11.01.2019 - 17.01.2019 31 °C
The boat ride to Chiang Rai was long but wonderfully pleasant taking in many beautiful views away from civilisation along the way. Although we did get a little wet from the rapids we braved en-route.
Our backs were thankful when the slightly uncomfortable ride finally came to an end. It was great fun, but four hours was enough!
We had struck up a conversation with a couple of other travellers and had invited them to share our taxi in to the centre of town a couple of miles away.
Chiang Rai has some amazing sights and we couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
The following day we hired a driver and set off for our sightseeing tour.
First on the list was the magnificent Wat Rong Khun, perhaps better known to foreigners as the White Temple. This temple is a contemporary, very unconventional and privately-owned art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in the Chiang Rai Province. It is owned by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed, constructed and opened it to visitors in 1997.
This place is a sight to behold. The early cloud had yet to disperse and made for a dramatic backdrop to the brilliant white structure. The dazzling bridge to the entrance was surrounded by desperately grasping hands reaching up from a dark nether world below.
Inside the artist has portrayed the vices of the modern world as demons that will destroy civilisation. In the walls and floors everywhere there are sculptures of exquisite but often pained faces. It would take more than a day to look at every small detail here. Unfortunately our time was limited and there was more to see at this site.
Across from the white temple was a beautiful golden temple like building surrounded by a moat housing many of the artist’s and his associates work.
Although we had little time we did snatch a few minutes inside the warehouse where we could observe the many artists working on further projects.
Our only regret was that we couldn’t spend more time here but there was more to see on this tour so we jumped back in to the car and headed off to our next destination, Wat Rong Suea Ten better known as The Blue Temple.
The clouds had passed and the sun had now appeared making for a fitting backdrop to our next sight.
In October of 2005, a small village in Chiang Rai turned their attention to building a distinctive and sensational blue and gold temple inspired by a fusion of the modern and ages old tradition.
Named for the tigers that once roamed there Wat Rong Suea Ten is a six-acre property located in Rim Kok, a subdistrict of Chiang Rai. The monastery and pagoda were built upon the ruins of an ancient temple abandoned eighty to hundred years prior but had now been turned in to the remarkable place it is today.
Walking under the thirty foot high striking blue statues you’d be forgiven for thinking that you are entering a big budget fantasy movie.
The attention to detail here is astonishing and every turn of the head reveals something new to marvel at.
But again our time was short and our itinerary long so after as many pictures as we could we jumped back in to the car to continue on to Baan Dam, the Black House.
A short drive from the middle of Chiang Rai city, Baan Dam is the unique creation of national artist, Thawan Duchanee. (Now deceased.)
Part art studio, part museum, Baan Dam is an eclectic mix of traditional northern Thai buildings that look more akin to a Viking village interspersed with some outlandish modern designs. Baan Dam is a thought-provoking combination of the surreal and the macabre with a great many number of animal skulls, skins and shells. Though often it’s references to sex and genitalia will raise more than a wry smile.
Next our itinerary took us to the Mae Fah Luang Gardens which included Zip Lining!
The gardens themselves were beautifully tended and had different themed areas. But we had not come here for that.
After a short safety brief we kitted up with harnesses and dashed up the ladder and in amongst the branches.
We love this type of thing and today was no exception. After traversing the many rope bridges and often climbing higher in to the tree tops we enjoyed our first zip line experience of our trip. There was even a second and even longer zip line for the bravest of visitors which of course we did without a second thought!
But there’s no time to hang around and the day is getting late. Around fifty miles to the north of Chiang Rai sits what is called the Golden Triangle.
This is the point where the three countries of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet. This area is of particular significance as it was the epicentre of the Opium Wars that occurred in the mid 19th Century. We have come here to visit the 212 Opium Museum to learn more about the events that led up to and what happened at that time. It was clear that the wars had a massive effect on the populace even up to today.
On our final day in Chiang Rai we thought we would take a break from all the excitement and have a somewhat more chilled day. We had read that there was a cat café called Cat ‘n’ a Cup. We were not disappointed after ordering a wonderful coffee we sat down in a room with over twenty beautiful cats of various breeds who were only too happy to welcome you to their home.
After the coffee was finished and the cat café got busier we decided to visit a delightful local flower festival. Millions of flowers arranged in a charming garden was a joy to be around. (And a welcome reprieve from the hot sun as the flowers were being sprayed with a cooling water mist to protect from the dazzling sun.)
We have now come to the end of our Thailand trip, all that is left is for us travel to Chiang Khong for one nights stay before we cross the border in to Laos by slow boat.
Link to our Chiang Rai/Chiang Khong gallery here.