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In Search of Suntans and Solitutude: A Trip to Chiang Rai

Koh Tao was full on with visiting friends, diving, partying, muay thai-ing, and all the other usual diversions. Bangkok was a short but intense weekend of indulgent partying. For my sister’s last few days in Thailand, she requested a relaxing spot to detox, catch up on work (she was soon returning to her final semester at NYU) and polish off that final Thailand tan.

So I coughed up a few more Starwood points and booked us in for three nights at the Le Meridian Chiang Rai.

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

It was secluded, luxurious, and lovely — it was everything we were looking for. I marveled over how few points I had to spend to get us into this massive chic room and lounging in front of this decadent pool. As promised, I’ll have a post up soon about how I managed to snag all those Starpoints, with lots of details and photos on the properties I booked using them.

But for now, these photos can serve as a representation of how we spent ninety-five percent of our time in Chiang Rai — without leaving the grounds of the resort.

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

Le Meridian Chiang Rai

Two out of three evenings, we took advantage of the resort’s free shuttle service into Chiang Rai town so we could have a cheap dinner, stock our mini-fridge with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast (sadly using Starpoints generally means no delicious hotel breakfast) and check out the famous local markets.

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai was busier and more built-up that I had expected — I suppose it is the provincial capital! Still, the town is mostly used as a base for trekking and other jump-off activities, and doesn’t hold too much appeal in its official borders.

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai Market

The Night Bazaar was well worth a look, and I say that as someone who is both not much of a shopper and also has been to approximately 7,145 night markets in Southeast Asia (rough estimate.) There seemed to be a good selection of crafts indigenous to Northern Thailand, which was a good sign.

I absolutely love the image below — a traditionally dressed hilltribe woman selling her handicrafts in the shadow of a gaudy local ladyboy show. Ah, Thailand.

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

We were also in town for the Saturday Night Walking Street. This was a bit more full-on and locally oriented, and I suffered from a few moments of intense claustrophobia. It was worth it though, for the local snacks…

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

The vendor guard dogs…

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

And the wide variety of goods for sale…

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

Chiang Rai Market

On Olivia’s final day in Thailand, we didn’t leave the property once, and capped off our last hours with a decadent dinner at the onsite Italian restaurant Favola. When we called her a cab and we waved goodbye, it hit me that I wouldn’t see her again for over four months. Traveling with a sister is challenging and while I admit there were moments I wished I was alone, I just as freely admit that I shed real tears at her departure.

The sister portion of my trip was over, and I was about to set off on my own. A new chapter begins…

Goodbye Olivia

Goodbye Thailand

 . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .

Okay, so I just couldn’t end that post having you all think I spend the majority of my traveling days at the freaking Le Meridian, being served cold bottled water by the pool and flipping through the latest Vanity Fair, could I? I could not. So I leave you instead with this: the epilogue, or How I Spent My First Two Days of Solo Travel.

I spent them here:

Cheap Room Chiang Rai

One hundred baht, or three dollars, can get you a lot of things in Thailand, including the lovely (ahem) room you see above. But that room was attached to a hotel with a nice garden and fast free WiFi, so I happily based myself there for two nights while I caught up on work and got my bearings.

Other travelers came and went on exotic trekking trips and hilltribe visits and elephant tours, but I sat in that garden and did freelancing projects and went up and slept in my little pod. When I needed a break, I got up to get a massage or a snack or to check out the beautiful temple around the corner.

Chiang Rai Wat Phra Kaeo

Chiang Rai Wat Phra Kaeo

Chiang Rai Wat Phra Kaeo

Chiang Rai Wat Phra Kaeo

And I was really, really happy.

Stay tuned for the bike tour that finally got me out exploring the countryside of Chiang Rai!

22 Responses to “In Search of Suntans and Solitutude: A Trip to Chiang Rai”

  1. Jade says:

    It is all about the balance between splurging and scrimping!
    It makes you appreciate both so much more- meaning you are outstandingly grateful and excited by a luxury hotel and equally thrilled when you save 1 dollar on a crappy place!

