Located just outside the city of Chiang Rai, Wat Rong Khun has become famous in Thailand as the White Temple. A unique design mixing contemporary and classic style makes this one of Thailand’s most unusual and most visually striking man-made attractions. Even for those who might consider themselves ‘templed-out’ on their trip to Thailand, this unique wat is highly recommended if you are visiting the Chiang Rai area.
The Creator of the White Temple
The White Temple is the creation of Thai artist, Chalermchai Khositpipat who was born in 1951 in the village of Rong Khun in Chiang Rai province. The project is an act of faith by the internationally acclaimed artist who has invested large amounts of his own money to create the temple. Chalermchai’s aim is to make the temple one of the world’s greatest works of art and he wants visitors from around the world to enjoy the labour-of-love he has undertaken in his home village in his beloved Thailand. Work began on the new Wat Rong Khun temple in 1997, but the artist knows that there are still many years to go before the project is completed and he has made plans for work to continue in the event of his death.
Contemporary Art Meets Classic Buddhism
Chalermchai wanted to build a temple that symbolized heaven with gleaming white for the Lord Buddha’s purity and the glass reflecting his wisdom shining over the earth and the universe. Before you enter the main temple you need to cross a small bridge. This crossing represents the transition from the cycle of life to the land of the Buddha.
The theme of the Buddha’s teachings or Dharma being a release for human passion and desire is symbolized throughout the temple grounds. Look out for the whisky bottles in the trees with demon heads and also the traffic cones with demons on them. This theme is continued with the thought-provoking murals inside the main temple. Artistic depictions of the collapse of New York’s Twin Towers aren’t what you would expect to find in a Thai Buddhist temple, but the artwork on display here is truly unique. Take a close look at the murals and you will see some surreal scenes with rocket ships and cartoon characters including Spiderman, Superman and Doraemon on display. The murals are still in the process of being painted so don’t be surprised if when you visit you actually get to see one of the artists at work.
Toilets Work Of Art
I can’t think of any other place I’ve visited where people were queuing up to take photos of the toilets. The ornate golden temple-like building that houses the men’s and ladies toilets is a work of art in its own right.
Despite the unusual look and feel of the White Temple, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is a religious building and visitors should act respectfully. Take off your shoes and cover your shoulders and knees before entering the main bot where the Buddha image is housed. Photos are not permitted inside the main bot at Wat Rong Khun.
The temple is approximately 15 minutes drive from Chiang Rai or 3 hours from Chiang Mai.
Photos © Thaizer