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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Blue & White

Updated: Jan 22

With the accommodation fiasco sorted, I stayed true to my (new) word and planned to be in Chiang Rai for arrival on the 13th. I was feeling quite unhappy leaving Chiang Mai. This magical place had really captivated me and leaving was definitely pulling at my heartstrings. I just felt there was still so much more for me to see and experience here. I wasn't done with Chiang Mai.


Not at all.


AND... I hadn't been able to get up to see Pai, which had been highly recommended. In my defence, I did TRY to see Pai… kinda. On the day I had rented the moped, it had been my full intention of heading into the mountainous region of Northern Thailand. The little village of Pai was at the very top of my list and I thought I could surely make the tricky & treacherous trek there for an hour or two of pleasant sightseeing.


No problem. Easy.


JUST as I was closing my business deal at the moped rental shop and right as I was about to sign my name on the dotted line, a blurb of fine print jumped out and caught my attention.


“You will NOT take our moped to Pai.”


Shit.


There goes plan A, B and C.

Foiled again.


I guess I will just have to come back. Pai is a definite for the next-time bucket list. It was all my fault. I couldn’t blame anyone else. I was the one who had messed up the accommodation, and consequently, my time frame everywhere.


Moving on was ok though. It had to be.


New adventures are always fun... plus, I had no idea what Chiang Rai had in store for me. Well... I guess I did have a slight inkling of what this little city nestled among the northern mountain region had in store for me. I’d read up on the stunning temples... AND I was set to meet up with a couple from my hometown. Heidi and Scotty were in Thailand and were going to be vacationing in Chiang Rai at the same time. So despite a minor booking disaster, there was much to celebrate.


I had pre-reserved my seat on the bus to take me from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai for 11am on the day of my departure. In much of Southeast Asia, the app, "Grab," is popular for ride hailing, so it seemed the logical solution to getting me and my heavy bag to the bus station without hassle.


'Without hassle' being the operative words here.


I needed to be at the Chiang Mai Bus Station ~ Terminal 3.


Easy?

Exactly. So easy.

Well... for me, as I usually discover… life isn’t always so easy.


Within moments of hailing my ride, a little red pickup truck pulled up and I jumped in. We drove through the streets of the historic centre…. and putting all of my confidence into the app and the driver, I hardly paid any attention to our route at all. It wasn’t until I noticed that we had crossed over the moat outside the historic centre, that I took out my phone to check my location.


What was going on? Where was this guy taking me?


We were heading in the absolute most opposite direction from the Bus Terminal. In fact, not only were we heading in the opposite direction, but we were getting further and further away from the bus station.


What the bloody hell was going on?


Before I even had time to check the Grab app... it dawned on me.

We were on our way to Chiang Mai Airport.


Uh oh.



Unfortunately, I was right. That’s exactly where we were heading. Chiang Mai Airport ~ Terminal 3. If there were classes in 'Attention to Detail,' I would sign up... though I would surely fail.


Shit.


Once we arrived at the airport, I jumped out, thanked the driver profusely and proceeded to hail another ride... immediately. There was no time to lose. This time I was diligent about putting the proper destination in. Chiang Mai Bus Station ~ Terminal 3.


I made my bus… barely.


Thank goodness I hadn’t stopped for breakfast… which had been my original plan. That would have been very disadvantageous to me and my bus trip ticket.


Once in Chiang Rai, I walked right to my hostel. It was only 10 minutes away from the bus terminal. Regardless of how heavy my pack was feeling, I figured I could easily endure the hardship. I’d been sitting on the bus for over three hours and had definitely already spent more than enough money being taxied all over Chiang Mai earlier that morning.


A good walk would do me well.


I arrived at the Happy Nest Hostel.


Please remember that I had accidentally booked this hostel from the 9th-14th and then had it changed from the 13th-16th. Due to them being fully packed on the 16th, I had to find alternate accommodation from the 16th onwards.


No biggie.


When I say, ‘no biggie,” I'm obviously spewing some porky pies here. It was annoying, and yes, it was a bit of a biggie, as far as I was concerned. NOT in the fact that The Happy Nest was full. THAT I could understand. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was that every time I did a booking.com search for another hotel/hostel for the 16th onwards, their available accommodation popped up first… every time… without fail.


Every search I did, on every single accommodation search engine, resulted in a Happy Nest Hostel suggestion.

