We left Pang Mapha the next morning to head to Chiang Rai, taking a van back through Chiang Mai to do so. We arrived in the evening, were joined by Jenna, slept in our wonderful and cheap lakefront hotel, then set off the next morning to check out the White Temple and the Black Temple (which we later learned is called “Black House”). The White Temple:
…was insane. The interior, which had a “no photos allowed” policy was stunning in every sense of the world. The artist who designed the entire temple (and continues to design it, with hand selected students. The project is supposed to take 90 years, continuing after his death) portrayed images of suffering and peace – with the former as a road to the latter – in incredible fashion, combining religious mythological imagery (demons, fire and brimstone, Buddhas, etc) with contemporary mythological and political imagery (everything from Hello Kitty to Batman to Harry Potter, the Twin Towers, etc) in a provocative and, for me, disturbing scene.
From there, we went to the Black House, which didn’t have the immediate visual splendor of the White Temple, but was definitely a treat in its own right. As opposed to having a single primary attraction, the Black House was more of a temple compound, with a dozenish buildings containing various works of art, wood-crafted furnitures, and animals skins to convey an earthy, primal mood that was a stark contrast to the White Temple’s divinity.
From the black temple, we took a taxi out of Chiang Rai and over to Pu Chi Fa. A google image search of Pu Chi Fa makes it clear why it was on our destination list – visitors get an unreal view from the mountaintop, complete with crisp sunrise and a low fog layer that makes it look like you’re living on Olympus. Unfortunately, the weather was unkind to us and we didn’t get the thick, lush clouds beneath us that we’d hoped for. Still, we did get to play a great soccer game with the local kids (we won, don’t worry. U-S-A! U-S-A!) and enjoy a beautiful, though not magical, sunrise from the top of the mountain.
We left Chiang Rai that morning (after the sunrise) and headed back to Chiang Mai for the final and most anticipated leg of our northern adventure: Songkran. Songkran is the celebration of the Thai New Year. It takes place during the hottest days of the year and is a water festival where the Thai people blah blah honor gods blah blah peace and love.
Songkran is a three day water war and it the best holiday in the world.
^ That’s just a glimpse and doesn’t even begin to capture the full insanity of what happens when an entire nation decides to revert to grade school warfare. I couldn’t really take pictures as I didn’t want my phone wrecked, and there’s no point in trying to describe it: There are no words, my friends.
It was the perfect end to a perfect vacation during the perfect six months in the perfect country. The only downside was saying goodbye to some truly incredible people that have done a wonderful number on how I think, how I feel about myself and others, and how I treat each day I have for the rest of my life.
Five days and 1 blog post away from home.
What I’m Reading: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
What I’m Writing: The Lincoln Lions (novel) – 42%
What I’m Listening To: The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake