Our time in Chiang Rai was brief, but we made the most of it.
Imagine modern-surreal art meets Buddhist mysticism. Paint everything flat white and you are imagining the white temple. Add in a few more buildings, some gold, three golden toilets, and you are now imagining the White Temple Complex.
It’s unclear if this temple was a practicing temple, or just a private art project disguised as a temple. It used to be a temple. A local artist rebuilt the temple using mostly his own money. Inside temple were modern art depicting the cycles of death and rebirth.
Aside from the crowds, and multiple ways of donating or spending money in the complex, there were ongoing art projects big and small around the property: A monster with two mouths and five eyes, a massive fountain with bells under waterfalls made up of many faces, a sculpture of griffins wearing traditional Siamese royal headdress where we could put our faces, and giant serpent-dragon fountains. It was difficult to tell where the temple began and the artistic-theme-park ended. “I wonder what this place will look like in a hundred years,” asked Alyssa. It was a good question. It made me wonder if some of the temples we had seen at Angkor Wat, Prambanan, and Borobadur were also similar when they were constructed. Were they cutting edge renditions of what the elite class interpreted religion as? Part of me assumed not. The temples that stood the test of time were forged from durable materials taking substantial time and physical investment by large segments of the population. I would be surprised if this temple-theme-park-art-project will stand the way it is now in 500 years. It looks new, shiny, and interesting….but it also looks fragile.
This ornate structure was the work of the same artist responsible for the White Temple. At 7, 8, and 9 PM the chimes are followed by music and a mini light show. The slowly changing light colors reflect off the many mirrors embedded in the design and created an pretty effect.
Kylie and Alyssa loved this place! A small cafe, with floor seating, small tables, and a room full of cats. They walked everywhere. They setup shop on your table. They even tried to eat the food of the inattentive or distracted customer. Cats slept and walked on catwalks above. They rested in and on cat hotels. They lounged on furniture all around. Many of these entitled cats walked around avoided kids trying to pet them. However, Kylie worked hard with one, and by the end of our visit had it purring with appreciation.
We welcomed the diverse mix of cuisine in Chiang Rai. From pad Thai, pad sew ew, Thai pancakes, to green curry, we found a variety of wonderful food to partake. We even broke down and got pizzas. Finding local food was always a challenge. Many of the food carts advertising local food have no locals, just lines of tourists wanting cheap seafood. However we were fortunate to find a local food court deep in the morning market. Many local vendors came in or ordered food from here. Communicating was a bit challenging, but we managed to order and found the food outstanding. The vegetables were fresh and cooked perfectly. A hidden gem among the sea of food options in Chiang Rai.