It may be hard to top the magical experiences we had in Chiang Mai. But we found that there’s more magic in store for us on our first day in Chiang Rai. On that first day, we visited one of the city’s most famous wonders: Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple. After that, we had an amazing dinner at Locus Native Food Lab.
Wat Rong Khun or White Temple: An unorthodox monument of religious art
Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is one of the places you really need to see when you visit Chiang Rai. As its name suggests, it’s a stunning vision—a predominantly white building with intricate elements enhanced by glittering mirrored glass. Wat Rong Khun stands out among Thailand’s temples because of its color and the attention given to every detail in its design. It’s truly magical.
The White Temple is the lifework of Thai National Artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Most Thais didn’t appreciate Ajarn Chalermchai’s vision for the temple when it was first built. They thought the buildings to be unorthodox and didn’t follow traditional designs. However, 20 years later, it’s now considered a national treasure. It attracts thousands of visitors annually and generates enough tourism income to help support the city of Chiang Rai.
Wat Rong Khun remains unfinished, and work is continuously done on the temple. We were lucky on that visit because we got to hang out with Ajarn Chalermchai himself. We also got to spend time with his son, up-and-coming artist Tan Kositpipat.
Locus Native Food Lab: a new way of presenting old-school Chiang Rai flavors
We arranged this first day in Chiang Rai so we could have dinner at Locus Native Food Lab, a private restaurant that I’ve been stalking online.
Locus’ owner, Chef Kongwut Chaiwongkajorn, or Chef Kong for short, is known for experimenting with different ways of presenting traditional Chiang Rai flavors. The food we were served looked like art pieces and appeared similar to French-plated dishes. But when I bit into my food, I found that it tasted like home, tasted like the flavors I grew up with, even though the food with its plating looked nothing like it.
Our group enjoyed multiple courses of these art-piece dishes. Food served included solidified curry, radish leaves soup with tamarind, fermented radish leaves relish, and black rice dessert. After we’re done with the art-piece dishes, we were served the same food, but this time in khantoke style. The food this time around were plated more traditionally, the way they would be eaten in a Northern Thailand home.
Watch the episode on our first day in Chiang Rai here: https://bit.ly/NFSSeason2Ep15