A Journey Through Eternity in Northern Thailand | Chiang Rai & Chiang Mai
Let us take you on a journey through eternity via three of Thailand’s most beautiful temples in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Covid-19 has brought some major changes to many countries, at least temporarily. Schools closed down, sports events are being cancelled, mandatory quarantines in many countries are in place and most travels are banned for the good of the whole country. Some of us even brought their office at home and started to work remotely, which by the way is definitely the way forward amid the Covid-19 crisis. Nonetheless, we use this time to travel back down memory lane to one beautiful experience we had in Asia.
A Glimpse About Buddhism
Buddhists believe that life is an infinite cycle of life and death called Samsara. The ultimate goal for a Buddhist is to escape this cycle and achieve Nirvana, which is the enlightenment and at this stage, they believe that the human will not be reborn again.
The White Temple – Wat Rong Khun
One of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai (and the whole of Thailand) is the Wat Rong Khun, mostly known as the White Temple. This beautiful temple was completed in 1997 and was built in this specific location to attract both locals and tourists out of Chiang Mai, which was (and maybe still is) the most popular city in Northern Thailand.
The pure white colour of the temple alone makes you feel you’re in a sacred place, not mentioning the pieces of glass that make part of it, reflecting the sun rays.
What is really cool about this temple, in particular, is the meaning behind every detail – the white colour represents the Buddha’s purity. On the other hand, the glass signifies the wisdom of the Buddha.
Another piece of symbolism is the bridge that goes over a small lake which represents the “cycle of rebirth”, as a path to reaching happiness. One must keep walking slowly and peacefully forward as a sign of not giving in to temptations in this life cycle. Life’s mentioned temptations are symbolised by the large number of hands reaching out when getting close to the “Gate of Heaven”. These represent the suffering of those that gave way to temptation and failed on progressing through the path. As you’re walking over this bridge, it’s mandatory to not turn or look back in the opposite direction, unlike Mr X who felt that an Instagram photo was much more important.
Passing through the Gate of Heaven symbolizes reaching Nirvana and the human’s escape from this life cycle. The gate is guarded by two enormous creators called Death and Rahu, who decide over men’s fate.
Entrance fee: 50 baht/person (approx. €1.50)
Opening hours: Daily 08:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Blue Temple – Wat Rong Seua Ten
The second temple of the day was the Wat Rong Seua Ten, known as the Blue Temple. It is mostly distinguished by its bright blue colour that is totally different from the rest. Surprisingly, when it’s translated to English, it literally means the ‘dancing tiger’ as some say the region was once a natural habitat for tigers that “danced” over the Mae Kok River. The 30-year-old architecture is connected with wisdom, thus the colour blue. Many symbolize this temple with the path to enlightenment, such as the bridge at the White Temple. The Blue Temple is situated a few kilometres outside of the city of Chiang Rai.
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: Daily 06:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Out of all the temples in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, we have to mention our favourite food stall! At the Blue Temple, one can find the best coconut ice-cream, like EVER! It is served with sticky rice and a butterfly pea flower you could eat on the side, in a young coconut shell. You can find it from a stall on the right-hand side of the temple. We just love the food in Thailand!
The Black House – The Baandam Museum
Well, if both Nirvana and the path leading to it are covered, only one state of life is missing. It’s the one no religion wants its followers to end up in. In contrast of White is Black, and this is represented by the Black House, known as the Baandam Museum.
Opposite of the white temple representing heaven, this huge house is associated with death and evil. It’s one of the most surreal and weird masterpieces in Thailand. The building is still a work in progress after Thawan Duchanee (the initial homeowner), started building it in 1976. It also served as his studio and hence why it took a popular spot for tourist attractions.
Unlike the last two temples in Chiang Mai mentioned, the Black House is not really a temple and therefore doesn’t have a religious significance to Buddhism. The area is huge and wandering around can take a long time, depending on how deep you want to go into the meaning of each and every piece of art. The open-air zone is filled with many temple-like structures, statues and architecture. Most of these are things or activities which could be the temptation when walking through the path of life, which will then lead humans to hell and suffering instead of enlightenment.
Entrance fee: 80 baht/person (approx. €2.40)
Opening hours: Daily 09:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Visiting the Temples
Dress code is very important when visiting these temples. Shoulders and knees are to be always covered, as well as shoes must be taken off to enter. Always keep in mind that these are not just tourist attractions but hold great religious significance to many people. Entrance prices are very cheap (sometimes free). So, the best we can give back is by showing respect in every step we take. Experiencing other religions is indeed beautiful, and as different as they are from one another, the end game is very similar if not exactly the same!
Were these temples in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai already on your list? Then check out some other beautiful sights to visit in Bangkok, close to the Chao Phraya river. Maybe there you’ll find one you missed! 😉
Temples in Chiang Mai