Even though I was feeling ill in Chiang Rai (much better now, but unfortunately Bernd has it) we soldiered on and hired a driver for a day, to take us to see the sights in the surrounding area.
The White Temple
The long term vanity project of very enthusiastic (ie. crazed) artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, Wat Rong Khun (otherwise known as the White Temple) is an architectural anomaly in Thailand. Critics denounce it as “vulgar” but all Thai wats are vulgar in my opinion. It just has a lotta white instead of a lotta gold. We both really liked it.
The Black House
A set of black wooden buildings that house the unusual collection of recently deceased Thai artist Thawan Duchanee. Comprised mostly of hides, horns, tusks and other animal paraphernalia, it didn’t do much for me. Tourists are definitely attracted by the intriguing name. “Creepy dead guy’s house” would not generate as much interest. The museum shop contained a large number of penis-inspired gifts: penis slingshots, penis keyrings, wooden status with huge penises etc. Who’d have thought this obsession would go with the dead animal fixation? What a shock.
The Blue Temple
A few years ago a local monk noticed the popularity of the above colour-themed attractions and wanted in. He had a massive blue serpent built outside his temple and commissioned a garish overhall that is now visited by tourists in their droves. Fair play to you sir.
5 Tribes Village
This is a “village” created for tourists which contains sample living arrangements for 5 local tribes. Representatives from the tribes come to the display village during the day to sell handicrafts, pose for photographs, perform traditional dancing etc. Some people dislike manufactured attractions like this but I thought it was ideal. I wanted to see the long-necked ladies of the Karen tribe but without feeling uncomfortable about gawping at them. This way we all knew what the story was – we were paying for entry and they were being paid for us to look at them.
Perhaps I felt slightly awkward but not nearly as much as I would have in a real Karen village. It does away with the pretence that tourists are curious about tribal lifestyles rather than just wanting pictures of people with really long necks for their travel blogs.