Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai’s white temple, is a bright white building, a magical place surrounded by works of art in a fairytale landscape.
A must-see temple if you visit the north of the country during your travel to Thailand.
History of the White Temple of Chiang Rai
At the end of the 20th century, the original Wat Rong Khun was an old temple that was falling into ruins and there was no bottom to restore it.
A renowned Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, then proposed to completely renovate it with his own money to pay tribute to King Rama IX and Chiang Rai, his native city.
He has already spent more than 40 million baht on the project, which should not be completed before 2070!
Wat Rong Khun damaged by an earthquake
On May 5, 2014, the White Temple suffered extensive damage due to an earthquake.
The artist Chalermchai Kositpipat initially thought that the temple should be demolished for security reasons.
But experts came to see the damage and assured that the structure of the buildings was in good condition and that it was not necessary to destroy it.
The white temple was quickly restored and has since been opened to the public again.
Discover the white temple of Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun will include nine buildings, when it is fully completed (in 2070!), with the art gallery and toilets.
To obtain a brightly white temple, the artist used pieces of mirrors that were embedded in the building.
Whiteness embodies the purity of Buddhism and mirrors, illumination.
We reach the White temple by a bridge under which hundreds of hands seem to want to catch you, do not fall into this hell, you would be, like all these unfortunate tourists, instantly turned into stone!
The official description:
The bridge of the “cycle of rebirth.”
The white temple is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake.
Under the bridge are the hundreds of hands of those who did not resist the temptation.
The bridge teaches that the way to happiness is to avoid temptation, greed, and desire.
Next to the lake are two elegant creatures, half-human, half-bird, from Buddhist mythology (Kinnara).
The Gate of Heaven
After crossing the bridge, the visitor arrives at the “gate of heaven,” guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu; they are the ones who decide the fate of the dead.
In front of the main building, there are several images of Buddha in meditation.
The temple was designed on the model of classical Thai architecture, with the three-tiered roof and the extensive use of Naga snakes.
In the temple, the decoration moves quickly from virgin white to fire and glare.
The wall paintings represent the flames and demonic faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddy Kruger and Terminator.
Images of nuclear war, terrorist attacks, and oil pumps mark the destructive impact that humans have on the earth.
The presence of Harry Potter, Superman, and Hello Kitty confuses the message, but the general morality is clear: People are evil, and this world is just an illusion.
The golden building
The golden building represents the body, while the white temple represents the spirit.
Gold symbolizes the way people focus on worldly desires and silver.
The white building represents the idea of doing merit and focusing on the mind, instead of material things and possession.
The paintings exhibited in the temple are for sale; they are used to finance the work.
Go to the White Temple of Chiang Rai
The temple is located 13 km from Chiang Rai city.
If you do not have a vehicle, you must go to the central bus station in Chiang Rai.
There are many local buses with which the journey takes about 30 minutes and costs about 20 baht.
But you can also go with a private songtaew (pick up taxi) or tuk-tuk.
Address of Wat Rong Khun
1208, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Rai, Chang Wat Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand
Official website (in Thai): watrongkhun.org
Other pictures of Wat Rong Khun
Videos on the White Temple of Chiang Rai
A superb aerial view of the white temple
A guided tour of the White Temple
Google map of Wat Rong Khun