The Black House – Capturing Darkness

Visiting the Black House (Baan Dam in Thai) in Chiang Rai left us wondering if the Vikings had made it all the way to Thailand. What we saw here, in the heart of northern Thailand, transported us back to our visits to Norway, reminding us of stave churches and stubbors. The architect, Thawan Duchanee, is the mentor and teacher of Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed the renowned White Temple in Chiang Rai.

Both the White Temple and Black House live up to their monochromatic names. Whereas the White Temple is bright and sparkles in the sun, the Black House is a complex of over 30 dark buildings, made of wood and coated in a tar-like paint. The interior design was an unusual mixture of dead animal parts – skulls, bones, hides, horns, and hair – paired with beautiful and intricate wooden carvings.

Perhaps a taxidermist would have appreciated the stuffed carcasses of crocodiles, or an archeologist may have been intrigued to find the entire skeleton of an elephant, but for us, the Black House is certainly not the most vegan-friendly location we’ve been to.

With its lesser known status, the Black House is somewhat of a hidden gem in Chiang Rai, but it is definitely gaining in popularity. As such, the stream of tourists coming to visit is getting bigger and bigger by the busload. The best time to visit is early in the morning, before too many of these buses arrive. Admission to the Black House is free of charge, and is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, but be warned, it closes for an hour at lunch between 12:00 – 1:00pm.

Directions to the Black House

For those with a more adventurous spirit, public transit is an option to get you from downtown Chiang Rai to the Black House. Grab a bus at the main bus terminal heading north on Highway #1, and tell the driver you want to go to Baan Dam, and you’ll be dropped off on the side of the highway at a small cross street. From there, it’s about a 2 kilometer walk west through a quiet neighborhood. If you get lost, we’re pretty sure the locals will help point you in the right direction.

Another transportation option, which is what we decided to do, is to hire a shared taxi. For the two of us, we bargained with the driver down to 300 Baht ($10), which included the round-trip ride and gave us just over an hour to explore. The 70 minutes we had walking through the grounds and buildings of the Black House complex was just the right amount of time. Had it been later in the day, we may have wanted a bit more time to see everything, as we would have been competing for viewing rights with more fellow tourists. Of all the activities we did and attractions we visited in Chiang Rai and its surrounding area, the Black House was most definitely a highlight! If nothing else, it provides tremendous contrast to your likely visit to the White Temple.

Stay tuned for more adventures!
Mindy & Ligeia  🙂 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Black House – Capturing Darkness

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      It’s been a work in progress for at least three decades. According to the architect’s website, he held an exhibit at the Black House in 1986. It was still under construction when we visited.

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