Our tour began early, with a three-hour car ride to Chiang Rai, only stopping briefly for breakfast. I chose some fresh pineapple, while others went for a buttery egg crepe.Here’s my tour group gathering by our van, with solo travelers from Australia, Portugal, Brazil and Taiwan. 😀At first I wondered why insurance was included in this harmless temple tour. That was until I mapped out our journey on Google- endless sharp curves along a narrow mountainous path. 600 baht penalty for puking. 😮I was hoping to catch some z’s on the ride, but I barely managed to keep myself from sliding off the seat. Hah! Apparently my fellow passengers can sleep just about anywhere. 😛Anyway, around 11 AM we finally arrived at The White Temple in Chiang Rai.
The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun a.k.a “The White Temple” is one of Thailand’s most notable landmarks. The temple is constructed using white plaster and pieces of clear glass, which sparkle in the sunlight. 😀Visitors must cross a bridge leading to the temple, which symbolizes the way to happiness, and a path to rebirth. Under the bridge you’ll notice hundreds of reaching hands, symbolizing evil and desires. If you reach the temple by avoiding these temptations, you will transform in a state of eternal bliss. What’s unique about this temple is not only its stunning white facade, but it’s bizarre display of superheroes.The artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, appeals to the younger generation’s understanding of good vs. evil, by displaying modern superheroes and villains around the temple grounds. In fact, the murals on the temple interior are even more eccentric, with recognizable characters, such as Kung Fu Panda and Spider-Man.
Anyway, in addition to the white temple, you will find a golden temple as well. This gold temple represents our desire for money, whereas the white represents our mind. In this gold temple, visitors make merit by giving away their material possessions and focusing more on mindfulness. Overall, an eye-opening experience for any visitor, regardless of their faith.Cost: Free entry, since the temple is still under construction. Upon completion, an entry fee will be charged.
Anyway, at that point, we took a lunch break, to enjoy a variety of both Thai and Burmese dishes, like yellow rice, chicken curry and hand-pulled noodles.
After lunch, we drove another hour north to visit The Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle is essentially where three counties meet: Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos.They are separated by the Ruak and Mekong River, and there’s an island in the center, which was originally used for selling black market goods. Thai locals would sell opium to neighboring countries, a practice which has since become illegal.The Opium Museum here shows the history of opium use, as well as, collections of drug paraphernalia. Although opium use is illegal in Thailand, you can still consume legal quantities of the drug by purchasing poppy-seed cookies.Today, the main reason Thais cross this border is to gamble, since casinos are illegal in Thailand. They’ve even named this region of Laos, “Laos Vegas.” 😛For those that take the ferry across the border, they can also sample local animal whiskey, which is said to improve chances of fertility. The whiskey jars are aged with scorpion, snake, and even tiger penis. 😮
Personally, I enjoyed learning about the lifestyle of the Karen community, seeing how they lived, and overall I felt these women looked proud displaying their unique heritage. Walking around, I was greeted by nothing but sweet families and smiling faces.It was a time I really wished that I could speak the language. Even my beginner Thai wouldn’t help me here, as they speak a Sino-Tibetan dialect. I guess a warm smile is the universal language of kindness, so that would have to do. 🙂
Overall, I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to carry that weight everyday on your shoulders, but hey, I’ve seen women do some crazy things for beauty. I knew I couldn’t commit to the copper neck rings, but I did purchase a nicely designed copper ring- the perfect memento.