Sunday, 20 March 2016

chiang rai, thailand: white temple, black house, and more...

A temple that we stumbled upon while wandering around Chiang Rai city.

I should probably note that my Thailand blog post series isn't in a strictly chronological order. Our trip to Chiang Rai was actually towards the end of our time in Thailand, and by this time, we were slowing down to a pretty lazy pace. However, as you will see, we still managed to fit in a decent amount of sightseeing... we just spread that out over several days instead of cramming it all into one day!

Chez Nous, a charming guesthouse in Chiang Rai.

We found a sweet and affordable homestay-style guesthouse that made a great base for our explorations in Chiang Rai. While we usually go out to try food at different places, we did have breakfast here once or twice. The lovely owner dishes up a delectable pancake with lemon and sugar.

A crepe-style pancake with lemon and sugar.

We would investigate the city on a scooter, stopping anywhere that took our fancy.

One time, we stumbled upon a local market.

Lovely cat at the market.

Some of the items look familiar, such as these crabs - I think they're the little crabs from rice paddy fields that the Thais brine and then add to dishes - I've seen vendors pound them before incorporating them to my som tum (green papaya salad) on more than one occasion.

Salted crabs.

This market also sells frogs and insects, as well as many other things that are a complete mystery to me.

What is this?

We would seek out good food wherever we could. On one occasion, we took the advice from our Lonely Planet e-book travel guide for Thailand, and visited a modest little food shack called Lung Eed for their larb gai (spicy minced chicken salad with herbs). Simon and I both absolutely adore larb gai, and the one here is different to the others we've had up to now - meatier, less plant matter, and loads of crunchiness from the deep-fried chicken skin and shallots piled on top. There is also a fish version. Very interesting, and very nice, too!

Larb gai at Lung Eed in Chiang Rai.

And, of course, you can't really visit Chiang Rai for the first time and not check out Wat Rong Khun, the white temple. This is not so much a traditional place of worship, but more of a modern exhibit created by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The building was partially damaged by an earthquake in mid-2014, but it was up and running again by the time we visited later that same year.

As you can see, it is quite stunning, like something out of a fairytale.

The beautiful white temple, Wat Rong Khun.

And with fascinating details. After all, a fairytale has got to have its macabre elements.

Interesting sculptures.

Yes, it looks beguilingly pristine from afar, but get closer and you'll definitely see its darker side. The indoor murals are also amusing, with depictions that you are bound to recognise from popular culture. Go see it for yourself.

Also fabulous from the other angle.

On another day, we visited the Baandam Museum, also known as the Black House. Being skillful procrastinators, we somehow managed to languidly fritter most of our day away before finally hopping on our scooter and making our way there late in the afternoon, reaching it about half an hour before closing time. Do not be like us, as you will live to regret it.

Firstly, there was a lady selling incredibly delicious ice cream just outside the Black House. We each purchased one, thought they were amazing and wanted to get more, but then I frantically said to Simon that we really had to look around before they closed the premises, and we could get another ice cream when we're done.

But no. By the time we emerged from the museum grounds, the ice cream lady was gone. Pure devastation.

I will always remember this rich, flavourful, melt-in-my-mouth Thai tea ice cream on a stick. Always. May we meet again, my love.

Delicious Thai tea ice cream - there are other fantastic flavours, too.

Secondly - dessert tragedy aside - the Black House is really quite something. Created by Thai artist Thawan Duchanee, who actually lived here till his final days, it is a morbid study in mortality.

Baan Dam - the Black House.

If you're not a fan of assorted animal remains, this is not the place for you. I read somewhere that Thawan procured all these from animals that died of natural causes, but I am unable to find the original source for that information, so don't cite me on that.

Skulls galore at the Black House museum grounds.

Even during the day, under the bright sun, you can't help but feel the the eerie vibe.


There is not just one single building here - there are several structures scattered all over, so you really need a good amount of time to have a proper look at everything. So, like I said, you really should get there well before it closes for the day, and not just for that ice cream.

More intricate architecture at Baan Dam.

And as for the night life in Chiang Rai? It's a fairly quiet place as far as cities go, but there were still enough things to keep us occupied. We're not the wild party types and we don't drink a lot, but we do like walking around and just looking at stuff.

The golden clock tower, designed by the same artist who brought us the white temple, comes to life with music and coloured lights in the evenings.

Chiang Rai's clock tower puts on a show at night.

One night, we found ourselves at Central Plaza shopping centre. I think we may have watched a movie there - I can't remember.

Central Plaza in Chiang Rai.

We would often visit the Chiang Rai Night Bazaar, which is close to our guesthouse. This is a night market that caters more to tourists, and it's a pleasant place to stroll around, but for some reason I don't really have any particularly significant pictures of it. It is not unusual for us to pop over to the nearby Swensen's ice cream parlour afterwards for a sweet treat. Trust me to have pictures of that.

Scoops of ice cream, yes!

And, finally, we visited the Sunday night market. I was quickly captivated by a stall selling a variety of beverages, and I opted for a blue pea flower drink. It was mild, sweet and refreshing. Back home in Malaysia, we use the blue pea flower to add colour to rice, but I have never thought about making a tea out of it. I will have to try that someday!

Blue pea flower drink.

Also, what even is this? Oh Thailand, you can be so crazy.

A quirky couple with dogs strapped on to their bodies, at a night market in Chiang Rai.

Anyway, that's our time in Chiang Rai. As far as cities go, this is a very laid-back one. Wat Rong Khun is the main drawcard for tourists - and Baan Dam, too, though perhaps less so, as it is probably not as well-known. Depending on your travel preferences, you could be satisfied with just a day trip here out of Chiang Mai, or you may choose to linger and dig a little deeper. Chiang Rai also served us well as an excellent jumping-off point for a side trip to Mae Salong - but that, my dear friends, is a subject for the next post!


  1. Thai tea ice cream? Sounds delicious. And Chiang Rai looks very interesting.

    1. The Thai tea ice cream was indeed delicious. I think Simon had a coffee one or something, which was also excellent. And yeah, Chiang Rai is worth a visit! :)

  2. I'm sipping Thai iced tea while I am reading this. We didn't make it to Chiang Rai but the temple looks absolutely stunning :D

    1. I wish I could be sipping a Thai iced tea while reading your comment! :) The white temple in Chiang Rai really is spectacular.

  3. The White Temple is stunning. I am coveting the lemon and sugar pancake.

    1. The white temple is truly special, and the lemon and sugar pancake was delightful! :D

  4. What spectacular structures! Also spectacular food. Making me very jealous right now :)

    1. We had some spectacular experiences here, indeed! :)


Related Posts with Thumbnails