Before the beginning of the first Global Grad semester, we have been researching the area around the study hubs to decide what to put on their bucket lists. Quite a few of us had set sights on the White Temple in Chiang Rai, a neighbouring region and city bordering the countries of Laos and Myanmar. So, we headed out there altogether.
A minibus was hired for the group of eight and considering Chiang Rai is three hours away from Chiang Mai, several stops and no set time on how long students got to stay at each stop, 400 baht (£9.92) was a bargain.
The trip began at seven o’clock which wasn’t a good-looking time for many of us. One perk of online study is that it can be done any hour of the day, and the relaxed atmosphere with the Global Grad crew meant that quite a few students had become or reverted into night owls, including myself. While not all were bright eyed and bushy tailed, everyone managed to trudge downstairs by then.
The group collectively had breakfast- provided free by the hostel- while waiting for the driver to arrive. He appeared while everyone was finishing up so once the dirty dishes were put to wash, we all headed into the minibus for a long trip.
The trip was a relatively quiet one since people plugged in their headphones and kicked back with their own tunes, but there was also some background music which included some Elvis, Disney, funk and soul, courtesy of Anju.
The first stop was a small hot spring. We all shot to the toilets first before attempting to put our fingers or toes in the water, which resulted in cuss words when we realised exactly hot it was. The waters can reach 80 degrees Celsius (176 Fahrenheit) on certain days, yet locals were casually sat with their lower legs submerged.
It was also a food stop. Tom cooked some eggs in one pool before having them as a breakfast snack whereas most of the group went for the slightly safer options of melon, jackfruit and watermelon. Afterwards, we got back onto the minibus for the second leg of our trip.
Apart from another quick pit stop which included a trip to the 7/11 convenience store, we finally made it to Chiang Rai.
The first stop was Singha National Park. The location promotes sustainable tourism in the region and includes restaurants, a sports centre and a zoo. However, we were taken to the tea plantation as there was a viewing platform which led out to an amazing view of the lake behind. Several group photos were taken there before heading back for the start of the temple trek.
Foremost was the White Temple. Wat Rong Khun, as it’s formally known, is still actually under construction until around 2070. It’s believed there will be nine buildings eventually, but it already is a marvel.
The ubosot in the well-known White Temple is the holiest part of the area. It is reached by crossing a bridge which crosses a small lake. To get up to the height of the bridge, we had to walk up a ramp which goes over hundreds of arms grasping to the air. These are meant to represent unrestrained desire, so the bridge over it represents good people are above that.
The main building looks gorgeous with the fragments of mirror reflecting light and its traditional Thai look but the inside was rather morbid compared to most of the elegant temple’s students had visited before. Murals contained flames and demons and included were the faces of some well-known in Western culture, such as Michael Jackson and Neo from The Matrix. Other things included were the World Trade Centre, oil pumps and, weirdly, Hello Kitty. There was also a monk and in the minibus, we were debating whether he was made or real based on how realistic he looked.
Next stop was the Black House, part of Baandam Museum. We started by filling up with some food since it was already around three. There were plenty of choices although each place had a limited selection. Afterwards, we got some quick snaps of the House before entering the art exhibition right next to it. There are around forty small buildings located around the grass next to it with a wide range of items. Included were crocodile skins, chairs and other more unusual objects.
The final stop of the day was to Wat Rong Seur Ten, otherwise known as the Blue Temple. It was established in 2005, completed as recently as 2016 and was actually designed by a student of the man in charge of the White Temple. The temple has some gorgeous tones and we got to check it out during sunset which made it even more beautiful.
At the front of the temple was a small pool which people got to light flower shaped candles and make a wish in. The flowers were all differently coloured based on the wish-makers day of birth, so we were quickly checking our phone’s calendars to see which colour we’d be buying.
Another round of food was on the menu afterwards leading to many orders of fries and pad thai’s. The place also sold frappucino’s, and so we tried out the Oreo and chocolate flavours.
The way back was almost silent. Thai roads are nowhere near as smooth as UK ones so there were bumpy stretches meaning most of us couldn’t sleep but there were chilled vibes in the vehicle. The minibus used also had seats which reclined back a considerable distance so everyone was almost laid down while listening to their music or playing games.
We returned to our hostel just after ten so the trip in all took around fifteen hours. While some of the group found more energy when getting back, most had a night in or went straight to sleep. The journey was long but seeing the amazing colours of Chiang Rai made up for the length.
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About the author
Jasmin Dawling is one of Global Grad’s January 2019 students and is completing a full-time Bachelor’s degree with the Open University in International Studies. While this is her first time formally blogging, she has had plenty of writing experience in the past, from novel writing since the age of six to working on the school newspaper. Apart from seeing the sights of South East Asia and working on her degree, Jasmin spends most of her time either procrastinating or writing down her novel ideas, be it on her travelling-inspired new ideas or the 7-part series she’s been toying with for almost ten years.