A few kilometres outside Norther Thailand's 2nd city Chiang Rai, one can stumble apon Wat Rong Khun, knwn to all as 'The White temple' which was rebuilt on the site of the original building by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He considers the project his gift to the Lord Buddha. The white structure, decorated with stucco and mirrored glass mosaic, is an usubot reached via a bridge across an ornamental lake. In front of the bridge, hundreds of hands reach upwards in unrestrained desire. To attain happiness one must forsake greed and temptation. The usubot’s interior is covered in orange flames, and images including Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger and Hello Kitty! A jolly gent with a loudspeaker exhots that everyone ‘keep moving, don’t stop’, in English and Thai and I guess Chinese as well. There were pretty amazingly large crowds.
Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom, ruling the northern part of Thailand and parts of Myanmar, Laos and China. In time it was subject to invasions and conquest, before being incorporated into Siam in the 19th Century. Nowadays, it is a busy metropolis, extending far outward from its now almost vanished walls, 1.5 km on a side. Only the moat remains. The city is famous for great food, and its many historic buddhist temples.
Early Monday morning will see us on a flight to Chiang Mai, beginning a 2 week jaunt into landlocked Laos (by slow boat to Luang Prabang) , and culminating on a few days by the riverside in Bangkok, for shopping and eating. Check back here for updates