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White Temple and Black House

THAILAND | Wednesday, 19 November 2014 | Views [556]

The White Temple, in Chiang Rai. Built unusually, all in white, to represent purity.

The White Temple, in Chiang Rai. Built unusually, all in white, to represent purity.

Today Aaron and I decided to go on a day trip adventure to Chiang Rai, a three-hour bus ride northeast of Chiang Mai. We were told yesterday, during our recon mission to the bus station, that the bus left every hour from 6 AM to 6 PM. We headed out in time to catch the 8:00 bus, and found out on arrival that it, in fact leaves at 8:30. Hmm, OK. Guess we had enough time for coffee after all!  So we booked our tickets, as well as the return trip on the last bus from Chiang Rai at 5:30 PM, to make sure we get back today. We run over to a nearby coffee shop so Aaron can grab an amazingly hot Americano coffee with cream but having no cream. I get my now requisite "cafe yen," or iced coffee. It comes in a pretty big cup, which I am really excited about until I get on the bus to discover there is no bathroom on board. I also picked up some bus snacks: a little pack of cookies and some durian-cream wafer cookies. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with durian, it is a large tropical fruit with a knob ly outer peel that is banned from hotels and public transport due to its distinctive and quite unpleasant smell. It has a nice flavor though, if you can past the fragrance. I figured the cookie form would be ok, but they turned out to be a bit of an acquired taste as well. 

Our plan for the day in Chiang Rai was to see the famous White Temple, and I had done just enough research to know that there are two bus stations in Chiang Rai, the White Temple being closer to the first stop, so we disembarked there to the concern of the bus driver who seemed worried that we were surely getting off at the wrong stop. We hired a taxi to take us to the temple, and agreed on a price of 300 baht for the ride, considering he agreed to wait for us while we did our sight-seeing thing. After marveling at the white shiny symbolism of purity and the journey from earthly temptation into heaven, we realized that we surely had enough time to also see another attraction in Chiang Rai: the Black House. I had read the two were located near one another, so we asked our driver if he could take us there. We had a good deal of difficulty trying to figure out just how far away the Black House was, but he seemed to indicate that it wasn't far. So when we are still barreling down the highway twenty minutes or so later, we are getting pretty nervous. After all, we have a 5:30 bus to catch, we have no idea where we are, and we are now travelling with a man we cannot communicate with who we don't have a monetary agreement with concerning this change of itinerary. I am desperately trying to locate the Black House on the map I found in the cab's seat pocket. Finally we arrive, and we decide we shouldnt stay long, since we still need to get back to the city center to find the other bus station for our return trip. We agree to meet our cab in only 30 minutes this time. The Black House turned out to be much more interesting, with its themes of bones, horns, and black colors. The artist died somewhat recently, but he had lived on site in a black whale-shaped building at the edge of the extensive grounds. In contrast to the all white, mirrored surfaces of the White Temple, the Black House is said to possibly be a vision created in contrast. It represents the awareness of living with mortality and human temptations. We found it beautiful and compelling, which reminded me of my reaction to reading Dante's trilogy last year; I by far enjoyed Inferno over Purgatorio and Paradiso. Speaks to my darker natures, I suppose. 

Back to the Clock Tower, an ornate center square landmark in town, where we knew we could find our way to the bus station. Another three-hour ride back to Chiang Mai. The bus' air conditioning sure works well. we recommend anyone taking these busses bring a jacket!! Tomorrow we will leave Chiang Mai and head to our next destination: 8 km north of Soppong, a four-hour ride from Chiang Mai. We plan to spend the next three days out of the city at a place called Cave Lodge, where will commune with nature, go kayaking, explore a river in a cave, and just relax.  We will be very near the border of Myanmar.  More later!!


Tags: chiang rai

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