SE Asia,  Thailand

Chiang Rai

From the outside it didn’t look like much. However, as soon as I stepped inside, I was drawn to the tranquil energy in the room. The room was very much blue with beautiful, intricate designs, few people, calm meditation music playing in the background, and an incredible peaceful atmosphere that immediately took me in. I headed over to the white Buddha in the “Touching the Earth” mudra at the front of the temple and kneeled down in front of him. I was captivated.

I closed my eyes and started meditating. I found the complete peace and quiet inside me that I always try to reach when I meditate back home but often fail to achieve. Serenity. Contentment. Satisfaction. This is the aim of meditation. I started to cry spontaneously …yes, I started to shed tears unstoppably. I can’t explain why but this energy just took over me, and it was unlike anything I had ever felt before. It made an inconceivable impression on me.

I stayed like that for about ten minutes, trying to capture this emotion and telling myself I would carry this feeling back home with me. I took a picture of this Buddha and I still have it as my lock screen on my phone to bring me some peace while I’m frantically traversing Rome, dealing with the chaos of public transportation and the city’s tense residents, or just handling the daily stress of day-to-day life. When I find myself in one of these moments, I look at my phone and try to mentally take myself back to that point and feeling.

To think that this stop wasn’t even on our original itinerary. We had a day or two to play with and be flexible and heard about the temples in Chiang Rai being beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Only a few hours away from Chiang Mai, we decided to come for a day and found a hotel for the night on the bus ride there.

When we arrived, it was soon very clear that we were out of the hustle-bustle of Bangkok and in a peaceful more traditional Thai city. We found a tuk tuk to drive us around to three temples: we chose White Temple, Blue Temple, and Big Buddha Temple, this last one based on the tuk tuk driver’s recommendation.

The White Temple, more appropriately Wat Rong Khun, is absolutely beautiful from the outside. It almost looks like crystal andjust out of this world, as if you’re entering a fantasy land. It’s surprising to see it so white and pure yet with gloomy, haunting statues in the foreground, then peaceful Buddha faces and Buddhist imagery in the back. It’s like a ride that takes you from darkness to light.

Then, there were the random superhero and various movie character faces hanging from the tree.

Next was my stunning previously-talked-about Blue Temple, Wat Rong Seur Ten. This temple is new and modern, having only been built in the last decade or so; hence, not many people know about it yet, explaining why it was so empty. I wonder if when people find out about it and start visiting it more, it will lose its special appeal.

Last was what is known as the Big Buddha Temple but is actually called Wat Huay Pla Kung, another recent temple. This one was a shock to see. We drove for quite a bit, then in the middle of nowhere there was this massive statue of a woman overlooking the town and surrounding area. This woman is not actually a Buddha but rather the Goddess of Mercy.

We climbed up the stairs lead by the dragons, one with blue eyes and another one with red eyes. At the top of the stairs there is an amazing view of the nearby region and mountains. The first floor of this temple is an open space with spotless shiny marble floors, white columns in the center, and numerous Buddha statues along the edge. Then, we found the elevator that takes you to the top where you’ll find more white statues of fantastic imagery, elaborate decorations, and a small oval window to look out over the area. This window is the goddess’ all-knowing third eye.

View from the Goddess’ third eye

We ended up staying around the temple grounds until sunset, the lighting giving the temple an even more dreamlike atmosphere. By this time, monks had gathered and were chanting. What an amazing way to finish off our day at the temples.

At night, we went to the markets and street food stands, where we watched a dance performance in the main square while having some beers and eating the best meal so far on this trip – noodles with chicken and cashews.

In summary, best last-minute addition to a trip ever.                          

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