“What do you mean, you’re fully booked?”


I showed the guy at the front desk when I checked in, and this wave of complete oblivion just swept over his face.


"Ohhhh... " was all he had to say.


Somebody lyin’ to me…


The Happy Nest was actually not bad. For a hostel, I was duly impressed. Had I been given the opportunity to stay past the 16th, I would have taken it. It was like a digital nomad sanctuary... a hipster's haven.


The place was very laid back and really seemed to embrace all the elements of Feng Shui style decor. There was no clutter, the design was very open-spaced. They had created their own unique style of a warm welcome with large print sayings on main walls. There were plants and old books scattered about, some vintage typewriters, wicker furniture and they'd even created calm and balance using cream and light brown colours. So Feng Shui.


Now in saying all of that... here's the OTHER odd part.

I always pick up on the bizarre... it's a gift.


THERE WAS NO ONE THERE!


Once again, I found myself in an empty dorm room.

This was starting to give me a complex.


What was going on?

Did I stink?

Had a reputation of excessive snoring preceded me?


At least the bunks were comfortable... that was a bonus.


I could even hardly imagine the busloads of backpackers arriving on the 16th. BUT... who was I to know?


So,... I fully realize that in my previous blog, I started to touch on wat-wearout and temple-tire… Forgive me, as I have visited many more since then.


It's inevitable. Thailand and temples just naturally go together. It’s almost impossible to avoid temples. I have come to the conclusion that I must accept them, just as I do foot massages. Which, by the way, I am accepting each & every moment I am given the opportunity.


Just ate? Go for a foot massage.

Just woke up? Go for a foot massage.

An hour until the market starts? Go for a foot massage.

Nothing else to do? Go for a foot massage.


There is no time like the present for a foot massage. Every time is the right time, and here in Thailand, every price is the right price. When an hour foot massage rings in at just under $10.00, it's hardly an inconvenience or a financial hardship. It almost seems wrong to NOT enjoy a foot massage... every single day.


I feel it’s fair to match culture with comfort, right?


For every temple I visit, I treat myself to a foot massage.

True story.



The temples are beautiful though… and as much as I complain about how many of them there are, their vibrant colours, lavish opulence and pure detail seem to cast this bewitching spell over me. They lure me in. Every time.


Two temples, in particular, that are more than worthy of mention are Chiang Rai's Blue Temple and White Temple. Both spectacular in design. Both breathtaking. Both gems of Thailand. Both testaments to the transformative power of passion and devotion.


On my first day in Chiang Rai, I decided to walk to the Blue Temple. I was quite hungry, so figured I would stop along the way and have a quick nibble. Through my extensive searches, I had my sights on a lunch spot called Sergeant Pork Dip. Sounded like an absolutely hilarious place to stop at eat, and you can imagine my disappointment to discover it was closed. There are some great names over here. Most, not so grammatically correct… but definitely funny, nonetheless.


The Blue Temple, otherwise known as “Wat Rong Suea Ten”, or “Temple of the Dancing Tiger” is BLUE. I didn't see any dancing tigers... but I did see a LOT of blue.


A LOT of BLUE.



Everything at the Wat Rong Suea Ten is painted in this vivid and dynamic sapphire hue. With the glimmering gold accenting the striking blue, it's almost electrifying. The walls, the roof and all the surrounding statues are this brilliant shade of rich sapphire. The statues are almost as impressive as the temple itself, if not more so. Still considered a work in progress, this version of the Blue Temple is fairly new. The local village decided to rebuild the once-abandoned and ancient temple in 1996 and began the project in 2005. For lack of a better word, it is spectacular... and perfectly combines classic Thai architecture, Buddha values and modern artistic design.


So... why blue?


That's a question I asked.

This colour is meant to symbolize purity, wisdom and apparently, the lack of materialism that Buddhists aspire to. Interesting. I would have assumed blue stood for serenity and inspiration. Not so much purity...


Inside the temple is an elaborate kaleidoscope of psychedelics, provoking a very calming piece of mind. Outside is an overabundance of terrifying beasts protecting the temple, both real and mythological There are dragons, serpents, tigers, monkeys, wild boars and many other ferocious characters demonstrating their strength and intensity with their talons and tusks and fangs and scales and spikes.


Un-missable for anyone that is visiting Northern Thailand.


