Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Man in Black ...

Your scribe feeling too freaked out to be horny.
Sorry to all my loyal readers who think this story is about Johnny Cash ...

Rather, this is about Thawan Duchanee. And the 30 Gothic black houses he has built in Chiang Rai called Baan Dam (meaning Black House, and absolutely nothing to do with Jean-Claude Baan Dam). OK, I'm going to need you to work with me here as I explain.

Around 36 years ago, Chiang Rai artist Thawan -- whose looks could easily be mistaken for Ho Chi Minh -- had a dream. Apparently it was about clouds and snakes and wild horned beasts with large tusks. So he set about building all these elements into a soaring Thai-style house in the bushland on the road from Chiang Rai to Mae Chan. It's main theme was black. With a little more black on top of that. And surrounded by a bit more black for good measure.

Imagine a tattooist's favourite recurring Gothic nightmare. Imagine Piccasso's famously turbulent anti-war painting La Guernica. Now slam the two together and you have Ban Dam. Jing jing!

 He built the first house which caused quite a stir. So he built another. And another. And another. With the aim now of completing 42 of these edifices whose jagged black roof-lines appear starkly above the tree-line.

The elaborate roof of just one of the out-buildings
I mean, these are BIG houses. The main hall of just one of them is probably 50m long and, gosh, about 40m tall. Solid teak.

The reddest of red-necks from Texas would envy his collection of bulls' horns which adorn doorways, chairs, and apparently make great coat-stands too. I don't know how else to describe it. Then there's the dinner setting made from all things bovine -- black-and-white cowskin table cloth, cow skull chairs  ... just hope that the main course is not beef.

Detail from a nicely understated lounge suite
Then down the bottom of the huge complex there's what looks like a big black pig lying down. It's eyes are large portholes, through which you get a glimpse of sir's master bedroom. Well, bugger me, if that's not an S&M dungeon my name's Snow White.

It has to be seen to believed is the usual cliche. But I've seen it. And I still don't believe it ...

Footnote: Baan Dam is located on the Chiang Rai - Mae Chan Road, 18km south of Mae Chan on the left hand side as you head north, just past the Singha warehouse.

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