I wrote recently about my visit to Thailand in 2018, and of a visit to Chiang Rai’s spectacular White Temple.
Competing for the role of “most famous Chiang Rai tourist attraction” (unless you’re a golfer, in which case it’s probably the Santiburi Country Club, which is also quite lovely–and the food is very good too–even if you’re not one):
is the yang to the White Temple’s yin, and quite literally the black to its white: the Baan Dam, or Black House Museum:
Both the White Temple and the Baan Dam are incredibly interesting to visit. But I was left a little–disappointed is probably not the right word; maybe it’s unsatisfied–that they are both so new, and so obviously designed to draw in Western tourists (who, as with all else in Thailand, are the money source–elderly Western gentlemen, hold onto your wallets!! LOL). Admission to the White Temple is free for Thai nationals. The entrance fee for all to the Baan Dam is around ฿80 or, in USD terms, about $2.50.
The Baan Dam is the brainchild of noted Thai artist Thawan Duchenee who spent over 50 years compiling his art museum which comprises some 40 small houses over an expansive landscape and property. I was reminded, during my short visit, of nothing so much as some Native American/Canadian museums and properties I’ve visited over the past half-century myself. Perhaps an indication that primitive (no perjorative intent) peoples share many of the same societal and cultural incentives and backgrounds.
Here are some of my photos from the encounter:
I probably fell down on, or perhaps I am just to dumb to notice or appreciate the phallic representations for which the Baan Dam is so well known. Here is a photo (not mine) of a particular bit of woodworking in which an eagle is depicted as a penis (or perhaps it’s the other way round):
Please note (in case you haven’t already) the hair at the base, and the dangling nut. So transgressive.
(Sorry. I’m a student of medieval literature. You’ll have to travel far to ring my bell, since my exposure, in my late teens as a college student, to the notion of “Gropecunt Lane.” Seriously.)
I did, however, love seeing the water buffalo. Poor thing. And the several examples of growing bamboo, something that I don’t see in the West at all.
When I travel to a country, particularly one that’s deeply unfamiliar, I like to spend as much time as possible actually in the country, with the people, learning the history, and visiting culturally significant sites, both those of great moment, and those of humble origin. And, happy as I am to remember the White Temple and the Baan Dam, I can’t help feeling, for a number of reasons, that I missed out on those opportunities on this trip. If I’d known about it, I’d certainly like to have taken my host’s friend up on her offer to visit her family’s farm a little further North. I’d have enjoyed that very much. I’d have liked to go hiking and bird watching (some fascinating birds, and absolutely gorgeous foliage and flowers), to visit some villages and learn about traditional Thai crafts.
On my next trip to the Land of Smiles, rest assured that I plan to rectify these omissions!