Hello and before I begin this post on our journey north from Chiang Mai I would just like to add a note to anyone who originally came to my blog to see photos of England. While I continue these posts on Southeast Asia if you would like to see current pictures of England you can do so on my Instagram account : hope_and_wander. It is linked at the bottom of my blog home page. If you aren’t on Instagram you can still view my Instagram pictures. If you happen to get my posts by email, if you go onto the actual blog site and scroll down to the bottom of the home page where you can see the most recent Instagram photos. If you click on any of those pictures it will take you to a web page with my full account to view. Currently I have been showing pictures from the Cotswolds. If you are on Instagram please let me know and I can follow you too. Actually I really love Instagram because it is a fun and interactive way to connect with people and travellers from around the world and see glimpses of their life and travels. Thank you and now back to Thailand:)
When we left Chiang Mai we headed north. With the help of the front desk personnel at our hotel we arranged with our taxi driver from the first day to transport us. This sounds like it would be expensive to have a taxi, but it was about 40 to 50 English pounds for the day for the two of us, so really it was a great way to go. Our first stop was at the Chiang Rai Hot Springs. Even though we had seen hot springs before we enjoyed this stop and learned something new here. We wondered what the ladies were doing with the small baskets. Well… they put the little bamboo baskets in the hot spring water and cooked the eggs, available for visitors to buy or cook themselves. How clever is that?
Our next stop was the beautiful White Temple as it is known to most visitors. The official name is Wat Rong Khun which is about 15 kilometres south of Chiang Rai. It is a temple, but also a contemporary and privately owned art exhibit by the artist/architect from Chiang Rai by the name of Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. The all white buildings and sculptures are decorated in mirrored glass which reflect in the sunlight to add to the stunning appearance. There will eventually be nine buildings in the complex and there is a lot of symbolism built in and reflected throughout the structures.
The details encourage visitors to reflect on Buddhist teachings and show the way to escape from worldly temptations and focus instead on the mind. The white colour signifies the purity of Buddha.
The area before the bridge, with the hundreds of hands reaching up, signifies human desire, suffering and hell. Crossing the bridge towards the temple represents rebirth, passing through the gates of heaven into the temple and into a state free of suffering.
The murals and paintings inside the temple are very different from scenes inside a normal temple and are what really made me curious and want to learn more about this project. The front wall is a golden painting of Buddha, which you would expect to see. But seeing scenes of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Batman and Spiderman, the falling of the Twin Towers, nuclear explosion and other contemporary figures and scenes of destruction was a surprise. I have read a few different versions of what the artist’s intent was in painting these murals, and my interpretation of the artist’s message is that people are evil, and superheroes or pop idols cannot save us from the terrible and destructive ways of the world. All very interesting and thought provoking.
One structure that stands out as being different is the golden building which is actually houses the rest rooms. Whereas the White Temple or Ubosot as it is called represents the mind, the gold represents the body and how worldly people focus on desire and money. The message is to focus on the mind and not material possessions. It can get very busy as it is a very popular stopping point for anyone going to Northern Thailand.
Further on our journey, now being north of Chiang Rai, we visited a combined village setting of three of the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. We appreciated the opportunity to learn a small portion of their lifestyle, which they typically make their living from farming in the higher elevations. We would have preferred to visit their actual villages and learn more about their way of life, but at least we got a sampling into the lifestyle and talents of these nice and very kind people.
Our first visit was with the Akha tribe, which is representative of largest group of hill tribes living in Northern Thailand.
Some of their beautiful handicraft work for sale.
We walked along the settlement set in the woods to the next tribe, The Kayor, or Big Ears as they are known for the large hoops in their ear lobes. We were able to interact more with the first tribe and we were on our own as we went through this section. It was a quiet time and we mostly tried to respectfully observe the talented women doing their intricate weaving.
The section of huts where the women are working with their weaving on display.
This woman is a member of the Karen tribe, or Long Neck as they are called. It is part of their tradition to wear the brass rings around their neck and often their arms and legs. The only time they are taken off is to add more rings. On the right is one of the neck rings which weighs over 8 pounds! (the scale is in kilograms.)
Back on the road we are nearing our destination for the day of Doi Tung Royal Villa.
This is the view from the sign point above. Will tell you about the Royal Villa in the next post. Getting to my favourite few days coming ahead!