We did a one night stay in Chiang Rai and it was a busy trip. We got the bus from Chiang Mai, which took approx 4 hours. Tickets were 166B each.
On the way to Chiang Rai we could see a huge thunderstorm in the distance, it was the first time we have seen anything like it, driving through 35 degree heat and watching thunder and lightning a few miles away. However, once we arrived, the thunderstorm was there to greet us, and it had no intention of stopping.
We got a tuk tuk from the bus station straight to our hotel and got a deal off the driver to take us to the Black House, the White Temple and to the bus station (3 hour trip) for 350B each, which we were happy with.
We got sorted in our little hotel room, more basic than what we were used to, but very clean. It had an electric fly swatter, which proved handy. Craig however thought it was a child’s toy and stuck his finger in it, safe to say he got a bit of a shock! (See what I did there?!). We went to the hotel lobby and were loaned an umbrella and called a taxi to town, the gentleman on reception recommended a Northern Thai Restaurant for us to visit called Barrab. The taxi driver got out of the taxi, came to fetch us, and walked us to the car with umbrellas over our heads, opening the doors for us. We have never known such good service!
Town was a short ride away, 40B each. The taxi driver gave us his number and said to call when we were finished. He recommended that we walk to the clock tower for 8pm, which was duly noted.
The restaurant was really, REALLY good, we had a mixture of authentic Northern Thai food (Hang Lay; a spicy pork curry and Larb Nuer; marinated minced pork with chilli flakes on lettuce leaves) and the more traditional Thai food (Pad Thai).
After we ate we paid a visit to the clock tower for 8pm as the driver advised, even though it was pouring down! When the clock struck 8, it started to change colours and music started playing, it was quite the show and we both really enjoyed it, it was worth getting drenched for!
That night we chilled in the room and Craig started going through all our BKK footage and trimming it to make a short video (said video can be found here).
The next day we grabbed breakfast (buffet style, much to our delight) about 9am ready to be picked up my our tuk tuk driver at 10. We visited the Black House first as I read that it shuts at lunch hours, where as the White Temple stays open all day.
There are approximately 40 different structures at Baan Dam (The Black House), created by Thawan Duchanee, a Chiang Rai born Thai artist who has developed a style of work representing the darkness in humanity.
If anyone reading this has ever played the game Oblivion, Baan Dam must have been behind some inspiration for the Gates. We both fell in love with the complex. Black wood structures contrasted with gold and red detailing and smaller engraved pale wood panels, decorated with various skulls and buddha images. It was very striking.
The main building is definitely the main attraction, with eerie music playing as we approached, and inside was furniture that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Lord of the Rings, with giant dining tables with alligator table runners and chairs made out of antlers.
Once we had exhausted ourselves with all the sights of Baan Dam, we met our tuk tuk driver and made our way to Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple).
As soon as we approached we instantly thought of the quoted “Heaven and Hell” contrast between the two.
Wat Rong Khun is one of the most famous and most recognizable temples in Thailand. Made with white plaster engraved with small glass shards, the temple sparkles as you approach, it reminded us of something out of a childrens film where the castles are made from snow and ice.
Towards the end of the 20th century Wat Rong Khun was very run down, artist Chalermchai Kositpipat completely rebuilt the temple using his own funds. To date it is not yet finished, Kositpipat has plans for an additional 9 buildings including a meditation hall, monks living quarters and art gallery.
The walk into the main hall was very different, with hands reaching up from the ground. It’s said that it’s a symbol of desire.
We weren’t allowed to take photographs inside the main hall, but the mural inside was strange but spectacular, featuring various scenes such as Neo from The Matrix, Sailor Moon, Michael Jackson, the burning Twin Towers, various Star Wars characters and Kung Fu Panda. We aren’t exactly sure of the meaning behind the artwork, but enjoyed it all the same, as it is so different to the other temples we have visited.
After tiring ourselves out taking photos in the blistering heat, we went back to our Tuk Tuk driver and got dropped as the bus station to head back to Chiang Mai for one night before our flight to Krabi. Hopefully with a visit to our favourite night market.
Craig and Rach x