The first time I saw a picture of the Wat Rong Khun, I couldn’t believe a temple like that exists for real. After quick research, I found out it’s a new temple, still under construction.
‘Fake tourist trap pseudo temple‘ is what I thought, and the Withe Temple of Chiang Rai 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.
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.
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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.
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The murals on Wat Rong Khun’s walls have as much Budha as they have Holywood in them. This enormous painting of a demon’s head is covered with all kinds of modern idols (Neo from the Matrix, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Michael Jackson, etc). All of them represent the distractions humans face in their quest to find true enlightenment.
Taking pictures inside the temple is forbidden, so you’ll have to imagine it (the wiki page has an example).
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 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 (in other words – their bodies).
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 completed somewhere around 2070.
Wat Rong Khun Useful Information
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 taxi. The 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 (1.60 USD).
Wat Rong Khun working hours
– The White Temple of Chiang Rai opens every day at 6:30 AM and closes at 6:00 PM.
– The gallery is open Mon- Fri: 8:00 AM to 5.30 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.
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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’s 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.
Color Temples From Chiang Mai – This one would be a long trip. Chiang Mai is not that close to Chiang Rai so prepare the whole day for this adventure. The good thing is you’re not only gonna enjoy the stunning White Temple, but also the Blue Temple and the Black House.
Golden Triangle From Chiang Mai – This one will depart once again from Chiang Mai but it will take you all the way up to the triangle border of Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos. There you can take a boat in the Mekong river and even visit Laos for a little bit (they have a chaotic market there). Wat Rong Khun is included in the itinerary.
Colorful Day from Chiang Rai – This one would not be as long and tiring as the other two. Since you’ve already made your way to Chiang Rai, you don’t need to stay for hours in the car. Besides the 3 colorful highlights (white and blue temples + black house), this tour would take you around the picturesque Singha park too.
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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