    • Alex says:

      I totally agree Jade. I’m responding to your comment from a lovely expensive hotel in Bangkok, but I’m kind of missing my little bungalow in Railay right now… and that was a fraction of the price!

  2. I love the balance you have! I’m obsessed with Le Meridian properties!!! What a gorgeous one!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..Buenos Aires, Argentina: Recoleta Cemetery (Part 3)

  3. Olivia says:

    OMG we look so TAN!! My now pasty, NYC skin is jealous. Miss you!

  4. memographer says:

    Love the street photography! You both look cute in black and white :) I am not saying that you do not look cute in color :) I just like the b-n-w pic ;)

  5. Glad your site is back up! This looks absolutely deluxe, definitely the way to see Chiang Rai! I too was a little underwhelmed by the place, but then, it was pouring with rain when we were there for a quick stop en route to the border. Look forward to more adventures :)
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..Love with a Chance of Drowning: A Must-Read

    • Alex says:

      The bike tour I did (plus the Le Meridian, of course!) totally made the trip worth it! Highly recommend it if you are ever back in the area!

  6. Sam says:

    That hotel looks incredible! Glad the site is back up and running I had images of you having more-than-mild panic attacks in random little hostels x
    Sam recently posted..Tomato, Peach + Basil Salad

    • Alex says:

      I will not lie to you — there was one anguished full body collapse in the middle of a dirt road, in which I’m sure all the other travelers assumed I’d just gotten the news that one of my immediate family members had passed.

      … I did nothing to dissuade them from that though. I really needed their pity at the moment!

  7. This resort looks really beautiful! I can totally see how a stay there would be an amazingly relaxing experience.

    I don’t know how you do it, but your writings make every sort of travel sound like the greatest thing ever: Whether it’s staying at five-star hotels or in shabby hostels, you just seem to have a blast everywhere. It makes me think that happiness really has only to do with your attitude.

    xx
    Melanie
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..Scotland: Skye II – Portree

    • Alex says:

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment Melanie :) I really do actively try to stay positive and see the bright side of things. Sometimes I fail miserably, but mostly it feeds off itself and comes easy!

  8. Kristen Noelle says:

    You and Olivia are absolutely adorable and I just love your sisterliness!
    My trip came with a short stint in Chiang Rai where I stayed in a hostel-like guesthouse for the first time. That was an adjustment (for the whopping one night), but I would definitely do it again in the name of cheap travel.

    But wow. That!? IDK. Lol. How do you deal with the threat of bedbugs? I definitely agree though, it’s all about balance!

    Chiang Rai’s night bazaar is indeed pretty cool. I stopped past the same little temple too! Your gorgeous photos make me miss that country… my two weeks was such a tease!

    • Alex says:

      See the green thing wrapped around my pillow? It’s my sarong… wasn’t ready to let my face touch that :P That room was a bit below my normal comfort level but I was just coming off some major luxury so I had some resistance built up :)

  9. Sebastiaan says:

    When I see the bright- and sharpness of your pictures I always think I have a (ultra)HD-laptop.

    Again a very nice impression! I like the temple: those Buddha-buildings have always a serene effect on me, even when it is build in the middle of a crowded city.

    And you won’t be surprised when I say that I am looking forward to reading your tales of the biking-trip!

  10. Jemma says:

    Just by looking at the photos, I can tell that you really had a great vacation at Chiang Rai.

    “The vendor guard dogs” made me laugh! I think those dogs are the ones who need to be guarded.

    Those rabbits also look really cute. I hope someone with a good heart will adopt and take good care of them. :)
    Jemma recently posted..Crisologo Museum in Vigan Ilocos

  11. [...] I was so in love with the hotel my sister and I stayed in in Chiang Rai — and I felt like such a travel bad ass for getting [...]

  12. [...] day into Chiang Rai town. Our first two nights we headed there for dinner and to get massages and peruse the famed night markets. During the day we stuck to the resort and enjoyed our enormous room and balcony, worked out in the [...]

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