- Constructed: 1975
- Popular activities: Admiring the large selection of dark art
- Suited to: Architecture / art lovers
- Time needed: 2–3 hours
- Location: 10 km (6 mi) north of Chiang Rai town
- Opening hours: 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily (closed for lunch between 12–1 p.m.)
- How to get there: 20–30 minutes from Chiang Rai city by car, taxi, bus, or songthaew
The construction of the Black House began in 1975 and comprises the lifework of Thailand's award-winning architect, painter, and sculptor, Thawan Duchanee, who designed and lived in the house himself. He was named National Thai Artist in Fine Art and Visual Art by the Office of the National Culture Commission of Thailand in 2001.
If you have visited temples in Chiang Rai or anywhere else in Thailand, we can promise you that the Black House is unlike any of them. Noted as one of the more spooky tourist attractions in Thailand, it is worth a visit to experience its innovative artwork.
While the art, architecture, and general vibe of the Black House might suggest a Satanic theme, this is incorrect. Being a devout Buddhist, Duchanee meant the artwork to portray hell and the suffering that comes with the cycle of life, death, and rebirth in the Buddhist belief system.
Duchanee passed away in 2014 at the age of 74, and there is little doubt that the Black House will be one of his most memorable creations.
1) 40 Black Houses
Baan Dam is essentially a large museum featuring 40 structures that house its creator's large collection of paintings, sculptors, skulls, bones, and taxidermy creations.
Almost everything has an uncanny theme; however, there are also numerous references to Buddhism, backing up claims that the house was not created to promote evil and Satanic impulses. Instead, it portrays the universal human struggle with attributes such as greed, lust, jealousy, and envy.
The 40 buildings have been constructed using dark woods such as teak and display a good mix of Lanna, Laotian, and other regional architectural styles. As each building is unique, the complex is a hit with architecture enthusiasts.
2) Art Collections on Display
If you were expecting the usual Buddha statues decorated with ornate carvings of popular symbols such as nagas, lotuses, bodhi trees, and elephants, you are in for a surprise. What you will find are the bones, skulls, teeth, and skin of animals, accurately arranged in an assortment of poses.
Paintings, horns, and gold and silver items can also be found in the many black buildings. Each piece showcases Duchanee's staggering talent and is imbued with an inner message that stimulates the viewer's imagination and emotions.
3) Main Building
Some of the most impressive exhibits are located in the large main building of the temple complex. Here, on a massive table, rests the skin of a huge snake as well as a taxidermy crocodile.
Scattered inside this building are various other pieces such as skulls, bones, horns, and seashells. The furniture in the rooms too are intricately decorated.
4) Dedicated Shrine to Duchanee
That main building of the Black House is also where you will find a shrine to Thawan Duchanee. When he pased on in 2014, a shrine dedicated to his memory was erected within the house.
Tips for Planning Your Visit
Before making your way to the Black House, you should note the following:
- The cost of entry is 80 baht per person. Children under the age of 12 years and the disabled can enter for free.
- The artwork on display is not for everyone, and this should be taken into consideration prior to planning your trip. Dead animals, bones, teeth, and even animal genitalia form part of the artwork.
- While 40 structures make up the Black House complex, you will still spend a lot of time outdoors in the sun as the art is scattered all over the grounds. So ensure that you wear adequate sunscreen.
- Try to arrive as early as possible as this attraction gets very busy, especially during peak hours.
Getting to the Black House
If you are planning to drive or take a taxi to the Black House, the journey should take no longer than 30 minutes as it is located about 10 km (6 mi) north of Chiang Rai. Drive north on Route 1 before exiting left, just after passing the hospital.
Follow the signs to arrive at your destination. Do remember that if you take a taxi, you will need to negotiate your fare. This might include a separate fee to have your driver wait for you while you explore the Black House.
Alternatively, you could use a bus or songthaew, which you can board at the old bus terminal in the centre of Chiang Rai.
Other Things to Do in Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai has a number of attractions besides the Black House, and you could fit a few of them into a full day of sightseeing.
The White Temple, for instance, is considered to be the complete opposite of the Black House. An all-white temple that glistens in both sunlight and moonlight is a sight to behold.
Another option to consider is making a one-hour journey to the south of Chiang Rai, where you can lose yourself amidst nature at the Doi Luang National Park. Enjoy the bamboo groves, waterfalls, numerous species of birds and animals, and stunning paradisic views.