Chiang Rai is popular in the backpacking world for being the home of the White Temple. The White Temple (or Wat Rong Khun) was created by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and opened to the public in 1997. The temple grounds are in constant construction and the whole area will finish in 2070. Videos of the artist himself make him appear slightly crazy, in my opinion. In other words, the guy is an artistic genius.
The actual temple is much smaller in real life than it appears in photos. (Isn’t this the case with most famous photos? Was anyone else surprised by how small the Sphinx is in Cairo?) The bridge in front of the temple is meant to represent us rising above our vices and desires (the reaching hands) as we shake off our worldly connections to greed and temptation on the way to happiness.
Most photos from this temple are the impossible shot of a beautiful girl walking on a white bridge over a lake of hands outstrecthing toward the sun. In reality, the bridge is packed with tourists holding umbrellas to protect them from the sun. There was an employee standing on the temple side of the bridge with a megaphone ushering the tourists along and not letting anyone stop to take pictures. A picture on your own on the bridge? Forget about it.
Inside the temple are paintings of the artist’s idea of the wickedness of humans. Celebrities both fictional and real are painted deviously and selfishly destroying the world. No photographs are allowed inside – saving something for those who travel to the temple to reflect on in a sacred space.
The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten) is a stunning combination of blue and mystery. The temple was created by Putha Kabkaew, a student of the designer of the White Temple. This is a relatively new temple, built in 2016.
Don’t expect to see this one on the tour maps. Directions: rent a scooter and head for the hills!
Upon arriving to Chiang Rai, Jordan and I thought it to be a bit industrious and a bit dirty. It is a city for wheels, not heels. We rented a scooter for the few days we were in Chiang Rai. The White Temple was quite a ways out of town, and we preferred an adventurous way to get around.
The city is actually very close to some beautiful mountains and jungle. We took the scooter to see the Buddha caves and a few the off the beaten track Buddhas and monasteries. These were amazing little spots that really gave us insight into what life in the country in Thailand is like.
One of the coolest things to do in Chiang Rai is the night bazzar. The food in this part of the country is heavily influenced by the Lanna Kingdom and its neighbors China, Burma and Laos.
Jordan and I were particularly excited to try a hot pot. A hot pot is a big ceramic pot over live flame with a broth inside. You get noodles, meats and whatever else you would like in your soup on the side. To eat, you simply dip or let soak for only a few minutes your noodles etc in the hot pot. The meat takes longer to cook, of course. Little by little you will transfer the contents of the hot pot into your personal little bowl and enjoy! This meal is meant to share with groups. Jordan and I enjoyed our meal while local dance groups performed traditional Northern Thailand dances. In between dances, I loved watching the local young adults sharing their meal, laughing and pretty much acting like local young adults do everywhere – selfies included.