Visiting the White Temple was unashamedly my sole reason for wanting to head up to Chiang Rai. Honestly, it would have been easy to stay in Chiang Mai non-stop eating amazing vegetarian food instead but culture was calling in the form of this glorious building.
About the White Temple
The White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, is privately owned by Chalermchai Kosipipat, an artist who wanted the freedom to design it independently. The lack of donor influences means that Kosipipat’s style comes across vividly and uniquely throughout the complex. Spend half an hour checking out his vibrant paintings in the small gallery on-site during your visit, they’re brilliant.
Wat Rong Khun has an incredibly intricate design which is possibly better when seen from further away. Once you get close up you can see the reflective silver pieces that look…well…*whispers*…a bit tacky. However from a distance it almost appears to sparkle, creating an absolutely breathtaking effect in the sunlight. The attention to detail really is incredible; even the roof of the walkway didn’t escape without its own unique feature.
In the middle of the complex, a vivid gold building stands out from the snowy white surroundings.
Believe it or not, this is the bathroom!
The toilet building was designed to represent the body, worldly desires and money in contrast to the pure ‘mind’ focused temples. This symbolism continues outside the temple with hundreds of sculptured hands reaching up from ‘hell’ to represent the unrestrained desire of humanity. From here, you cross the bridge to the main temple which symbolises foregoing temptation, greed and desire on the path to happiness.
The surprises continued inside the temple although unfortunately I couldn’t get any pictures inside. The walls are covered with flames so bold that it would be easy to miss the hidden details. After looking closely, we spotted famous Western characters such as Superman, Jigsaw from Saw and Hello Kitty. I was excited to spot Harry Potter weaving through clouds on his broomstick and Jamie equally so by Darth Vader. This theme also continues outside with these creepy hanging heads…
How to get to the White Temple
The temple is located out of town but it’s super easy to reach from the centre of Chiang Rai. Head to the old bus station in the town centre (next to the night bazaar) where a local bus will cost you just 20 Baht (50p) one way. This takes around 30 minutes and you can easily find the correct bus from the picture of the temple on the back. The conductor will likely ask (or just assume) where you’re going and let you know where to get off. Easy!
If you’re budgeting, don’t bother with a taxi as you’ll pay between 200 – 300 Baht in comparison. For a mid-range option, you can hail a Songthaew around town or from the highway.
I’d easily argue that the White Temple is the best one I’ve visited so far!
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