As a backpacker, going from place to place, not pre-booking anything, you do learn that sometimes you have to make alternative arrangements when what you had envisioned in your mind doesn’t work out. That was the case after my 4 hour bus ride (which turned into 5.5 hours) from Pai to Chiang Mai. I arrived in Chiang Mai half an hour before the bus i wanted to take was leaving for Chiang Rai….ran up to a long queue and was praying that i would make it. But unfortunately even though i made it before bus departure, the bus was already full. I had no alternative but to book the 6am bus and then phone my old Chiang Mai backpackers accommodation who said that they had a bed for me..yay!!! And even better, when i walked into the backpackers there sat 2 of the guys i had met previously travelling. Their journey into Laos had been delayed and so they were still in Chiang Mai, this gave us an opportunity to catch up and make plans to meet up in Laos.
Saturday morning 5:30am, a time when nobody should be awake, especially not someone on holiday, i got my taxi to the bus stop for a 3 hour journey. I woke up feeling not so great…stomach pains and the sweats, clearly the mouth burning food i had eaten at the street market the night before did not agree with me. I was also running late for my bus, my body was telling me that i could not get on the bus feeling like this, i didn’t know if i could make 3 hours on the bus without using the bathroom, but my logical mind was telling me i could not miss this bus as my Thai visa expires on Sunday and so i needed to get to Chiang Rai so that it would be easy to cross over into Laos on Sunday. I boarded the bus with 5 minutes to spare, sweating profusely, and just sat for the next 3 hours trying to sleep, breath in and out deeply and not think about the pain. I made it to Chiang Rai haha YAY!!!!!
I had called up a hostel the night before to confirm they had space for me. I chose City Home Guest House as it was within walking distance from the bus station. Thank goodness for google maps as without that figuring out directions would be a nightmare. I asked one person and he had no clue. So i opened my google maps and it was less than a 4 min walk. The hostel is decent enough, I’m in a mixed dorm again (its the cheapest way to go), its clean – that’s all that counts and for the first time in almost a month i had a steaming HOT HOT shower with good enough pressured water. I could have stayed in the shower for hours but eventually the water did turn cold.
The reason i wanted to come to Chiang Rai, besides for it being close to the Laos border where i want to cross on Sunday, is because of the Wat Rong Khun, also known as the white temple.
Wat’s (temples) are a staple of Thailand. But one that stands out amongst the rest, to me anyway, and not because it is aesthetically more beautiful or eye pleasing than the rest but more or less because of its unconventional design. If an all white and modern temple is your thing, then Wat Rong Khun is your temple and this is by far my favourite temple, its crazy, creepy and a cool kind of special.
The color was chosen by visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat because it represents the purity and wisdom of the Buddha. Kositpipat believes 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.
The temple is not old. It was first built in 1996 and construction still continues even until today, the artist figures it will take another 90 years for the project to be complete. Chalermchai Kositpipat apparently said “Only death can stop my dream but cannot stop my project,” about Wat Rong Khun. He also refers to the temple as an offering to Lord Buddha and he believes the project will give him immortal life.
Walking towards the temple you walk past some freaky heads hanging from trees with plants for beards. Just before you cross the bridge, which is guarded by two scary looking Neptune characters, there are loads of hands which are coming out of the ground, one hand had just one fingernail painted red which was a bit strange. Before you enter the main temple you need to cross a small bridge. This crossing represents the transition from the cycle of life (the ordinary world) to the land of the Buddha.
Right the next part of my journey is a little crazy…
I’m going to get the local Thai bus tomorrow morning (Sunday) at 6am from here (Chiang Rai) to Chiang Khong – this should take 2 hours.
Once in Chiang Khong i need to head to the Thai immigration and “check out” of Thailand.
Next is a quick 5 min boat ride across the river to the Laos border town called Huay Xai. From there i need to get a visa on arrival from the Laos immigration.
I then will be catching a slow boat down the Mekong River to Luang Prabang in Laos, this takes 2.5 days. I am not sure if my 3G will work on the boat so if i’m out of contact this is the reason why.
Love to all and thanks for reading xxx