Monthly Archives: February 2009

Holy Curiosities /

The Weirdest Temple in Chiang Rai

An insane Thai artist, who resides somewhere between Henry Darger and Moebius the Frenchman, realized he needed to return to his hometown, Chiang Rai, and build a temple. Not just any Wat — it had to be something bigger, something bolder, something more… white. It was to be the most renowned tribute to the Buddha, yet. It was to deliver him students and followers, and scores- nay, millions- of tourists a year. It was to put Chiang Rai back on the map.

And it did.

Bouncing along dirt roads in a tuktuk, sucking in truck exhaust, I cursed Sasha and Tina. “What’s another Wat,” I kept asking — I’d seen thirty, forty, maybe even a hundred, so far. I was sick of Wats. And here I was, twenty five minutes away from my guesthouse, and the bus to Chiang Khong, just to see another.

Then, far down the road, something white appeared. Wat Rong Khun (วัดร่องขุ่น) was glistening. It was literally brilliant. Closer, it appeared to be a palace made of Ice — something from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Pollution and open sewers aside, this was breathtaking.

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What The Fortune Teller Told Me /

Become a Lecturer in Chiang Rai

After the grim Burmese reading , I had to go in for a second opinion.

So today I tried this Chiang Rai palm-reader. He must be good. He read palms with one glass eye.

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Holy Curiosities / ,

The Weirdest Temple in Chiang Mai

Out near the zoo, hidden in a dusty residential neighborhood, miles from the nearest high street, is a Chiang Mai forest. In the middle of that forest, lies this piece of majesty: Wat Umong.

The koans, which you’ll find nailed to trees at random, read like a stocking-stuffer self-help book. But they’re great.

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Uncategorized / ,

Drinkin’, Singin’ and Fightin’

Back-to-back performers on any night in Chiang Mai.

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Strange Tourism / ,

Weird Things in Chiang Mai

My favorite things about Chiang Mai were all pretty weird… Watch the video for dancing elephants and more.

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Strange Tourism / ,

Whoring in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai's an interesting town: a lot like Bangkok, but on a much smaller scale.  Hundreds of coffee shops.  Great boutiques.  And old white men with young Thai girls.  Absolutely everywhere.  Old hippies with Thai women in their 40s, and adorable little hapa kids.  Bald and bearded bikers with chubby teenagers.  Backpackers with stunning beauties.  It's not as offensive as it was in Hua Hin, but it's twice as pervasive.

At the UN Irish pub, I joined a group of four older farang, each of whom turned out to have come to Chiang Mai for the women. 

Derek, a 76-year-old cockney, works as a tree surgeon's assistant back home.  He's been in Chiang Mai on and off for forty years, but for three years he's lived here more than not.  "I went into a bar," he says, "And this bird sits down next to me and asks me to buy her a drink.  Now she wasn't what's normally my type.  I like 'em small, you see, and this one's big.  She's got some weight on her.  But I said, why not — thinking to myself it's just one night.  And we had some fun.  Well, that was three years ago, and we're still together.  Thirty six years old, she is."  She's less than half his age.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 1 Comment
Offbeat Museums / ,

Chiang Mai Insect Museum

The owner/founder/curator/resident artist calls it the quirkiest museum in all of Chiang Mai, and admission is twice the cost of my hotel room. 

And it's terrible.

A billion mosquitoes stuck on boards, some mounted spectacles (to represent our inability to see), and some Santa Fe-style paintings.  I know my quirk.  And I know my bad.  And this was somewhere on the lousy side of both.

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Other Obscura, Uncategorized /

Fighting Cocks

I found this sign on a roadside outside Old Sukhothai, the ancient former capital of Thailand. But I never found the venue. I gave up after half an hour of cycling the same stretch, over and over and over again.

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What The Fortune Teller Told Me /

Don’t Date, Sell Cars, and The Future of Burma

The Burmese palm reader warned me not to invest, or date women, until April. “You will be very unlucky,” he said.

And to stay in after 9pm, "unless you go out with a friend." After referencing a chart in a book, he decided selling cars would be a good career.

"Do you have any questions for me?" he asked.

It was foolish, but couldn't resist.

"What does the future for Burma look like?"

He froze. He looked at my minder. My minder looked at me. No-one said anything, and they stared at each other, unsure of how to respond. Finally, the fortune teller spoke: “It will not be good.”

They both laughed, nervously, then my guide ran off to pee.

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Pretty Pictures /

My Diane Arbus Moment

From a wedding in Myawaddy, Burma.

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Uncategorized /

Illegal border crossing between Burma and Thailand

This is incredible — it’s the illegal (but very open) border crossing between Myawaddy, Burma, and Mae Sot, Thailand. I shot this in the shadow of the official border bridge.

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Extraordinary Eats /

Frogs for dinner

Found in a market in Mae Sot, Thailand:

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Offbeat Museums / ,

Forensic Science Museum, Bangkok

Deep in the bowels of the King’s Hospital, if you look hard enough, you’ll eventually find the stomach-churning absolutely wonderful Forensic Science Museum. I’ve a weak stomach, but the permanent exhibit here is unmissable. (Photos aren’t allowed, so I apologize for this scarce and clumsy record. You’ll clearly have to go, yourself.) It’s a cluttered mix of photos, bones, corpses, bits of corpses, larger bits of corpses, implements of murder, victim clothing, and a really horrifying stretch of “pickled punks.” Little is labeled, less is explained.

This arm, for example, is simply labeled “tattoo.”

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Cute & Kawaii / ,

Bangkok Loves Blythe

Siam Paragon Shopping Mall’s elaborate (and incredible) Blythe exhibit offered up some leading costume designs for the creepy oh-so-slightly-pedophilic 1972 Kenner doll, which has captured the hearts and sewing skills of, well, at least a few dozen fans. From Wikipedia, “There is a network of hobbyists who customize the doll for resale and create clothing and shoes for Blythe. Enthusiasts share photographs of their work and their dolls on the Internet.” Well, this was the Epcot Center of it all.

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/ by Dean Pickles / 2 Comments