Monday, February 1, 2010

The White Temple

The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), which Olga dubbed Jacky Frost, was built in 1997 and designed by a famous Thai painter, Chalermchai Kositpipat to show his love for Buddha and Thailand and to signify purity of the Buddha.  It was made out of white plaster and glass and sparkled gloriously in the sun.  From far away, it looked like it was completely covered in fresh snow.  The ends and corners were designed in curvy shapes, magical dragons and holy Buddhas.  The entrance was a long bridge over a river which represented the crossing over from the cycle of rebirth to the Abode of Buddha and was guarded by goblins and mystical creatures with swords.  In front of the bridge was a small trench from which hundreds of human hands outstretched from the pits of Hell towards the sky.

Taking our time, admiring the temple, we slowly walked inside.  And that’s where we learned the true magnificence of the temple.  

The simplicity of the inside surprised us.  We were used to seeing gold, glamour, shimmer, endless amount of Buddhas, incense, flowers, intricate designs, etc.  However, this was a small room with a wax statue of a holy man sitting in the middle and Buddha hovering above his head.  That was it.  The wall on the right was completely naked and the wall on the left had a few paintings.  A bit disappointed, we turned around toward the door, ready to walk away and then stopped short.  The front wall held a different story.  From ceiling to floor, it was completely covered in murals.  It was the drawings that shocked us to the core.  Superman, Matrix’ Neo, spiderman, burning twin towers, naked women, atomic bombs, space ships, oil pumps, cell phones, guns, bullets, devils, batman, sex, missiles, sins; every inch of the wall was covered in fantastic imagery of our movies and existence.  Trying to figure out what it means, we turned to a Thai man who was a guide to a middle-age British couple. 

- This is our history.  Everything portrayed here is the reality of our culutre.  The cartoon superheroes are our children’s reality, the oil wars and guns are our everyday news, the sins and devils are our way of life. 

It was thoroughly upsetting how true his words were.  The paintings were disturbing and full of negativity.  But then our eyes moved further up the wall.  Closer to the ceiling, hovering above the horror below, were very different pictures.  Small challots were tied by glowing ropes amongst each other and were carrying children into Heaven.  Bubbles filled with Flowers of Life and Egyptian Triangles representing souls and spirits, were rising up into the sky.  Everything was connected and unified.  So much good energy and light radiated from the pictures above, that it was hard to turn our eyes away. 

We stayed in the room for over an hour, admiring drawings and talking to people about their thoughts and interpretations.  After we left the temple we found out that the artist himself was working hard at one of his murals in a dark corner furthest away from the entrance.  Alas, we already left the temple and were heading back south. 

On the way, we stopped by a 70 meter waterfall, where we met two courageous Belgian guys who despite freezing temperature of the waterfall, went in the water.  And although we didn’t go, we were thoroughly wet from the mist which reached as far as the top of the waterfall. 

By nightfall we were far away from the temple and the waterfall, in a small town Uttaradit, which had a large and loud fair going on in the middle of the town.  Weary and hungry, we looked for lodging for hours but found none.  Then I remembered seeing a police box on the highway and decided to go back and ask them where we could find a hotel.  When we pulled over, we were greeted by a middle-age man, dressed in uniform pants and white t-shirt.  When we explained to him that we were looking for lodging, he smiled and said we need not go any further and pointed to a house behind the police box.  It was a small room with three beds, completely covered in cops’ uniforms, guns and dirty towels.  He quickly cleaned up, got dressed in uniform and welcomed us with a smile.  He offered us internet and said he’ll cook us breakfast in the morning.  Contemplating our situation, we decided that there is no harm in staying with police plus we were getting free lodging, breakfast and internet.  It was a deal we couldn’t resist.

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