As I walked though the door of the Black House I found myself face to face with the strangest of sights. Black horned chairs lined the perimeter in sharp contrast to the the white walls. The skulls and candles situated on the floor conjured up memories of virtually every horror movie I had ever seen. What was this place? How many more buildings where there? Had we made huge mistake by coming here?...
What was this place?
While Jess in Chiang Rai there was two things that we didn’t want to miss. The first was the White Tempe, one of the most interesting places I have ever been. If you haven’t read it already check out that post here Wat Rong Khun: The White Temple.
The second was Baan Dam Museum: The Black House. After visiting the wild crazy world of the White Temple we were fairly certain that nothing was going to be able to top that. But maybe just maybe if there was such a place in the world that was strange enough to beat out even the White Temple, it most certainly had to be a place called The Black House. So we set out to see for ourselves.
Once again we took our lives in our own hands and battled through the Chiang Rai traffic on our little scooter in pursuit of strange oddities. The Black House is only about 13 kilometers north of Chiang Rai so fortunately we didn’t have to go far.
In case you were wondering the White Temple is about the same distance from Chiang Rai, but in the opposite direction, so it is possible to do them both in one day if you are short on time.
As we left for the day we were equipped with what we though were pretty specific directions….they were not, we still ended up getting lost for a little while. The Black House is actually a collection of about 40 buildings dotted across a plot of land several acres in total, and it is a bit off the main road.
Wrong turns aside we eventually found ourselves pulling up to what immediately struck us as just as strange a site to behold as the White Temple, but with a completely different feel. A massive main structure sat right at the front gate seeming to call out to us.....
Enter if you dare!
We had learned our lesson with the White Temple, and were sure to do our homework before leaving the hostel this time. We were well aware of the fact that what we were looking at was an artist’s work. A lifetime of effort displayed in an entire complex. And yet somehow that didn’t seem to make it any less weird.
As we walked around we were completely surrounded by a very clear theme that the artist Thawan Duchanee had created. Horns and skulls all around with crocodile skins, candles and woodcarvings. Not thrown about mind you, not even close, but very VERY carefully placed.
Several of the buildings were mostly empty great halls with lofty ceilings and at least one, but typically several, incredibly long tables that looked as though they were straight out of The Lord of the Rings. I felt as though at any moment I might take a wrong turn and find myself face to face with a table full of begins that I did not want to be negotiating with.
Is this Mordor?
The complex as a whole seemed to have more than it could manage. Several of the buildings were actually lifted up off the ground with even more tables and horned chairs arranged ever so carefully beneath them, as if waiting patiently for their turn to host a meeting of the macabre.
Thawan Duchanee had used plenty of traditional Buddhist architecture in his buildings. The tall pointed rooftops and stupas were all things that we had seen before. But I had also had heard that there was some controversy surrounding his art and perhaps this was part of the reason why.
Most of the buildings on the property were open for visitors to peer inside, while others were locked but allowed you to see in them through the large glass windows, often presenting you with an entire scene of meticulously laid knives and skulls on tables or animal skins draped across oversized beds constructed of yet more horns.
One building however was the exception. A medium sized construction that was vaguely reminiscent of a whale. It had very few windows and seemed as though it was intended to be a bit more private. We later found out that this was in fact the case. This was Thawan Duchanee’s bedroom for while he was on site.
We continued making our way through the various buildings. All the time feeling as though we and everyone else around had accidentally stumbled upon some place that we were not supposed to be. That perhaps at any moment we would peer though the wrong window and see something that we would never forget.
Let's get out of here!
In the end no such physiological trauma took place. We left the Black House with little more than a case of the heebie-jeebies. Our goal was to see a few last weird things before leaving Thailand, and we definitely accomplished that. Now it was time to cross the Mekong River into Laos and trade in our temple sarongs for zip-line harnesses as we trekked off into the wild for The Gibbon Experience and some of the longest zip-lines in the world!
What's the craziest museum you have ever been to? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!