Wat Rong Khun: Thailand's Truly Mesmerizing White Temple

The White Temple, Chiang Rai
The White Temple, Chiang Rai | © jipe7/Flickr
Iona Proebst

Seen lots of temples around Thailand? You haven’t seen anything quite like the unique and mesmerizing Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai. This quirky and stunning temple should be top on any Chiang Rai travel itinerary, read on to find out why.

Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is a Buddhist temple with a difference. Built on the site of an old dilapidated temple, eclectic Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat footed the bill to design and construct a contemporary and unusual temple which doubles as an art exhibition. The juxtaposition of both traditional Buddhist themes and modern influences, including murals of Mickey Mouse, Superman, Kung Fu Panda and Michael Jackson, all add to the intrigue and surprise of this famous tourist attraction. Visitors will also get to see a Wolverine hand, aliens, peace signs, guns, and various cheeky and quirky innuendos.

Most temples in Thailand are gold but Wat Rong Khun is white, the artist felt that gold “was suitable to people who lust for evil deeds”. Wander around and see the Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth which leads to the Gates of Heaven. You’ll see two guardians and outstretched hands represent temptations and worldly desires like greed, lust, alcohol.

Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth

Exploring the temple can be hours of fun. The main building, or ubosot, is off limits to tourists and can be marvelled at from the outside only. Behind the White Temple, there is a building which is home to Chalermchai Kositpipat’s religious artistic structures. Peruse the hall of relics and pop by the gift shop for souvenirs. It is also worthwhile checking out the toilets which are beautifully decorated and are located in a golden building. The White Temple was damaged in the 2014 earthquake after which the artist considered taking down the entire temple for safety reasons, luckily it was deemed safe and has been repaired where necessary.

Faces at the White Temple

Artist Chalermchai Kositpipat not only designed and constructed the White Temple, he is also the inspired mind behind the Black House and Chiang Rai’s colourful clock tower. His work includes stunningly beautiful religious pieces and quirky or kitsch pieces with political messages such as such as George W. Bush and Osama Bin Laden riding a nuclear missile through space together.

Entry to the White Temple is free of charge and it is open 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays and 8 am to 5.30 pm on weekends. It may be easy to forget but the White Temple is still considered a religious site and appropriate temple etiquette and dress is required.

Wat Rong Khun White Temple, San Sai, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand, +66 53 673 579

The White Temple, Chiang Rai

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