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Wat Huay Pla Kang, Chiang Rai: Everything You Need to Know

Learn everything you need to know before visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang, one of the most captivating temples in Chiang Rai.
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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Croatian-Slovenian full-time travel duo, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists for over 4 years. We write in-depth travel guides about destinations we have personally visited, providing practical travel tips and recommendations.

Complete travel guide to Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai, Thailand - what to see and do at Wat Huay Pla Kang - Red Temple

About Wat Huay Pla Kang

Wat Huay Pla Kang is one of the best temples to visit in Chiang Rai, Thailand. It was built on green hills overlooking the city in the early 2000s, so it’s one of the relatively new temples.

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This tourist spot is lesser known and less visited than the city’s renowned landmarks, like the White Temple and Black House. However, it draws more and more people to the site thanks to its unique architecture.

This Chiang Rai temple complex boasts a Chinese-Lanna architectural design. Its Chinese influence is evident in its color scheme, including red, yellow, green, and gold. These colors, combined with white walls and the Lanna-style decor, make the complex an impressive sight.

The history of Wat Huay Pla Kang started with a monk named Phop Chok Tissuwaso. An old temple once stood at the present location, and the monk chose the site to build a new one. It went from a small monk’s office to a complex of three structures.

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Chiang Rai Travel Tips

But first, before we jump into tips for visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai, let’s cover the essentials and tips to help you have a more fun, enjoyable, and safer trip to the north and the rest of Thailand.

Stay connected with an eSIM

Instantly connect to the internet on your arrival in Thailand by buying an eSIM package in advance.

Book trusted tours

Chiang Rai has some amazing activities to choose from. Book top-rated Chiang Rai tours on Viator or GetYourGuide.

Get travel insurance

With 24/7 worldwide assistance, Heymondo insurance includes comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, and baggage loss or delay. Tip: Shipped Away readers get 5% off.

For digital nomads or full-time travelers, we recommend SafetyWing, which also includes brief visits to your home country every 3 months abroad.

ATM fees

Chiang Rai still relies heavily on cash. So we recommend taking out a good amount each time you visit an ATM. Note: There is an 8.5 USD fee for each withdrawal (most Thai ATMs).

Get a Wise card to save money on additional conversion fees and ATM transactions from your bank.

Hotels in Chiang Rai

The best area to stay in Chiang Rai is in the city center, around the Clock Tower area. To secure the best deals, we recommend booking in advance.

Travel map

We have compiled a Chiang Rai Travel Map, which you can refer to when exploring.

Wat Huay Pla Kang Chiang Rai opening hours and entrance fee

Huay Pla Kang temple in Chiang Rai is open from 7 AM to 9 PM, and you can roam around the temple grounds for free. Although there is a 40 THB ($1) entrance fee to go up the statue of the Goddess of Mercy.

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How to get to Wat Huay Pla Kang

Reaching Wat Huay Pla Kang won’t be too troublesome, as Chiang Rai offers various transport options. The temple is about 8 km from the city center, so the journey should last 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the traffic.

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Rent a car or motorbike

The best option is to rent a car or motorbike. You need to cross a bridge over the Mae Kok River and continue driving until you see the traffic lights of the new 131 bypass road. From there, you need to turn right and go straight until you spot the temple on your left.

There is a parking lot with many spaces for both motorbikes and cars.

You can also hire a private driver/guide for a day who can also drive you to other famous spots in Chiang Rai.

By public transportation

Another option is to take a Songthaew truck from the city center. They usually have fixed routes and prices displayed on the cars.

By tuk tuk or Grab taxi

Finally, you can hail a tuk-tuk or book a Grab (Uber). Download the Grab app and book a motorcycle or a car with a driver.

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On a tour

If you’re short on time or don’t drive, visiting the Huay Pla Kang Temple in Chiang Rai on a tour is a great option.

You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the temple’s history and significance from a knowledgeable guide and also have the chance to explore other nearby temples and Chiang Rai attractions with transport included. You can visit the White Temple, Blue Temple, and the Black House (another great artistic project), among other places.

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Can you visit Wat Huay Pla Kang Temple from Chiang Mai?

If you’re wondering whether or not it’s possible to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang, known as the Big Buddha of Chiang Rai, from Chiang Mai, the answer is yes!

The two cities are roughly 180 kilometers or 3 hours apart, and there are frequent buses and daily tours, so a day trip to Chiang Rai to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang from Chiang Rai is easy to organize.

To book transport in Asia, we always use 12go, the top transport booking platform in the region for flights, trains, buses, and taxis. Their user-friendly platform makes booking a breeze.

The easiest and best way to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai is to join a private or shared tour. That’s how many people do it, as you have included transport and a guide, plus other highlights of Chiang Rai province.

Another great option is a private car with a driver.

RECOMMENDED TOURS


Things to see at Wat Huay Pla Kang

Once you reach Wat Huay Pla Kang, you will immediately notice its three primary structures on separate mounds.

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1. Pagoda

On top of one hill is a 9-story pagoda boasting a pyramid shape, which sets it apart from the pagodas of other temples in Chiang Rai that are round or square.

Another unique thing about the building is that its stairs have a pair of Chinese dragons instead of the usual Nagas.

