Wat Rong Khun, perhaps better known to foreigners as the White Temple, is a contemporary, unconventional, privately owned, art exhibit in the style of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand.
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The crowd was my map. They walked with a smile. The road to get to Namami Brahmaputra was a kilometer away. Traffic was being controlled like an orchestra. I heard giggles of women dressed in sarees, I saw teenagers crack what seemed like inside jokes. I saw a father talk to his son on his shoulder. All in a language I couldn’t understand, but gestures I could clearly tell.
As I neared the place, I stood at a spot from where I could see the spectacle at a distance. A stage, a white balloon like setup and thousands of witnesses.
I didn’t end up going inside. Mainly because huge crowds make me anxious sometimes. But I knew just what I wanted to do. There was a small place right beside called the ‘Gateway of Assam’. I paid 5 rupees for the ticket and entered.
I pulled a chair and sat in front of a live show – of the still waves of the Brahmaputra, the setting sun, a few boats and confused clouds. We were an audience of 10. All of us sat in silence.
Down below I saw three boats line up. People entered and when each boat got full, it left. The sky grew tense and I could tell it’d pour heavily in a while. The wind grew stronger as the sun began to set.
And it was then that I witnessed what I’d never seen before – a changing seascape. Grey clouds took over white. Boats sailed towards the shore. The wind was so fierce, it felt as if someone high up in the sky was blowing it with all their might. The signboards flew, chairs toppled. People got up and started walking out. I stood there rooted to the spot waiting for the credits to roll. But to my surprise, it didn’t rain.
On my way back, 5 cabs cancelled on me. I finally hitched a cycle rickshaw. Turned out to be better than the cab. The rickshaw driver, a man in his 40’s made no conversation except for when he stopped for his betelnut refill. ‘Sorry’ was all he said.
As I entered Café Craft, it began pouring heavily. I spent my evening sipping chai and trying the carrot cake. All while reminiscing about what I’d seen that evening.
At night, I packed my backpack again from scratch. And while I was worrying the rain might ruin my trip, I slept thinking maybe, just maybe, it’s not that bad after all.