Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple is a unique, contemporary temple set about 185 km from Chiang Mai. Unique, contemporary and mystical, the White temple looms large taking your breath away. Gleaming white in color with pieces of glasses that glitter and sparkle like diamonds in the reflection of sunlight, it is spectacular. For a tourist, the temple may seem a bit bizarre. The monster from “Predator”, hands reaching out towards the sky, ghoulish sculptures, skeletons, demons standing tall in a strike stance with a sword, intrigue and stun you. What exactly would these sculptures be doing in a temple? While to many it may not make sense, in reality, every aspect of the White Temple holds significance and is an expression of the local artist, Chalermchai Kositpitat.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TEMPLE
The White color stands for the purity of Buddha while the glass symbolizes Buddha’s wisdom and his teachings of Dhamma. The bridge leading to the ubosot, the main building of the temple, crosses over a small lake. And while the crossover may take a few minutes, it traverses you from the cycle of death and rebirth into a meditative state devoid of suffering. Aptly called ‘the cycle of rebirth” the bridge symbolizes that the route to happiness is by overcoming temptations, greed, and untamed desire.
Inside the main temple, murals depict contemporary figures like Batman, Spiderman, and Elvis, villains and superheroes from movies, comics, and spaceships too. A crotch grabbing Michael Jackson strikes a pose. A bit unusual for a temple, but they send a crystal clear message. Good triumphs evil. Be yourself. Live uninhibited and in true spirit. Photography is prohibited in the hall so stand and soak in the surroundings before you move on.
A path out of the hall leads to a canopy where thousands of wish medallions hang from the roof and make an interesting sight. Do you want a wish to come true? Buy a medallion for 30 baht and you could hang yours there too. Or you could throw a coin in the golden wishing well close by. Ornately decorated and intrinsically carved, a golden building on the grounds is hard to miss. Though it looks like another temple, these are fanciest restrooms one has seen in a temple. Beside the temple is an art gallery showcasing the creative pieces of Kositpipat. Entrance is free but taking photographs is strictly forbidden.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- The opening hours for the temple from 8:00am-5: 00 pm. They are closed for an hour during lunchtime. It is a good idea to check with your hotel before you make your visit.
- One can travel to Chiang Rai in by car, taxi or bus and it takes about two and a half hours to travel. Many hotels in Chiang Mai are connected with tour operators who conduct day trips. Usually, they combine the Mae Kachan hot springs with the Wat Rong Khun, the Long Neck Karen Hill Tribe Village in Chiang Rai and finally a visit to the Golden Triangle point where Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand meet. Since it involves a lot of travel, the tour is exhausting but it’s also the feasible way to get a lot done.
- It takes about an hour to see the temple and the entrance fee is 50 baht.
- The dress code is strictly enforced so please cover your arms and legs.