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Nang Lae, Thailand

Baan Dam - Black House

An entire elephant skeleton, snake skin table runner, and thousands of animal remains become art in Thailand's Black House. 

Everything at Baan Dam is black, or at least gives off a dark aura, and each one of the 15 houses is embellished and furnished with animal remains.

Artist Thawan Duchanee created an impressive collection of skins, bones, teeth and taxidermy of a wide array of animals. The animal remains are intricately arranged, giving off a beautifully unique yet mysterious tribal vibe. There is a conflict of emotion, between appreciation of art and a sense of evil, coming from the dead animals. Supposedly they all died from natural causes; an idea that makes the place more spiritual and less sadistic.

The main temple is a large wooden structure. The black tiered roof has curvy metal points jutting from the sides. Inside, the wooden infrastructure is aesthetically exposed. In the center a long wooden table with benches on both sides is lined with an incredibly long snakeskin runner. One hut, designed like a Budhist stupa, contains a circular room, lined with chairs made of buffalo horns and skin. The centerpiece is a giant crocodile skin, painted black and surrounded by candles. The room is known to reverberate and amplify sound. Maybe the most fascinating and sadistic architecture is the submarine-shaped building. Like most of the buildings, it is not open for entry, but windows provide ample light to view its contents, revealing what seems to be a torture chamber. 

Baan Dam is Thawan Duchanee’s artful portrayal of hell. The opaque decor and dead animals adorning each room make Duchanee’s estate the complete opposite of the White Temple, the glimpse of heaven designed by his teacher Chalermchai Kositpipat.  Although off the beaten track, the Black Temple is not something to be overlooked.

Know Before You Go

Its tricky to find. You can take a cab, or get a public bus from the Chiang Rai bus terminal. Ask at the counter for the black house / black temple, or the official name, Bandaam Museum, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. Let the driver know where you re going, and you’ll be dropped off on the highway, with a 500m walk down a local road to your destination. Repeat the same in reverse to get back.