At the end of my 2 day cruise in the Mekong Delta to the Thai border, I was left with one disproportionately tanned arm and a yearning for all things Thai.
I set off for Chiang Rai and went directly to Wat Rong Khun, more commonly known as The White Temple, for obvious reasons.
After seeing dozens of temples in Japan and Laos, it's safe to say I was a little templed out. But this was no ordinary temple. Wat Ring Khun is a contemporary Buddhist and Hindu temple designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat in 1997 (construction is estimated to continue for another 90 years).
The bridge represents the cycle of rebirth (leading from hell to heaven) with the pits of hell below, the gate of heaven is guarded by death and ghoulish heads dangle from the trees. You think you've heard it all? Wrong. Inside is a large Buddha with an extremely creepy wax replica of a monk sitting in front (unfortunately photographs were prohibited inside). It was as though we were asking each other the same question, "what are you doing here?" Pop quiz! What do The Twin Towers, Kung Fu Panda, Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddie Krueger, Darth Vader, one of the Transformers, that guy from Avatar, the Hulk, Batman, the Joker, a cellphone, Spiderman, Superman, a couple of Angry Birds, Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, and a Converse sneaker have in common? They are all in a mural representing the apocalypse inside the temple. The artist's intended message was that not even superheroes like Batman can save us from the "killing of innocence." McDonald’s, satellites, and human sperm are also shown. I think the artist was trying to urge the viewer to do a little introspection to think about what they are consumed by and what they need to do to let go of in order to be happy. If you look closely at the devil's eyes you can see small portraits of Bin Laden and George Bush.
The temple looks like a castle that a gothic snow princess would reside in. This peculiar temple is overwhelmingly white (Buddha's purity) with small mirrors adorning its rims (so we can reflect on ourselves and observe the mind) . I'm sure right about now you're asking yourself "why is the White Temple white?" I'm glad you asked. Kositpipat believed gold is “suitable to people who lust for evil deeds” so he wanted this one to be different from the traditional golden temple. More pure. More contemporary. More Michael Jackson. More cow bell.
Definitely worth the trip.
I then took a bus to Chiang Mai so I could transfer to Pai, a bus that, as destiny would have it, I missed.
Stuck in a city that I did not want to be in (yet), I went to 7-11 to get some pity Pringles to bring back to my room. Somehow I knew that sour cream and onion would improve my situation. I spotted a ladyboy. She/he called me "honey" in a raspy jazz singer voice as he/she passed me to get a better viewing of the yogurt assortment. Japan's 7-11 may contain better food but it's got nothing on ladyboy customers.