Thursday, November 21, 2013

Chiang Rai Black House

It's hard not to compare the White Temple to the Black House. It's almost as if they were deliberately created as opposites - opposite colors and locations - white is south of Chiang Rai, black is north; white is surreal, black is naturalistic; white is enlightenment and life, black is death. But once you experience each one, you realize that they're not in competition at all. They're both in their own little worlds, seemingly oblivious to their "counterpart" on the other side of town.

The Black House or "Baan Dam" in Thai (บ้านดำ), sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Black Temple, is the creative estate, grounds, and galleries of Thawan Duchanee, a local artist. Because it's his house and not intentionally designed as a tourist destination, it's kind of in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, local bus drivers know about it. Go to the old bus station in the center of town and go to platforms 5 and 6. Tell them you're going to "Baan Dam" - that's literally "Black House" in Thai. It's 18 baht. The bus driver will drop you off in the middle of nowhere. Trust them. I had looked on Google Maps, so I trusted it a little more.

If you're following along, you'll pass the airport road on your right, then a few minutes later you'll pass the university ("CRU") on your left, and you'll know it's coming up soon.

We just walked across the little boardwalk and through the open field and came in from the back side - not an entrance at all, but it worked.

Don't you just love exploring? We love Thailand!
The estate is a collection of a bunch of buildings in various architectural styles, almost all painted black with a few exceptions. So it's hard to say which one is "the" black house, although I guess we'd have to assume it's the first one you come to (if you enter from the front like you're supposed to).

Most involved some type of animal skeleton in the art.

It's creepy at times, interesting at times, but you can't help but look in every doorway and check out every building because it's so random that you just have to see all the things his weird little mind has created. Like this bathroom.

The detailwork is every bit as intricate and amazing as the White Temple.

Keep an eye out for donkeys, snakes, birds, and other random animals he keeps as pets (we heard there's an alligator, but we didn't see it).

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