is reminiscent of the more famous Wat Rong Khun, also in Chiang Rai.

It’s the statue of Guan Yin that takes your breath away. It’s colossal, standing at 90 metres high with 23 storeys. If you want, you can take the lift up inside the statue where you get spectacular views of the countryside.

I didn’t, I just walked up the stairs, flanked by white dragons,

and strolled around the base of the statue.

Places to go in Thailand

The views of this green and mountainous region of Chiang Rai, even from the top of staircase, are just as impressive.

You can also get a good view of the other temples from up on the hill.

Smaller Buddha statues surround Guan Yin.

It’s free to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang. However, if you want to go inside the statue of Guan Yin there is a small fee of 40 Baht (Just over 1 GBP) – a small price to pay to experience this fabulous attraction.

Places to go in Thailand

Next stop was Wat Rong Suea Ten or the Blue Temple, a gorgeous, blue building with ornately carved gold decoration.

Places to go in Thailand

It is quite simply, stunning! I have never seen anything like it in Thailand before.

Part of the temple was under construction, but you can still see how beautiful it is.

There are many statues around the complex too – all a fabulous shade of blue.

The gold decoration is lovely!

There are other interesting elements to the temple. The tiger refers to a time when tigers could be found in the area. The name of the temple – Suea Ten – means “dancing tiger.”

I actually preferred it to the White Temple, if only for the lack of tourists!

I only wish I’d have gone inside because it’s arguably more beautiful than the outside – if that is at all possible. There’s always next time!

Places to go in Thailand

Onward on my trusty steed, I cycled away from the Blue Temple towards my next destination of the day. Bypassing glorious countryside on the way.

Places to go in Thailand

I was heading to Wat Tham Phra (Buddha Images Cave). Along the way, I spotted a small golden chedi and a gateway with lions standing on stone plinths on either side.

Places to go in Thailand

I cycled a little further and saw a huge Buddha carved into the rock and steps leading up to a cave. This wasn’t the one I was heading towards, according to the map I was still two clicks away. I turned around and went to investigate.

Places to go in Thailand

I parked my bike and tentatively walked up the steps taking care not to slip on the moss. At the top was a door leading into the cave. This was Wat Tham Tu Pu.

Places to go in Thailand

My heart was thudding. I half expected to see some poor soul, who had made their home there, or a snake in the shadows, none to happy that I had disturbed it. I saw neither, but I still felt a litle spooked. In the darkness, I was met with a pair of eyes staring back at me – it was a Buddha statue – but that only became apparent as my eyes got used to the darkness.

It was really eerie in the cave, so I didn’t hang around very long. I was happy to be outside in the light again!

Places to go in Thailand

Still feeling a bit unnerved, I cycled away as quickly as I could! Before long, I arrived at the last port of call – Wat Tham Phra (Buddha Images Cave).

Places to go in Thailand

A larger cave and not as scary with a number of Buddhist statues and altars inside.

The people there were preparing for some kind of celebration, so I had a quick look inside and then left to go back to the homestay. More gorgeous views along the way.

I arrived back at the homestay after cycling some 10 kilometres around Chiang Rai. I spent the evening with a cold beer or two and relished in the quiet surround sound!

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