The set design team for Game of Thrones called — they want their preserved hides and bones back.
Rightfully called creepy, eerie, or just plain odd by most anyone that visits, the Black House (Baan Dam) is probably the largest collection of animal remains made into furniture in the world. It’s a little overwhelming at first, and there aren’t quite enough signs or directions around the place to call it a guided tour.
After arriving, take in the first building — one of the longest tables you’ll see around, for possibly one of the most epic dinner parties ever. If you’re invited, that is — the artist of the house actually lives on the property.
As you’d expect there are more than a few signs warning people not to touch. Pictures, however, are perfectly fine.
Some of these chairs look wholly impractical — how many people want a skull right behind their butt like that? — but still wonderfully unique.
Another of the buildings, which is unfortunately closed (a safe assumption with any of the closed doors). The house has been used as a museum since 1986, but wasn’t opened to the public until more recently.
This seems an unusual, and possibly cruel, twist of fate: being forced to hold a gun that (may have) killed you in your horns. While the place does smack of having some evil, plotting genius behind it, you might recall the honored place of the buffalo in Thai culture. During their lives they’d be treated as the family’s breadwinner, partially because they tilled the fields and provided milk for the family. After their death (typically of old age), their meat and hides were used, with the skull being kept as a memory of the noble beast.
This elephant skeleton, however? I got nothing.
Inside one of the smaller buildings — dozens of chairs making up what could be a very interesting scene in some book.
Today’s next mystery: what on earth is this? It’s completely closed off and dark inside, and from another angle looks like dolphin’s mouth open wide…
Once again, I got nothing. Where museums have signs or explanations, there are none here. What there are, however, are enough people serving as security to ensure tourists don’t enter a few areas not closed off very well.
As an oddball place to wander around or take in some unique art, it’s sensational. As a place to understand said art…? You’ll find some more explanations in the gallery / shop, complete with plenty of pieces with prices across the board. This, and the White Temple, are the two best reasons to hit up Chiang Rai while you’re in northern Thailand.
Name: The Black House (AKA Baan Dam)
Address: 414 Moo 13 Nanglae, Muang, Chiang Rai, 57100 Thailand. (GPS: 19.992088,99.860255)
Directions: Renting a motorcycle or scooter will be the easiest way here (though directions via bus are below). From Chiang Rai’s Central Plaza or the Princess Mother’s Garden, head north on route 1 (Phaholyothin road). After crossing the Kok river (just north of the Princess Mother’s Garden), go 8.4 kilometers — you’re looking for a brown wooden sign and a brown wooden awning on the left. This will have three lines of Thai text and the number 13 (for Moo 13, the side street number). Take the left just before the sign, then go about 450 meters — you’re looking for the first left turn that isn’t someone’s driveway. Next, go 300 meters — you’ll see some of the sights on the left and a parking lot on the right.
If taking the bus, start from the central bus terminal (near Phaholyothin and Prasopsook’s intersection, GPS: 19.904716,99.834222) and ask around to find the right bus (most likely, around platform 5 or 6). Note you’ll want to use the Thai name (Baan Dam) — asking around for the Black House here is likely to elicit puzzled looks. The locals know this place, and will get you off the bus at the right time. If you’re playing along with a smartphone, of course, tap the GPS coordinates and follow the bus as it goes north. Once you’re off the bus, hopefully near the side road, follow the directions as above. Expect the bus to cost around 20 baht and take about 30 minutes.
Hours: 9am-5pm (closes 12pm-1pm)