Thailand Travelogue: The Beautiful, Bizarre and Unconventional White Temple and Black Temple in Chiang Rai

Earlier this year the Tourism Authority of Thailand invited me to come visit the country and create our first ever Asian guide for GayCities. The phenomenal travel connoisseur Carlos Melia took me, YouTuber Davey Wavey and colleagues from Pink Triangle Press, Passport magazine and dot429 around Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle region showing us the shiniest gems Thailand has to offer. The following travelogue retraces highlights from my seventh day there.

Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) by Chalermchai Kositpipat

On our way from Chiang Mai to the Golden Triangle we stopped to visit two more temples. So far on our journey we had seen beautiful, ornate, larger-than-life temples in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai, but these two temples in Chiang Rai were a little more... unconventional. The White Temple, for example, had Predator crawling out of the ground.

The pop culture references were more apparent inside the shrine where photos weren't allowed. In the back mural, colorful illustrations of American superheroes like Spiderman mingled with Japanese video game characters from Pokemon. It was like an 80s Saturday morning cartoon smorgasbord. Apparently Chalermchai Kositpipat, the conceptual artist behind this magnificent art piece, wanted children to be interested in going to temple just as much as they are interested in watching TV or playing video games. He wanted to make temples a part of the contemporary cultural conversation.

Baan Dam (The Black Temple) by Thawan Duchanee

If the White Temple is silly and child-like, the Black Temple is the complete opposite: surreal and macabre. The temple serves as a cemetery for the discarded art of controversial and mysterious Thai artist Thawan Duchanee.

The charred wood, the use of skeletons and bones, the over-the-top phallic imagery all made it seem as if I was walking around a set of the Thai version of True Blood.