Only a few weeks into our Southeast Asia adventure and I was already pretty “templed out.” After spending days wandering temples in Bangkok & Chiang Mai, I figured I would be happy to never see another temple until Angkor Wat. This all changed when we arrived at the White Temple in Chiang Rai.
In contrast with the colorful, gold leafed temples of the rest of Thailand, the White Temple, as it its name states, is entirely white. Just one look at it instantly cured my boredom of temples and I eagerly jumped out of our minibus to explore!
The White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, is actually a privately owned art exhibit and Buddhist temple. The original Wat Rong Khun was in disrepair when local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat purchased the property and decided to rebuild the temple in a more contemporary style.
You know it’s going to be a strange experience when you are greeted at the entrance with this photo op!
The White Temple is free to enter (donations are accepted) and is open all year round. The surrounding grounds are also open for exploration.
Kositpipat began this project in 1997 and has dedicated his life to the project as an offering to Buddha in hopes that it will help him reach eternal life.
The bridge leading to the temple is meant to symbolize rebirth with the pit of writhing hands below representing the depths of hell.
The temple is blindingly white and incredibly ornate. Each and every fixture is detailed and bedazzled.
One of the most interesting parts of the temple is the mural inside. Pictures are not allowed, but the artist has created a mural that portrays the end of the world with a mix of modern pop culture characters and buddhist text. Superman, minions and transformers are just some of the characters hidden within the mural.
Construction is still ongoing at the Temple and is not expected to be finished until 2070.
The White Temple is located just a few kilometers south of Chiang Rai and is often a stop over for people on their way to Laos from Chiang Mai. If you want to stay in Chiang Rai (you definitely should!) there is a local bus that will take you to the temple from the center of town.
What do you think of this unique temple?