Explore Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
Explore Wat Rong Khun, Thailand
We’ve all heard the saying, “Getting there is half the fun”. But where exactly is “there”? Our Explore series tells you where to go, how to get there, and what to do when you arrive. Happy travelling!
Explore Wat Rong Khun (White Temple)
Wat Rong Khun or The White Temple as referred to by tourists, is located in Chiang Rai City, Thailand.
How do you describe a temple which has Superman, Neo, skulls, burning Twin Towers, demons with the eyes of George Bush and Bin Laden instead of the customary Buddha statues? No amount of write ups and photographs can do this temple justice!
The Disney ice castle-like architecture is a “dream-come-true” work of art of famous Thai Buddhist painter Charlemchai Kositpipat. This surreal temple is white-washed and covered in mosaics of mirrors to depict Buddhas’s purity and Dhamma. Unlike the rest of the Buddhist temples which were built in the early ages, the construction of Wat Rong Khun started in 1997. To turn his vision into reality, millionaire artist, Charlemchai has funded the construction out of his own pocket and hopes that one day his temple will be as famous as the Taj Mahal or Angkor Wat. Despite its ongoing construction which is predicted to be completed by 2070, it has received more than 5 million visitors already.
What to see in Wat Rong Khun ( White Temple )
The statues and murals may seem like a piece of art but every structure and painting is imbued with the teachings, riddles and philosophy of Buddha. To make the teachings simpler to understand, Charlemchai has taken the help of popular figures to depict good, bad, and evil. At the entrance of the temple there are demons shown holding cigarette packets and alcohol, warning people of its side effects.
The innovative temple is surrounded by a lake full of fish and is guarded by magical creatures. The uniqueness of this temple is a moat filled with 500 arms that stretch skyward from the pits of hell, pleading for mercy.
They lead up to the bridge called “the Cycle of Rebirth”, portraying the fact that true happiness can be achieved only after we get rid of our materialistic cravings. The bridge is guarded by Rahu (the one who controls men’s fate) on the left and Death (The One who controls men’s life) on the right. The pathway ends at the Ubosot or White bot (White Temple), the abode of Buddha. Here, you are welcomed by a statue of Buddha floating on a lotus.
The inside of the temple is golden, and covered with murals. As soon as you step inside you are greeted by a large mural of Buddha behind two large statues of Buddha and a mediating monk. People claim to have spotted Batman, Michael Jackson, Star Wars figures, man-made disasters, ancient civilisations and Freddy Kruger among the murals. Too bad photography is restricted inside the temple. However, you can buy souvenirs and miniature temple paintings at the gift shop.
But that’s not all! Right next to the White Temple are the restrooms. But these aren’t your normal restrooms. The building is painted in gold and looks magnificent. The idea behind the contrasting buildings is to teach people to look for happiness within themselves instead of searching for it in materialistic things. To be more precise, the golden gilt building is what people notice first instead of the pristine white temple of worship. Yet the building is insignificant, the real prize lies in the white temple. For those of you who wish to see more of Charlemchai’s work there is a gallery full of his paintings in the temple compound.
Getting toWat Rong Khun ( White Temple )
Wat Rong Khun is located 13 kms to the south of Chiang Rai (famous for its jungle treks and hill tribes). Catch any flight to Chiang Rai and check in a hotel. Later proceed to the old bus station in the town center and take a bus to Wat Rong Khun from platform 8. It will drop you on the opposite side around 100 meters away. To get back to Chiang Rai, retrace your steps to where the bus dropped you and just hitch a ride in a local bus or songthaew.
Best Time to visit Wat Rong Khun ( White Temple )
The best time to visit Thailand is from November to March as it rains the least and the weather is not too hot. July and August are a good choice too as the weather is pleasant and refreshing. But if you want to avoid crowds and get a cheaper deal in hotels and flights, then travel between April – June, September and October.