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Moreover, the pagoda at this Chiang Rai attraction has small golden chedis surrounding it, while its exterior has white plaster that adds a visual impact. Inside the structure are plenty of sacred statues gracing each floor. The ninth floor also provides fantastic views of a giant Guan Yin statue on the nearby hill.

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2. Guan Yin Goddess of Mercy statue

The big white statue of Wat Huay Pla Kang is often called the “Big Buddha of Chiang Rai.” However, it is actually a statue of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.

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The Guan Yin statue at Wat Huay Pla Kang temple in Chiang Rai is an impressive sight, standing at a towering height of 79 meters. That’s higher than the famous Big Buddha in Phuket! This majestic statue is made of white jade marble and adorned with intricate details, symbolizing compassion and mercy.

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3. Dragon stairs

Like the pagoda, the stairs leading to the Guan Yin statue are guarded by the majestic Chinese dragons. The stairs are easy to overcome, and there’s also a golf cart that can take you up instead.

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4. The top of the Guan Yin statue

You can marvel at the stunning views of Chiang Rai from the top of the Guan Yin statue, offering a unique perspective on this beautiful region of Thailand. That little circle seen on the statue is where you look out from!

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There are 25 levels and an elevator to reach the top and get sweeping views of forests, rice paddies, and mountains. The entrance fee is 40 THB ($1) for going up to the top of the statue of the Goddess of Mercy.

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Before, you could walk the stairs to get to the top, but now you can only take the paid elevator. On top of that, there are people employed who very nicely greet and escort you to the elevator and on your way back. We’re unsure if that was a special occasion when we visited or if it’s standard practice. 😁

Don’t forget to also admire the beautiful architecture inside. Everything is white and full of small statues and lots of details.

5. The White Viharn

Finally, you will see a viharn, the only Thai-style building at Wat Huay Pla Kang. It has Nagas on either side of the stairs, and its multi-tiered roof has statues of mythical creatures. Its interior features murals and paintings illustrating Buddhist mythology and stories.

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Best time to visit Wat Huay Pla Kang

As a mountaintop Chiang Rai temple, Wat Huay Pla Kang is a perfect viewpoint for seeing a sunrise in Chiang Rai. Thus, coming in the morning, at the opening time, is a great choice.

Late afternoon is generally the best time to visit the temple, as it offers great sunset views. You can use the golden-hour sky as a backdrop to take beautiful photos.

Visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang in the evening can also be a great experience, as the buildings get lit up with lights.

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How long does it take to see Chiang Rai’s Wat Huay Pla Kang?

The grounds of Chiang Rai’s Wat Huay Pla Kang are not that big, so expect to spend around 30 minutes there. If you plan on checking the inside of the temples as well, count on spending at least one hour there.

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What is the temple dress code of Wat Huay Pla Kang?

When visiting Wat Huay Pla Kang, a Thai Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, you must dress modestly by covering your shoulders and knees. The dress code is primarily enforced for women; men are allowed in with knee-length shorts.

You’ll also need to remove your shoes before entering the temples.

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Temple etiquette in Thailand

Here are some basic rules you should know while visiting the temples in Chiang Rai and Thailand, especially if you’re entering the temples.

Rules for visiting temples in Thailand:

  • Dress appropriately by covering your shoulders and knees.
  • Take off your shoes before entering the temple.
  • Keep your voice down.
  • Be mindful while taking photos.
  • Don’t touch the monks.
  • Refrain from touching statues and other Buddhist relics.

Is Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai worth visiting?

Wat Huay Pla Kang, “the big Buddha of Chiang Rai,” is an absolute must-visit for anyone traveling to Chiang Rai. This stunning temple, with its towering statue of Guan Yin, offers great views of the surrounding countryside and beautiful sunsets.

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What to see after Wat Huay Pla Kang?

After exploring the stunning Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai, there are plenty of other nearby attractions to check out. Read our full travel guide with all the best things to do in Chiang Rai.

One popular option is the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), which is about a 20-minute drive away. This unique temple features intricate white carvings and sparkling mosaics, making it a must-see for any visitor to Chiang Rai.

Another must-visit spot is the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten), which is just a 15-minute drive away. This unique temple features a different color scheme, with a striking blue and gold combination.

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Another attraction worth visiting is the Baan Dam Museum (Black House), which showcases the intriguing work of another local artist, Thawan Duchanee. With its striking black and red buildings and eclectic collection of artwork, the Baan Dam Museum is sure to leave a lasting impression.

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Other options include the serene Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park, the historical Golden Triangle, and the bustling Chiang Rai Night Bazaar in the town of Chiang Rai.

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Where to stay in Chiang Rai

The best area to stay in Chiang Rai is the Clock Tower and Night Market Area, especially if it’s your first time traveling to these parts.

Top-rated stays to consider on your visit to Chiang Rai:

For a quieter experience, opt for the riverside area where some of the most upscale hotels of the city are also located, like Le Méridien Resort, The Legend River Resort, and The Riverie.

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Arijana & Matej
Arijana & Matej

Full-time travelers, photographers, bloggers and travel journalists.

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We're Arijana and Matej, a couple and travel blogging duo from Croatia and Slovenia who thrive while slow-traveling. And we have been doing it for over 4 years.

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