The White Temple and the Golden Triangle

The White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

The White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

Since I’m in Thailand for more than 30 days, I had to take a trip to the Burmese border to get a new tourist stamp. It’s very easy to do this from Chiang Mai, and I signed up with a pre-arranged tour for transportation, lunch, hand-holding during the border crossing, and visits to a couple of sights along the way.

I visited the extremely popular Wat Rong Khun, or White Temple, which is an artistic endeavor in Chiang Rai that was undertaken about 15 years ago and is still a work in progress. Absolutely gorgeous from afar, the temple is actually pretty disturbing up close. There’s hellish imagery juxtaposed with Buddhist figures, and in the interior of the temple – where photos are not allowed – there are murals of pop icons and terrorist attacks, including the burning Twin Towers. I was completely unprepared for this; I had thought I’d be visiting just anotherĀ wat and had no idea that the White Temple was actually a modern building making some kind of statement. To be honest, I found it a bit distasteful.

The tour also stopped at the Golden Triangle, which is a section of the Mekong River that touches Thailand, Burma, and Laos. In the past it was an opium hot spot. This part of the day was much less offensive, and it was nice seeing the Mekong again! Now I’ve seen it in four of the six countries it passes through.

All in all, it was a successful day and I was happy to get my new 30 day visa stamp so I can spend more time in beautiful Thailand.

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