The first time I saw a picture of The white temple in Chiang Rai, I couldn’t believe a temple like that exists for real. Then I did a quick search and found out it’s a new temple, still under construction. ‘Fake tourist trap pseudo temple‘ is what I thought, and Wat Rong Khun was out of my bucket list.
It was years later when I found what a mistake I’ve made…
A White Temple Story
It turned out the temple is not really new. However, the original Wat Rong Khun was in such a sorry state, that one of Thailand’s greatest artists – Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to purchase and renovate the holy building with his own funds. Since 1997 he has invested more than 40mln Bahts (1.2mln USD) creating the most unique temple, not only in Thailand but the whole world!
Who is Chalermchai Kositpipat?
To understand the idea of the White Temple of Chiang Rai, you have to know its creator. Chalermchai Kositpipat was born in 1955 and has controversy surrounding his work all of his life. His style is best described as mixing traditional Thai Buddhist temple art with contemporary images. Now imagine how painting Budha and Luke Skywalker on a mural looks from a monks perspective. The king of Thailand, however, loved it and became his client, and since Thai people adore their king, Chalermchai Kositpipat was accepted as one of the greatest contemporary artists of Thailand.
Now that you have some knowledge about its creator, you can guess what Wat Rong Khun really is. The pinnacle of his work, The White temple is all about hidden Buddhist meanings mixed with modern idols. The White color represents the purity of Budha while the mirrored surfaces are reflecting light, representing the Buddha’s wisdom shining out across the Earth and the Universe. The primary message, Wat Rong Khun is sending is that you need to escape desire, greed, and temptation in order to reach Nirvana. To reach the main temple hall (Nirvana), you have to cross the bridge over a lake of hands reaching up from the cycle of death and rebirth. Then comes another bridge, guarded by demons (and Instagrammers) ending with the most bizarre temple hall you’ll ever see.
To explore the White Temple of Chiang Rai is one of the 1700+ ideas I have on my bucket list. See what else is on it!
The murals on the walls have as much Budha as they have Holywood in them. This enormous painting of a demons head is covered with all kind of modern idols. Neo from the Matrix, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Michael Jackson and many many more. All of them represent the distractions human face in their quest to find the true enlightenment. Taking pictures inside the temple is forbidden, so you’ll have to imagine it (or google some official photos).
Some of the other weird stuff around the temple include a monkey king ironman sitting on a bench like Ronald McDonald, a Predator sinking into the ground, a wishing pond where you have to hit the middle for your wish to come true and the golden toilets where everything is…well…golden. Why is it golden? While the snow-white color of Wat Rong Khun represents the purity of the mind, the gold color of the restrooms represents how people focus on worldly desires and money aka the body.
While the main temple is complete, the idea behind the White Temple of Chiang Rai is to be complex of buildings, and it’s expected to be complete somewhere around 2070.
Some useful information about the white temple of Chiang Rai
Do you like Buddhist temples? Check out Borobudur – the oldest Buddhist temple in the world
How to get there?
– The White Temple is located around 15km outside the city of Chiang Rai. The easiest way to reach it is by a taxi. Price should be around 300 bahts (9 USD), and the journey should take approximately 20 minutes.
– Wat Rong Khun is free for Thai citizens while the foreign visitors have to buy a ticket costing 50 baht (1.50 USD).
– White temple of Chiang Rai opens up at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. Working hours tend to change so double check with your hotel.
When should you visit Wat Rong Khun?
Get there first thing in the morning or the late afternoon. First tours arrive around 10 AM while the last ones should have left by 4 PM.
Best places to stay in Chiang Rai
Le Patta Hotel
If you like to see more of Chiang Rai while enjoying all of the perks of staying in a 4-star hotel, Le Patta is the place for you.
Baan Jaru Guest House
Perfect location, private balconies, free parking and welcoming staff. They are the most valued hotel in Chiang Rai as per booking, and there is a reason for that.
10 minutes walk from the center of the city, free Wi-Fi, clean bathrooms and an awesome vibe. If you’re on a budget, this is the place for you
Close to the White Temple
If you don’t care about Chiang Rai and just want to get the best out of Wat Rong Khun, Latisha house is perfect for you. Situated right next to the temple, you can enjoy all the sunrises and sunsets you want while missing all the crowds.
White Temple Tours
If you can afford to have Chiang Rai in your itinerary, the easiest way to see Wat Rong Khun is by taking a tour from Chiang Mai. There are many tour options in the north of Thailand, some of them will let you set foot on Laos and but some snake whiskey.
That’s all from me, I hope you enjoy the incredible White Temple of Chaing Rai!
If you haven’t planned your trip there yet, find out how I plan my trips!
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