Thailand: The White Temple

We get up early to catch a van that will take us closer to Laos. We won’t actually reach Laos for 2 more days, and will be traveling mostly by boat, but today we take a van further north-east in Thailand. The van fits 10 people so we share the space with some other groups of people. There is a group of girls (3 American and 1 Canadian), a German couple, an older French guy, and a younger guy who looks Scandinavian, but I don’t know for sure where he’s from. It’s a quiet ride to the hotel.

The driver of the van is totally cray, and takes corners at 80km an hour. This is not an exaggeration. At one point during the ride I dozed off, and woke up because I hit my head on the ROOF of the van from him driving so fast over a pothole. We’re driving up through a mountainous area which is very windy, and I kid you not I look at the speedometer to see he’s going 130km/h through hairpin turns on a pretty skinny little road. People are bouncing all over the place inside the van. Sketchiest thing ever, BUT out of 4 vans doing the same tour that we are, we arrive at The White Temple first. Boom.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai (not a typo. There is Chiang Mai, and Chiang Rai) and it’s a half way point through our days journey. This temple is even more gorgeous than the one I visited yesterday. It is a bright, piercing shade of white with silver accents and the most detailed architecture. It is surrounded by a small moat and has ponds on either side filled with fish. From afar, the temple looks ancient due to it’s classic style architecture (and I guess I just assume all temples are ancient) but as we get closer I start to think perhaps it is not so old. Just before the entrance way, over the bridge to cross the moat, there are two almost bare trees with white heads carved as dragons or scary demon faces hanging from the branches, which are all surrounded in dead grey moss. The pathway up to the temple is lined with two pits on either side, with hundreds of white hands reaching up out of the ground, some holding skulls and others holding up bowls (temple donations). One or two of the hands have red painted finger nails… it’s creepy but sick. It’s what is inside the temple that I really find the most interesting about this place. We aren’t allowed to take photographs inside, so you will just have to rely on my description of the art on the walls, and I know you won’t believe me when I tell you.

The back and side walls are painted dark orange and red, with very fine details painted in… of pop culture characters. Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, SpiderMan, The Hulk, Jabba The Hut, Darth Vader, Michael Jackson, and The Terminator, just to name a few. Among the paintings of these characters, are scenes of the twin towers being blown up, tentacles surrounded in flames, wearing digital watches, cellphones, and basically anything else you can think of. When you step back to take it all in you can see that the basic backdrop is the face of a dragon roaring (or whatever noise dragons make) and all the images are emerging from it’s mouth. It’s all so fantastic and SO confusing.
There is a monk sitting in front of a gold buddha statue at the front of the room. Ilona and I can’t figure out if he is a real monk or a life-sized wax figure because he doesn’t move once, and has a slightly shiny finish to his skin. In a regular temple I would of course assume that he is a monk who never moves, but in this place I don’t know what to think. I don’t know how to ask without potentially offending someone so I let the mystery be for now, and plan to google it later.

Around the temple, there are a few stores and cafés, and a lot of construction happening to build more. It seems as if a little urban centre is being built up around the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I plan to google that also. I didn’t see any brochures or other sources of information about the temple so I will just have to find out for myself… I am intrigued.

By 4pm we have arrived at our hotel, where we will stay until tomorrow morning when we get on the slow boat to Laos. There isn’t much of anything surrounding the hotel and the van leaves immediately, so I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do for the next 15 hours. There isn’t even wi-fi, and the rooms are mediocre at best, but at least it’s not a night train.
Yeah, I went there. Prepare to hear about this frequently. Forever.

I don’t know if it’s the heat or what, but my hair is legitimately turning curly. I’m sad about it. Straight hair was so much easier to deal with. Especially when traveling.

I have a quick nap on my sketchy hotel bed and get up for dinner which is served downstairs outside by the river. This is the only opportunity I have to access the wi-fi. It doesn’t work in my room. Our boat leaves at 7am tomorrow morning, so after dinner I plan on just going to sleep and waking up early. Woot woot!

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