The Happy Room at the White Temple

The Swiss chalet-style Happy Room at the White Temple in Chiang Rai. Photo by David Lansing.

Standing in front of a magnificent golden structure on the grounds of the White Temple in Chiang Rai, puzzling over its purpose, I saw a Thai tourist guide, a rather comely young woman, nod towards the guilded structure and ask the middle-aged American businessman she was guiding, in a whisper, if he would like to go in the “Happy Room.”

Oh, my.

I’d heard of “happy endings” at Thai massage parlors (although, alas, I’d yet to experience one). Did the White Temple have a particular house of assignation, a place where for a few extra Bhat one gained not only merits towards Enlightment but also a quick and erotic personal Nirvana?

I told Ketsara what I’d overheard (the American had, indeed, decided to take advantage of the Happy Room and was in there with the guide right now doing only Buddha-knows-what!), raising my eyebrows in disapproval.

Ketsara giggled. “You know what is Happy Room?” she said.

I told her I could only imagine.

“Happy Room in Thailand is bathroom. That what we say—‘You want to use happy room?’”

My erotically-charged imaginings dampened, I asked Ketsara why the temple would choose to make their public restrooms so grandiose, pointing out that, to my mind, the structure looked like a gaudy Thai chalet built on the slopes of St. Moritz by a Thai drug lord.

“He say,”—he being the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat—“he say toilets are gold to remind us that beauty in mind of one looking but can be seen in all objects, even toilet.”

Whatever. Personally, I like my interpretation of a Happy Room better.

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