We finally left Chiang Mai after five days and began our journey to Laos. After much deliberation of whether to go with a packaged tour or make the journey via public transportation, we decided to try one of the dozens of tour companies offering transportation to the Thai border town of Chiang Kong, an overnight stay at a hotel there, and then crossing the border to Huay Xai, Laos the next morning to get on an early morning boat. Our goal was to cross the border and take the popular two day “slow boat” ride down the Mekong River from Huay Xai to the UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang and using a tour company seemed like the easiest way and was only a little bit more money that using public transport.
When we purchased the package we were informed it included a stop at Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, in Chiang Rai along the way. At first were annoyed at having to stop, plus we were feeling a little templed-out, but my friend Mike assured us it would be worth it.
The temple is an ongoing project by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipa and it is quite fascinating. The grounds have all sorts of ghoulish sculptures and you have to cross a bridge to get to the Abode of Buddha, representing the cycle of rebirth with the depths of hell below. There are all kinds of creepy creatures who haven’t managed to obtain entrance to the Abode of Buddha yet, as well as hands reaching out to escape from Hell. But once you cross the bridge, you reach the gate of heaven, guarded by Death, and the temple in all it’s white and silver glory. I’ll allow the pictures to speak for themselves:
The world’s most resplendent public toilets? I think so.
Pictures weren’t allowed inside the main temple, but things got even weirder, with murals of the 9/11 attacks, scenes from Avatar, and even Michael Jackson. Construction is ongoing at the complex and only time will tell what new, other-worldly creations will be added.