Black and White

Trip Start May 04, 2011
Trip End Oct 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Orchids Guest House Chiang Rai
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Baan Warabordee Chiang Rai
Read my review - 2/5 stars

Flag of Thailand  , Chiang Mai,
Tuesday, April 17, 2012

As much as I love CM it was time to make my way to Chiang Rai. On a hunt for a place to stay at Baan Warabordee, I met a woman from San Diego. When I struggled with the asking price Julie offered that we split her room. The benefit of being on holiday vs. backpacking meant she could also afford a car rental. Over the next three days, with plenty of time getting lost, we explored the northeast. One day the adventure took us up and around the hills of Mueang District stopping at a tea planation and Doi Tung Palace, the summer residence of the royal family situated on an exquisitely landscaped park. Another day we drove to the Myanmar border for a visa extension and then over to the infamous but anticlimactic Golden Triangle. Undoubtedly the biggest tourist trap in Thailand, this is the spot where the Ruak River flows into the Mekong forming a boundary between the three countries: Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. The one redeeming attraction was the House of Opium. A much smaller and more sobering version of the Hall of Opium Museum, housing much paraphernalia and information about the effects of this evil drug we call heroin.

The last day together we were on a mission to find Baan Dam aka "Black Temple." It's actually the art gallery of local artist Thawan Duchanee. It is more like a compound made up of 40 small buildings; the largest Lanna style vihara represents the dark side, painted charcoal black. Each displays his work combining teak, animal skulls, bones, skins and feathers with a constant phallic theme. Probably intentional, it is quite difficult to find the correct turn off for this place, but if you have clear directions it is worth the visit.

The name Black Temple is a perfect contrast to the White Temple or Wat Run Khun located just south of Chiang Rai. Another unconventional masterpiece created and funded by the re-known national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the White Temple actually functions as a Buddhist and Hindu temple. An extravagant, ornate and almost blinding white structure surrounded by a pond on the outside doesn’t entirely prepare you for the contemporary murals found on the inside. Although finding it hard to comprehend, this is still a temple. Therefore I was forbidden to photograph the artistic paintings depicting American pop culture with images of Michael Jackson, Spiderman, Avatar, The Matrix and even the emblazoned twin towers. All I can say is if you are in Northern Thailand, it is something to witness.
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