Stories

24 hours in Chiang Rai

A few hour ride on the local bus from the border of Myanmar brings us to Chiang Rai. It is 5:30pm.

First stop, our bed and breakfast: Baan Rub Aroon. A petite woman comes to the door to welcome us introducing herself as Ms. Nong, the owner. Her house is very charming with no more than 7 rooms and is very well situated in town. She tells us all about Chiang Rai, supplies us with a highlighted map and sets us up with a motor bike for the next morning. We are ready to rock!

Soon after that we take a walk to the night market. Along the way there we stop at huge clock beautifully adorned in gold with shining lights in the center of town. We’ve been told that every hour, on the hour, the lights change colors on the clock tower and music plays.

Adam makes fun of it as he “can’t imagine this will be cool” and points out the few other goofy tourists standing around waiting for the supposed show. I am not so quick to write things off as Adam (which makes us a good match!).

Suddenly a melody starts and the lights around the clock start changing colors, as if they were dancing to the song.The sun goes down making the scene quite enchanting and Adam is forced to admit that he was wrong, it turned out to be pretty neat after all. It was 7pm.

We wander around other local markets and Buddhist temples, finishing the day at the night market where we grab a bite to eat.

In the morning we have eggs, sausage, toast and coffee waiting for us at our b&b. (legit american breakfast tops our list of things we miss in SE Asia!) Our motor bike is here and we zip out on our adventure at around 10:30am.

The first stop is The White Temple only 13 kilometers away from town. Our earlier post: When Reality meets Fantasy will tell you all about it.

The sun is getting intense and after an hour or so we are back on the road.  The fresh air blowing in our face as we ride feels amazing. Along the way we see rice paddies, green fields and people working on their farms. A woman who looks about my age passes by us. Perhaps her life is not so different; relationships, family and friendship concerns. This reminds me of a saying they have in Thailand: “Same, same but different”.

From here we go back into town to buy a bus ticket and eat lunch: a tasty yellow noodle soup.

As we get off the beaten path on our motorbike it feels like we own Chiang Rai! We are bragging to ourselves about how cool we are for being able to explore on the bike. It wasn’t long until we realized we are lost searching for the Black Houses, another place we really wanted to see in Chiang Rai. Adding to the fun, our bike suddenly gets a flat tire.

So now we are stuck in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire. We start to think about all the possibilities: calling our b&b?- we don’t have the phone number; ride the bike until we find someone to help us?-could be miles and we end up damaging the bike even more…

By now it’s around 3pm. Our bus leaves at 5:30 back to Chiang Mai. We are in trouble!

We are running out of options when out of nowhere two policemen on a motorcycle pass by. We desperately flag them down and luckily they stop. Adam shows them the tire and they motion for us to follow saying “very close”.

We couldn’t believe it, but literally two minutes around the corner they lead us to an old man running a mechanic shop out of his house. Twenty minutes and $4 later he had our flat fixed!

We communicate to him (as best we could) “We are lost, can you help us find the black house?” He points over our shoulders through a hole in the leaves of a tree. We can just make out a black structure in the distance. It seems that we weren’t as lost as we thought!

It’s a funny thing how sometimes the universe just works out like that. Here we are, truly stuck, without a clue what to do and more than likely wasting a bus ticket. Out of nowhere help appears, and not only that the real solution and our goal was literally, just around the corner. (although Adam would remind me that this is a great example of the sharpshooter fallacy, and not to get too caught up in the coincidence)

Don’t miss the sign on the main street pointing the way to the Black House

The Black House (Baan Dam) is among the most odd and mysterious houses I’ve ever seen.  It is dark and surreal and it’s not only one building, but a collection of many structures and weird things.

The artist has a specific fascination for animal skulls, horns and skins. It’s decorated with bizarre furniture created from bones of exotic animals.

For more pictures check out the Black House Photo Gallery coming soon.

We rush back getting to the bus station with a minute to spare (5:29), we made it! A few hours later we made it safely back to Chiang Mai, ready for bed.

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