The Black House (Baan Dam) is one of the most unusual attractions in Chiang Rai. It is not a temple, but rather the fruit of a lifetime’s work, a creation that was made by a famous Thai artist, who was born in Chiang Rai and gained national and international recognition – Thawan Duchanee, who passed away in September 2014.
Sometimes the place is mistakenly called “the Black Temple” – but it isn’t one; it’s a unique piece of art, both surreal and mysterious. Experts argue that it’s meant to present the dark side of human beings.
The black house is a part studio, part museum, and part house. It employs and intertwines Lannaa and modern styles; odd, strange, dark and surreal designs. Dozens of structures in various shapes and sizes are scattered in a lovely, well-maintained park, and among them, you can find statues, shaped rocks, various displays and more.
Black not only dominates the structures, that are made of black tick wood; it prevails in the general atmosphere, which is odd, mysterious, intriguing and gloomy. Not all structures are open to the public but those available feature displays of animal skulls and bones, horn shaped seats, crocodile skins etc.
The largest, most central structure is close to the entrance, and a visit there suggests the atmosphere that the artist wanted to provide to the visitors – through a snake-skin tablecloth, buffalo horns, crocodile body on a long table and similar objects.
The artist did not propose any explanation regarding the displayed objects and their meaning. This was perhaps an intentional decision if he wanted to leave it for the visitors’ imagination and interpretation. At any event, there is an interesting contradiction as the lovely, serene park is juxtaposed close to the odd, gloomy exhibits.
It’s hard to avoid the comparison between the two famous attractions of Chiang Rai City, the “White Temple” and the “Black House”. While the former represents innocence, virtue, and aspiring towards heaven, the latter represents the dark, evil, torturous side.
In my opinion, one could also say that the “White Temple” is somewhat of an obvious, kitschy cliché, while the “Black House” is mysterious, strange and open to diverse interpretations. However, the two attractions are unique, moving, and catch the eye – each in its own way.
In conclusion: it’s very likely that the “Black House” is not for everyone’s taste – but it’s very interesting and worth an hour-long visit.
Location: some 10 km north of Chiang Rai city center
Opening Hours: every day from 9 AM to 5 PM **closed between 12-1 PM
My Opinion: Mysterious, intriguing, challenges the imagination – recommended and worth a visit
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♣ Feel free to check out the clip I took on site… Enjoy!!