After exploring temple ruins in Sukhothai, I traveled back north towards the Thai-Laos border and found myself in Phrae and Chiang Rai.

I broke the long land journey between Sukhothai and Chiang Rai by spending one night in Phrae, a small charming city that was not crowded with tourists and offered sights with distinct architectures. I was a sucker for these kinds of “underdog” places because they reminded me of the city where I grew up in the Philippines.

Phrae had a couple of interesting sights within its city center such as old teak wood houses and temples. The main draw there, however, was experiencing a non-touristic side of Thailand.

Chiang Rai was one of the major items on my bucketlist in Northern Thailand. Ever since I knew about them, I had always wondered when I was finally going to visit the famed White Temple of Wat Rong Khun and freakish Black Houses of Baan Dam.

I didn’t need to spend that long in Chiang Rai, one full day would suffice, but I enjoyed the city a lot, so I stayed a few days more and then finally crossed the border to Laos.

Itinerary Rundown

  • Sukhothai and Kamphaeng Phet
Day 1
  • Phrae
  • Sukhothai to Phrae
  • Phrae Hostel Search
Day 2
  • Phrae, Chiang Rai
  • Phrae City Center Walking Tour
  • Phrae to Chiang Rai
Day 3
  • Chiang Rai
  • Chiang Rai City Center
  • Black Houses
Day 4
  • Chiang Rai
  • White Temple
  • Black Houses
  • Chiang Rai City Center
Day 5
  • Chiang Rai
  • Huay Xai
  • Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong to Huay Xai
    • Thailand to Laos Border Crossing
  • Laos from North to South
  • Northern Thailand
  • Indochina

Trip Date — August 2012

Itinerary Notes & Tips

Day 1

Sukhothai to Phrae

Because of my late arrival, I only had time to check-in a hostel and walk around the city of a bit on my first day.

  • Ride Sukhothai to Uttaradit VIP Bus (from Bangkok) – B99
  • Ride Uttaradit to Phrae bus – B57

Phrae Arrival

  • Check-in at Thep Vong Place
    • Double fan room with private bathroom

Day 2

Phrae City Center Walking Tour

The next day, I went on a short walking tour of old buildings in Phrae before continuing my journey to Chiang Rai.

Phrae had a couple of interesting sights within its city center such as old teak wood houses and temples. The main draw there, however, was experiencing a non-touristic side of Thailand.

I arrived in Chiang Mai in the evening and checked in a hostel near Wat Chet Yot. I got to see the colorful lights and sounds show at the clock tower before calling it a night.

Day 3

The next day, I woke up late and decided to go buy stuff at the mall before visiting the Black Houses of Baan Dam. I had a bit of trouble getting there by public transport but it was doable.

Chiang Rai City Center to Black Houses

  • Ride a northbound bus (20 baht; 30 minutes) from the bus station in Chiang Rai city center.
    • The buses passing by the Black Houses are stationed at platforms 5 and 6.
    • Ask the Tourist Information counter and/or the driver to confirm that you are on the right bus.
  • Walk from highway to the Black Houses

In the evening, I returned to the clock tower to take better pictures and had a delicious dinner of Khao Soi at a small charming restaurant nearby.

Day 4

White Temple

  • Walk from hostel to Chiang Rai City Center bus station
  • Ride minibus to highway intersection near the White Temple
  • White Temple sightseeing
  • Ride minibus back to bus station

Black Houses

  • Ride minibus to highway section near the Black Houses
  • Walk from highway to Black Houses
  • Ride minibus back to bus station

City Center Walking Tour

  • Da Rul Ahman Mosque
  • Darunaman Mosque
  • Dinner at Rosprasert Muslim Food
    • Chicken Briyani – Delicious!

Day 5

Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong to Huay Xai

From Chiang Mai, I took a buy to the Thai border town of Chiang Khong. The drop-off point was in the city center, so I had to ride a tuk-tuk to the border crossing beside the Mekong River.

After I got my exit visa stamp from the Thai immigration, I was ferried to the other side by a small motorized wooden boat, and then had to get my entry visa from the Laos immigration counter. The process was fast and straightforward, especially because Philippine passport holders got free 30-day visa-on-arrival.

Traveling around Laos was easy, especially around the main tourist areas. The staff at bus terminals, restaurants, and hostels spoke decent English and were more than willing to give directions.