One of my favourite things about meeting new people whilst travelling, is being introduced to new places/sites that you’d never previously heard of or considered. Thank you, Sham, for telling me and accompanying me to the White Temple & Black House Museum!
It was our penultimate day in Chiang Mai, before heading to the hills of Pai in Northern Thailand, and the day trip we booked is up there with my favourite travelling memories so far! We booked the trip for 900 baht (£20) through our hostel, with an early start of 7am (eased with a box of Frosties + my favourite 7/11 croissant!)
Chiang Rai is a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai and our first stop was the Black House Museum. As a part art studio and part home, the Black House Museum is a collection of 30+ eclectic buildings, with outlandish designs. Although visually stunning + totally unique to the reds and golds we’d seen decorating most of Thailand, the contents of the museum itself won’t be to everyone’s liking.
From what we learned, the museum was designed by Thawan Duchanee, whose surreal and sombre theme runs throughout. To be quite honest, the tables and chairs wouldn’t look out of place on a Lord of the Rings set, and the buffalo horns and snake skins are also used as a constant decoration. It’s believed that the artwork is Duchanee’s interpretation of Buddhism and its connotations and has certainly caused a lot of controversy in a fairly conservative Thailand. The grounds alone though are very pretty, and pleasing to walk through.
The next part part of the trip involved visiting the ‘Long Neck Tribe’, properly known as The Karen People, who fled from Burma to Thailand, due to political unrest in the 1980s and 1990s. Initially, we had ethical hesitation that the villagers would feel like a human zoo, but we were assured that they are very eager to dispel untrue rumours and share their story and history.
Traditionally, the Karen women wear brass rings around their necks, which actually put pressure on the shoulder and rib cages, making the neck appear longer. The tradition started many decades ago, to protect against tiger attacks – rings are also worn around the knees and wrists, to protect major arteries, after one of the women once dreamt about being bitten by a tiger in the neck. Nowadays, the rings are worn more out of custom and to keep the tradition alive and are more of a decorative jewellery than protection.
The Karen People were also very persistent to inform us that the rings are no way forced upon women – it’s considered very beautiful, but most of the younger generations only wear a few rings now, taking them off whenever they please. That’s a contrast to the prior tradition, where initially, women wore up to 25 rings on their neck and would only take it off once a year to replace it. The belief that the neck is not strong enough to support itself without the rings is also not true.
It was fascinating stuff, and the Karen People were extremely welcoming during our visit, and multi talented. One little girl that we met, who was only 7 years old, could already speak 6 languages, including English, Spanish and Chinese! If you ever head to Northern Thailand, I’d definitely recommend a visit!
Undoubtedly, my favourite part of the day was visiting Wat Rong Khun, aka The White Temple. In the same way that the black decor of the Black House Museum was so unique, the white stood out immensely and neither me nor Sham had ever seen anything so breathtaking before. The Temple reminded me of a mix between a Disney princess castle, built using diamonds, and a perfectly iced cake decoration. It was just SO gorgeous!
The entire day visit to Chiang Rai was so, so worthwhile and what we saw and experienced, I will remember forever! It’s a must see and must add to any itinerary in Northern Thailand! The photos we took at the White Temple are also some of my favourites I’ve taken so far, and will be going straight into my scrapbook.
Even the toilets were one of the most impressive buildings I’ve ever seen..
The following day, we met back up with our gorgeous friend, Romy, and the three of us jumped on a mini bus ride up the mountainous roads, and round the 700+ turns to get to Pai, for a 4 day trip to the ‘hippie town’.
So many more posts that are in the process of being written..