Chiang Rai – the White Temple

A few years ago, one of my coworkers asked me if I had been to the White Temple in Thailand.  I looked at her blankly and said “no.” She then proceeded to Google the exact phrase “White Temple Thailand” and the most amazing photos appeared before my eyes.  The Wat Rong Khan, AKA the White Temple, is on the outskirts of Chiang Rai and it absolutely something you need to see.  As soon as I saw these images, I knew that I needed to go visit this place at some point in my life and I needed to do it soon.  I could not believe somewhere like that existed and I hadn’t been yet so on this trip, I made it a point to go.  If I was going to be that far north in Thailand, why not go the extra three hours north to go see this temple.

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about this temple except that it was supposed to be incredibly intricate and you cannot take pictures inside the temple itself. I somehow convinced my entire group that we needed to go here and so we did.

When you drive up to the White Temple, you can see it standing over the fields around it from a distance and let me tell you that it is very obviously white and can be seen from all around that area.  As you drive closer, you’ll see all the tour buses and the cars that drove out there to see this temple that sits outside of the city on its own.  They’ve built little shopping areas with food around the temple but it’s minimal and more on the “expensive” side if that’s a thing in Thailand. Our taxi driver parked across the street so that she could sit in the coffee shop while we went across the one main road over to the temple.  As you walk up, it is fenced off and you have to pay in order to get in to see the temple and walk along the grounds. If I remember correctly, it was only 50BAHT to get inside of the fence.  If you’re there with lots of other people, be prepared that it will be difficult to get any good pictures without people everywhere.  Luckily, we got there a little later in the day so we had a few moments where we could capture photos with almost no one around.  As you walk up to the temple, there are heads hanging off the trees and then it opens up to the lake surrounding the temple.  From there, you walk up the path surrounded by water then by concrete hands reaching up to you as you make your journey into the temple.

It’s very interesting and if you’re here, keep an eye out for the painted pink nail on the middle finger of one of the hands on the right side of the walkway. Once you get closer, you’ll see that it’s not so much all white as much as it is white concrete with silver accents that makes the entire thing sparkle in the sun and stand out so much from all its surroundings.  While we were there, the skies and the water were super blue, the grass was exceptionally green and then this silver/white temple was the perfect contrast to the rest of the landscape.

We walked up into the temple, took our shoes off and went into a room that surprisingly enough much smaller than I originally thought it would be.  It housed one Buddha and all of the walls were painted red with the devil and various pop culture references all around.  If it’s not crowded, I would suggest taking the time to see all the different references that were painted in there.  I remember finding an Avatar, Michael Jackson, minion, a Transformer and Darth Vader. What’s really interesting about this temple is that it’s not an old temple.  It was built as more of an art collective in 1997 and is supposed to grow into multiple buildings.  The temple itself is obviously the main attraction but there are buildings all around with various displays of art around the grounds that you can explore.  The temple itself is really just one minor part of the entire area.

After we were done inside of the room, we started wandering around the grounds and admiring all the work that was put into each and every structure.  It is definitely worth visiting and taking a look.  There’s symbols everywhere and some really intricate images, albeit creepy like the hanging heads.  I am very pleased that we took the time to visit this place.  It’s still under construction and will be drastically different in a few years when it is done but for now, it really is an experience to see it the way it is now.  If one is lucky, maybe you can see it now and then see it again when it is complete.  It would definitely be an interesting contrast.

It got to a point where the heat and sun officially got to us and we had a hard time functioning so we went to get some food, attempt to cool down and then head off to the airport for the rest of our journey.

Next stop: Bangkok.

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The White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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