Even though Chiang Rai is about 2.5 hours from Chiang Mai, we decided to take a day tour to see a few of the Chiang Rai highlights.
Mae Khachan Hot Spring
Our first stop was at a natural hot springs. Jen was super car-sick when we arrived here, so we didn't do much exploring. In the parking lot, there are several ladies selling touristy items and eggs that you can cook in the hot-springs for breakfast. We didn't buy any eggs, but one of those ladies saw Jen laying sick on the ground - she took pity and kindly offered Jen some medicine from her personal stash. Jen didn't take it, but thought it was a really sweet gesture :)
White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
The next stop was our main reason for taking this tour. Wat Rong Khan, also known as the White Temple, is one of Chiang Rai’s most visited attractions. Previously an older temple that had fallen into disrepair, it has now been transformed into a modern temple that was designed and constructed by a national Buddhist artist. Although new work on this temple continues to be ongoing, it was opened to the public in 1997.
The temple is really unique and stunning to look at, yet had an unexplained, odd, touristy/Disney vibe that left us with mixed feelings. The huge walls are covered with images of Buddha and.. a lot of Hollywood icons such as Neo, Bumblebee, Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and Superman.
We didn't take any photos from inside the main temple since it was not allowed, but we did check google and found a couple of example images from Duke Language School. Their site also explains that "These unusual murals are placed opposite the Buddhas. They are meant to show that people should free their minds from bad intentions, and that violence, greed, and hedonism is the wrong way of life."
After visiting the main temple, we also started noticing Hollywood references in other areas of the temple grounds as well (where we were allowed to take photos).
Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seur Ten)
Our next stop was the Blue Temple. Apparently the temple was named Wat Rong Seur Ten, meaning "temple of the dancing tiger", because it was built on a site where tigers were said to have jumped over the river.
Black House Museum (Baan Dam Museum)
The Black House is a private art museum with a mixture of unconventional and contemporary art and architecture. According to the tour websites, it has been called a “dark, mysterious, and almost sadistic representation of hell, complete with preserved animals and a collection of bones". It sounded ominous, so we were curious to check it out. It was.. different!
The tour ended with a long 3-hour ride home with our driver who thought he was driving an F1 😬.