Thursday, February 28, 2013

White And Black Of Chiang Rai

From Chiang Mai I wanted to get up to Chiang Rai and see the mystical White Temple, and the Black Temple, as strange interpretations on the temples of the Asian region.

I took a bus from Chiang Mai, and managed to see both in a day trip, with a return bus that evening. Doing it independently, I grabbed a taxi when I alighted at the first of the bus stops at Chiang Rai, and with phone calls to base, and a pictorial calendar of the area the driver had, I managed to have him take me to the two places I wanted to see.

The White Temple, or Wat Ron Khun, sparkled in the sunlight, and was a spectacular sight. It is actually a work in progress which started in 1997, with a vision of 9 building as part of the complex til the full art piece is complete. You can have your photo taken at the entrance with the visionary, or deranged mind, behind the design, as many Thais were doing - the cardboard cutout was very popular!

This sign prevented me from actually going inside – the one moment I wished I had taken up the offer of my guesthouse back in Chiang Mai for an overly priced guided day trip to Chiang Rai. Foreign tourists ruining it for the rest of us – sadly, I can just imagine. Apparently inside there are frescos of modern day points of importance, like 9/11 and the planes crashing into the Twin Towers. Completely bizarre.

Outside though, there is still much to see. The creepy heads hanging from tree branches, the most gilded toilet block in the world, the wishing well. But the sight of the reflection of the temple was worth the bus ride alone.

Putting the disappointment of not being able to go inside behind me, my driver and I managed to communicate somehow about my next desired destination. The Black Temple is actually the Black House of a local Thai artist, and not as well known as it's lighter counterpart. It is also hidden away in backstreets, and I was sure we were lost or going somewhere else as my driver proceeded down a laneway off the main highway outside of Chiang Rai.

The Black Temple is more of an art exhibition that a religious temple, spooky and weird and tucked away.  Everything made from wood, or animal particles, the carving are actually very impressive. The gables of the temple roof is spectacular, but the contents inside are a little more peculiar!

All wood carvings, particularly on the buildings themselves, are amazing. The focus on dark timber, the sheen, and the design of the various outhouses are worth seeking this stop out.

The furniture stall underneath one of the buildings, in among it's stilts, had everything you could imagine - and many things you would never have!

But the most bizarre belonged to the first and main building, and it's table settings. Chairs made from animal horns and antlers, table runners of snake skins, and even skinned cats!

Clever use of the materials around the artist, but I am not sure anyone would be able to tuck into a steak with the tail of an ox brushing your elbows as you ate!

The White and Black features of Chiang Rai, some say Heaven and Hell, are well worth the day trip - but maybe get a guide so you can check out the more bizarre details of the White on the inside.

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