Chiang Rai - art-driven temples and the Golden Triangle


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Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Rai
November 27th 2018
Published: February 18th 2019
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Chiang Rai is was originally a capital of the Lanna kingdom (I believe before Chiang Mai), super close to the Golden Triangle (border of Thailand/Myanmar/Laos and historical opium territory), but is known today for a range of modern/very artistic temples. The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) was built by a local artist opening in 1997 - it is beautiful and a bit insane, in an overall Buddhist style but with a range of modern influences and stunning paintings inside. The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten - the spot where tigers used to jump over the river) recently opened, built by a disciple of the artist of the White Temple - there are definite similarities, they're both amazing to look through, with enough detail to occupy you for quite awhile if you can navigate the crowds. Construction on both is still ongoing. The Bandaam Museum (Black House...or Black Temple, although I think this last one is just to line up with the other attractions) is the creation of another local artist - part museum/part house/part art exhibition, it's a bit odd but also interesting. There are a lot of animal skins/bones/etc. intermingled with artistic versions of traditional houses and artifacts - somehow, that I won't start to speculate given my complete ignorance on the topic, it's all meant to tie in to an artistic representation of portions of Buddhism.

Chiang Rai is also a launching point for a number of traditional hill tribe villages, although most are fairly touristy at this point (although still interesting - there's some good variety). Heading north towards Myanmar the scenery is stunning, lots of mountains, hills and occasional tea plantations.

One of my last stops was the Golden Triangle - traditionally known for a whole lot of opium production, although today more of an odd border point where it seems lots of Chinese cross into Laos for cheap shopping. There are a couple of interesting museums on the history of opium trade/use as well.


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