Chiang Rai hosts a nightly bazarre in the centre of the historical district. There are two stages that welcome singers and dancers throughout the evening. There is an abundance of food stalls and a large variety of vendors. Being smaller, it was quite tame compared to the Chiang Mai Sunday market and definitely not as claustrophobic. I listened to some music, had some street eats and bought a few things (obviously). I'm addicted to buying jewelry.


Can't stop.

Won't stop.


Wat Rong Khun ~ The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun ~ The White Temple

I’m not as much of a foodie as I should be. I tend to fall into the familiar and stick with what I know. I'm always terrified that I'll receive a dish of mushrooms and cilantro... and believe me, it's happened. More frequently that I would like to remember, actually. I really do need some guidance when it comes to the wild, wacky & wonderful world of Thai food... and more courage to tackle foreign menus on my own.

I'll get there.


Heidi, Scotty and Toom picked me up from my still-empty HappyNest the following morning and off went to the magnificent and distinguished White Temple, ever hopeful to be early enough to beat the bus rush.



The White Temple... or "Wat Rong Khun" is one of the most recognizable temples in Thailand, and definitely one of the big tourist attractions of northern Thailand. It's probably up there as one of the most photographed as well... made even more famous through the power of social media and online marketing.


To say this temple was brilliant would be an understatement. It was glorious. It almost looked like a Christmas castle... or pure sugar icing... or the finest porcelain.


There was only one problem...


My skirt wasn't long enough. They kept saying to me, "Too short!" and "Pull down! Pull down more!"


Seemed odd, as I don't normally make it a habit of wearing tiny, provocative skirts. Knowing we were visiting a temple, and being quite familiar with temple etiquette, I figured I had dressed appropriately. Well... I had another think coming.


Apparently I had not.


The further I pulled my skirt down, the further it risked going right down to my ankles. Finally, when the waist of the skirt had far passed my hips and was wavering somewhere below my thighs, I agreed to leave the grounds and go purchase a sarong to wrap around my bare knees and the highly offensive back-of-my knees. Rather this than the risk of nudity embarrassment, which was seemingly inevitable.


It just so happened that right outside the temple gates was a wee shop where I could rent a sarong to cover up the atrocities of my distasteful outfit.



The sarong was less than stylish and more like a bed sheet than a skirt... but the bright & brilliant temple in the background definitely accented my stiff linen costume.


Together, the bright white colour and the glass mosaics sparkled in the sun and lit the entire temple up. It was a mind-boggling masterpiece of artistic brilliance. Some may argue it's Thailand's most enigmatic temple... and through its undeniable beauty were many layers of cryptic and obscure.


So much of it, very obscure.


If you look at the photo of me above, you will notice I am standing on the bridge leading up to the temple. The reaching hands below the bridge represent the destruction of human greed.



Yes... Buddha looks down on the selfish and excessive desire for more than what is needed... but imagine showing your knees? That's much worse.


I grew quite fond of my sheet... and I was sad to return it after the visit. As silly as it was...


The White Temple was designed and funded by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist who has devoted his life to the construction of the temple.


**Fun fact ~ The artist hired to restore the Blue Temple was Mr. Phutta Kabkaew or “Sala Nok,” a former student of Chalermchai Kositpipat.



The glass of the mosaics symbolize the wisdom and teachings of Buddha, while the white colour signifies purity. 

Hold on... wasn't the blue from the Blue Temple meant to signify purity?

They can’t BOTH signify purity.

What is going on here?


While I was there, I made a wish at the sacred (and fake) Bodhi tree, asking for good fortune for all travellers. It wasn't the real Bodhi tree where Buddha attained enlightenment while meditating, obviously... and the wish did cost me ฿30. So probably a little more gimmacky than authentic... but fun.


Even more fun though... were the toilets at the White Temple.


I never thought I would say something like this... but these toilets were exceptional and far superior to any lavatory building I've ever laid eyes on. I can’t think of any other place I’ve visited where people were queuing up to take photos of themselves outside AND inside the washrooms. This wasn't your regular, run-of-the-mill toilet... it was an ornate golden temple-style building that was a work of art in its own right.


The Gold Toilet Temple... who'da thunk?



You can watch all my YouTube Shorts here... if you want!

Toilets... Bodhi Tree... they're all here ❤️





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