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Chaing Rai Eateries

Eating Chiang Rai

The perception is that the population of Chiang Rai, and in fact the whole of Thailand, spends a good deal of time sat in open cafes eating. The roadside collection of tables and a cook seem destined to success where ever they are, as within a week of setting up with a stove and a simple collection of plastic furniture, the new eatery is packed every night. It can be next to a garage on the main road, outside a market or just on any old piece of convenient sidewalk.

In Chiang Rai it’s no different, and those looking for the genuine Thai, cheap and tasty cuisine from northern Thailand need look no further. In the centre of town there are a few Western places, but it is, just a few. The two main roads for eating are the central Pathon Yothin, which has the majority of ‘proper’ restaurants, and Jed Yod street which has mix of western bars serving food. On Pathon Yothin there are four restaurants which serve Thai and international food. They are Ayes, The Old Dutch, De Vinci’s and a new American style burger bar. The pick of those is Ayes, and this big restaurant is owned by Hans, a Dutchman who has been established here for years. They have some really good international dishes such as Goulash, but they also do Indian and Thai dishes. They have steaks and fresh fish so it’s a good all round menu. Hans also has the Italian De Vinci’s, and in between the two, snuck down a side Soi, there is the Deli shop. The shop sells Dutch cheeses, pies, western sausages and salamis. Like lost of the western items, it’s a little expensive, but anyone desperate for a piece of decent cheese, this is the place to go. In the main high street, opposite the bus station there are a few good coffee houses, with The Bakery most prominent. They serve up breakfasts and lunches, sandwiches and snacks. The people who run this bakery also support one of the local orphanages, so some of the staff are from that orphanage. That in itself is a good enough reason to call in, but the bread is very good, as are the meals.

the traveling vendor sets up wherever convenient


Cheap and tasty

The local Thai food can be bought at any one of the many shops along this street during the day. It can be to take away or eat in and a pork curry, or a spicy chicken with basil will cost 30 Baht, and that comes with a portion of rice. Some westerners may feel the portions are not big enough, but the simple answer is to buy two! At 30 Baht a go, its not going to break the bank. Dotted around the city are coffee shops, most of which have followed the relaxed lounge theme. Big sofas, TV and good coffee mean these are fine places to take a break, and most have free internet available.

In Jed Yod street there are bars which are open during the day serving breakfasts lunches and in the evening, dinners. Coconuts Bar is open from 8 am with ample western (English) breakfasts. Their menu also features meals of Yellow Curry, Sweet and Sour Pork, Spicy Papaya Salads and Chili Con Carne which are some of the local favorites amongst the foreign community. Right opposite Coconuts is a Sri Lankan guy, Karol, who has the traditional kebab machine whirring away, but he’s only open from about 7pm, and really serves the night crowd who come to enjoy the bars on the street. The kebabs are 80 Baht and good as a late night snack. Down by the Clock Tower there are even more shops and during the day, on the road heading out of town and towards Chiang Rai Beach, lined with stalls selling noodles, rice dishes - they all do good business. Equally, close by is the day market, and there too, the street is lined with stalls selling more food, fresh vegetables and meat.

 jed yod steet food and bars in Chaing Rai

Night time eating

By evening those stalls have shut for the day and the night stalls take over. There is little difference in the cuisine, they are just in different places. Along Pathon Yothin, opposite the Old Dutch there are few open air vendors, and on the way into town a collection of small eateries do regular business whatever the day. In Chiang Rai it would be safe to say, you never see a food stall empty. The Night Bazaar is the most central place to grab a cheap Thai meal. There are a few vendors selling fried shrimp (prawns) and French fries, but in the main its Thai. Not all have English translations, but those that do, naturally attract the tourist custom. The choice is much the same at each stall, but there will be some specializing in grilled fish, whilst others have kebabs and a few will do barbecued pork. Like any food court you can order from one place, then order from another. So, get the stuffed noodle omelet from one stall and some pork kebabs from another. Hot pots, are a local favorite, and you will not see that many tourists here, any day of the week – its mainly Thai for Thai. Main meals cost around 30 to 40 baht, and a whole grilled fish for three people 120 baht. Unlike the store food courts, it’s cash to the lady who brings the dish to you. Later on in the evening, singers and Thai dancers appear on the big stage, so there’s free entertainment as well.

Out by the King Meng Rai monument there are even more Thai restaurants and cafes which are open, even at 3 in the morning. It’s an on going scene of eating, eating and more eating! A tasty morsel sold by the Muslim community in this part of town is the banana pancake, and for food on the move, there are vendors who wander the streets late at night with a motorbike side car ‘traveling kitchen’. They can set up anywhere they fancy or they will simply drive along honking their horn. From one of these you can get dried fish (a bit smelly), pigs intestines on a skewer (tastier than you think), and fish balls. The only thing lacking and a big difference to Bangkok is there are no traveling cooks grilling barbequed chicken, either moving around or on a street corner.



Catering for the fast food western diet

Any thoughts of nipping into a western fast food place in the town center should be put to one side, because the only evidence of anything like western quickies is the Pizza Company on the main Pathon Yothin Road, and a Swenson’s. But things are definitely changing on that front, although those fast food junkies will have to head out of the center towards the Little Duck Hotel. A major addition for the whole city has been the recently opened Central Plaza. It opened in May 2011, and has been an instant success, because until then Chiang Rai had just one mall, called the Big C Mall. That still exists, and is still crowded on the weekend, but its clear that Central Plaza is going to grab a good portion of the customers. Big C has a food court, where there is more Thai food, and they have KFC, Black Canyon, and the national chain of MK. Anyone not familiar with the way a Thai food court operates: customers go to a central cash point and buy coupons or a swipe card in 5 Baht denominations. The vendor/cook will take the coupons or the swipe card and that pays for the meal. Any surplus coupons can be refunded back at the coupon counter. It saves the cooks having to deal with cash, and there is probably a cut taken by the operators. The surest thing to do is to look around all the dishes and prices, work out what you want and then tot up the amount, then go and buy the coupons. Most items are 30 to 40 Baht so it’s not vast expenditure.

prawn dish of Thai food


But over the highway at the flashy Central Plaza, there is less emphasis on the old style food court, and more on the likes of KFC, Chester’s and for the first time in Chiang Rai – a MacDonald’s. The mall is air con cool, smart and is obviously going to be a great success. In the past residents would have to drive over to Chiang Mai to get something for the house, or buy special ingredients. The Plaza has a Robinsons store, and a whole host of electronics stores, and clothes outlets . On the lower floor, there are stalls selling Japanese dishes, sausages and fabulous Dim Sum, for 10 and 15 Baht each.


Both of these malls are about three kilometers out of town on the superhighway heading south. With a new road from China (the North South Economic Corridor) progressing slowly towards Chiang Rai Province, it is clear there is going to be further investment in Chiang Rai. But the chances are that in the center of town, the plastic chairs and tables will still be crammed with locals and their fish ball noodle soup for 30 baht.


lamphun-wat phra that hariphunchai-01     
       ited in mid-town, Wat Phra That Hariphunchai was built during the reign of King Arthitayarat, a descendant of Queen Chamthewi some 800 years ago.A principal landmark is the 46-metre tall golden Chedi which contains a hair of the Lord Buddha, having nine-tiered umbrella, made of gold weighing approximately 6,498.75 grams...

Chiang Rai

      on the bank of the Kok River within town area, contains what is believed to be the oldest Holy Relic even before King Mengrai built Chiang Rai. Doi Chom Thong has been a sacred site for aextremely long time. The site was surely reverenced as the home of local spirits before Buddhism arrived in the area.

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