If you visit the north of Thailand, a trip to the White Temple is a must. “Wat Rong Khun” (as it’s known in Thai) is located just outside of Chiang Rai, and is without doubt one of the most aesthetically impressive temples in the whole of the country.
It looks out of this world with its painstakingly intricate details, not to mention its unique all white colour. There’s nothing else like it in Thailand, making it all the more eye catching. Flocks of tourists come from all around the world to see it for themselves…and of course take photos of it.
The temple was created by Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat. Its contemporary design, which is unlike any other Buddhist temple in the county, caused controversy during its construction for being non-traditional. However its unique design is exactly what has helped to put it on the map.
As you walk over the bridge towards the temple, there is a sea of desperately extended hands reaching up towards the sky, resembling the sort of nightmarish scenes that Dante might have conceived. They represent desire, human suffering and hell. There’s a strange juxtaposition between this and the bright white backdrop of the temple, which is said to represent the purity of the Buddha. Many aspects of the temple are symbolic, making it all the more fascinating.
The White Temple is adorned with mosaics of glass, which makes it sparkle in the sunshine. It truly is a marvel.
Like many Buddhist temples, taking photos inside is forbidden, however what’s unlike many other Buddhist temples is its unexpected interior. Its walls are decorated with impressive, hand painted murals of what I would describe at psychedelic depictions of pop culture. There are characters from Star Wars, Harry Potter and even pictures of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, all mixed in with dystopian scenes…it needs to be seen to be believed. It’s not really what you’d typically expect to find inside a Buddhist temple. However there’s still a shrine where prayers can be made.
During the temple’s construction, it was badly damaged by an earthquake and for quite some time, no one was allowed to enter for health and safety reasons. To this day, the site is still under construction, with a total of 9 buildings planned.
The temple is surrounded by beautiful, well maintained gardens. I would suggest reserving at least an hour for your visit so that you can take it all in.
The White Temple is not to be missed on a trip to northern Thailand. Visitors should dress modestly as it is a religious site. If you happen to turn up unprepared, shawls can be rented from the shops opposite to its entrance. There is a 50 Baht entrance fee for international visitors and free admission for Thai residents.