From Wat Rung Khun in Chiang Rai  

Sometimes you take that one photograph that makes you pause more than usual.  A photograph that makes you step back and re-evaluate how you think about something, how you look at something, and in this case how people are looking at you.  This is such a photograph and that’s why this photograph is profoundly significant.

It’s a photograph of a sign posted at the entrance to Wat Rung Khun in Chiang Rai.  Yes, I distorted its shape, but not its message.  Let's be honest, do you think this message is fair?  When I first read it, despite half a day driving just to get to this place, my first inclination was to turn around and walk away.  Sure, I was insulted.  But I think the feeling of shame towards my fellow “foreign visitors” was stronger.  Stronger because they make a good point.

We’ve all see the “Ugly American” or the “Ugly Brit” or the “Ugly Russian” and especially the “Ugly Korean” visitors who make total asses of themselves.  Blatant disregard for the culture of others, for their places of worship, and so much more.  I’m on record as noting the disrespectful and deplorable behavior of “tourists” at many sites I visit.  I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.

On this day I looked at the lady controlling the access gate with a “who me” look and she generously waved me through the gates without a tour guide.  It was a relatively slow day so I don’t think employing tour guides was their primary motivating reason.

If we want to take responsibility for the way we’re looked upon as foreigners.. perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves is:  What can we do to gain respect and change their perception of us?  For those of you reading this I’m sure the answer for our own behavior is clear.  But what about the behavior of other tourists you’ve already witnessed acting like buffoons and are sure to witness again?  Taking them by the elbow and exerting a bit of peer pressure in the way of a few words of reason could certainly help.  I will if you will.

 

The might 'hi-so' of fancy toilet in the Kingdom!  

We’ve all laughed and called our toilets the “throne” at one time or the other, but the restroom facilities at Wat Rung Khun take the Golden Porcelain Throne joke further than I’ve ever seen it taken.  This lovely golden structure is the restrooms for Wat Rung Khun, provided for your pleasure and recreation.  I’ve never seen more bling on a restroom, or a finer looking building to house them.  Wat Rung Khun is nothing if not a bit overdone in many areas.