Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple, Chiang Rai - 2019 (Photos & Reviews)

About Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple

White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun is a unique and contemporary temple situated in Chiang Rai city of Thailand. The brainchild of native visual artist and painter Chalermchai Kositpipat, this Buddhist temple draws crowds for its unconventional architecture, incredible interiors with weird murals and decorations, and odd sculptures.

The area adjacent to the temple is intended to house, the center of learning and meditation and help people benefit from the teachings of Buddhism. The incredible whiteness of the temple coupled with pieces of glass used in the plaster makes the structure look radiant.

On a sunny day, the light reflecting from the white surface and the million tiny mirrors embedded on every available surface gives the impression of walking into a heaven or nuclear explosion themed temple.Visitors can enter the Ubosot or the main chapel only through the front side, via a narrow white bridge built over a small lake.  

Figurines of out-stretched hands swarm the front of the bridge. The lake is adorned on either side with two very graceful statutes of Kinnaras, the half-human, half-bird creatures from the Buddhist mythology that are believed to guard people. Visitors come across the “Gate of Heaven” after crossing the front bridge. It is flanked by two humungous structures that represent Death and Rahu, who decide over men’s destiny.

Several Buddhist images in meditation posture line the front of the Ubosot. Ubosot or the Ordination Hall conforms to the traditional Thai architecture fundamentals like the three-tiered roof and stylized Naga serpents. The exteriors of the Ordination hall are coated with white plaster and rubble of reflective glass.

Interiors of the Ubosot are embellished with plenty of ornaments and colorful murals that portray mythological and modern figures such as demons, Western heroes like Batman, Spiderman, Terminator, Michael Jackson, etc and events such as nuclear warfare, World Trade Center attack, etc. A golden mural of Buddha is illustrated on the back wall of the Ubosot with a few smaller images in front of it.

The one structure that stands out from the sparkling White Temple is the Golden building that houses restrooms. Another structure that is included in the complex is the ornate crematorium.

According to Buddhism, death is a transition from this life to the next and the cycle of life and death can be broken by attaining Nirvana or enlightenment. A number of concrete ‘trees’ line the temple grounds, with thousands of medallions hanging down from them.

Location: White Temple is situated at Ban Rong Khun, Tambon Pa O Dun Chai along Phahonyothin road at Km816, approximately 15 km south west of Chiang Rai Town.

Time: Wat Rong Khun Opening hours: 8:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. The temple remains open during weekends and on Thai National Holidays too. The gallery closes at 5:30 p.m. Museum of Paintings: 8:00 A.M – 5:30 P.M.

Distance from Chiang Rai:
13.5 Kms.

Visitors can reach the Temple from Chiang Rai by renting a Motorbike or tuk-tuk for around 200 -300 baht. It will be a 20-minute ride. One can take public transport to reach the Temple. The bus fare for the ride is 20 baht.

History of White Temple

The White Temple, an unconventional, peculiar, privately-owned art showpiece in the style of Buddhist pagoda, was first thrown open to visitors in 1997. The end of the 20th century saw the temple deteriorate and end in a bad state of repair.

In the absence of any intervention from either the Govt. or other institutions, Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to fund the project himself and rebuild it. The earthquake that struck Chiang Rai on May 5th, 2014 destroyed the temple to a large extent and was closed indefinitely.

After the expert engineering team evaluated the damage and affirmed that the structure is intact and unharmed by the quake, Chalermchai undertook restoration work and further expansion of the Wat Rong Khun and subsequently opened the doors to the visitors.

He has so far invested 1,080 million THB in his favorite project. The construction work is still going on and is expected to continue until 2070. When completed, the White Temple compound will house nine building including the existing Ubosot or Ordination Hall, a hall of relics, a meditation center, an art gallery, and monks’ living quarters.

Structures of the White Temple and their Symbolism:

Each and every element and detail of the White Temple carries a meaning and message for the visitors to ponder upon and redeem oneself from unrighteous acts such as passion and gluttony.

The sparkling whiteness of the temple signifies the purity of Buddha while glittering glass symbolizes the Wisdom and Dharma of the Buddhist teachings. The upturned beseeching hand figurines in the front of the bridge in a circular area represent greed and suffering souls in hell.

The bridge also referred to as “Cycle of rebirth” built over a small lake and leads to Ubosot, denotes attaining moksha, free from the cycle of birth and death. It proclaims that the way to attaining inexplicable and undefined happiness is by renouncing materialistic pleasures.

Flanked on either side of the lake are two mystical Kinnaree, the half-human and half bird creatures from Buddhist mythology. The two gigantic creatures guarding the “Gate of Heaven”, after crossing the bridge represents Death and Rahu. They decide the destiny of the people.

Ubosot’s eclectic architecture is a confluence of elements drawn from different styles and times including traditional Thai and Hindu architecture. The principal building is built using a straightforward concrete framed structure with a wooden roof. Ubosot’s sparkling white exterior coupled with glittering glass fragments in the plaster provides a bizarre and jaw-dropping moment for the first time onlookers.

Three-tiered roof and use of Naga serpents on barge boards bear semblance to traditional Thai architecture. Temple interiors portray murals representing good and evil from conventional and contemporary periods such as Gods, demons, and superheroes from movies and comics including Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger, Terminator, etc and events like nuclear warfare, World Trade Center attack, etc. The overall message they convey is people are wicked.

A very ornate structure that stands out from the White Temple is the Golden Building that houses restrooms. Gold is linked with the body while white represents the mind. Gold stands for worldly desires and money.

Chiang Mai White Temple Traveller's Tip:

1. Day time in Chiang Rai gets hot pretty early. Also, weekends witness heavy crowds. Plan accordingly.

2. Foreign visitors should be aware that all the images of Buddha are considered hallowed. One should take prior permission of the guide before touching the statutes or images of Buddha. Any desecration of the religious symbols will attract severe punishment.

3. Respect the religious sentiments of the local population. Monks in monasteries and temples are considered holy. Visitors are advised to not to touch them or take a picture with them.

4. The dress code at the White Temple is not very strict but tourists are expected to dress  appropriately, which means no revealing dresses. Visitors are expected to cover their shoulders and knees with clothing.

5. Do not miss on the Predator statue that appears rising out of the temple grounds. Also keep tabs on the paintings of pop culture icons, comic & movie heroes like Hello Kitty, Michael Jackson, Spider-Man, Terminator, Neo from the Matrix, Harry Potter, etc.

6. Visitors are expected to remove shoes and footwear before entering the White Temple.

7. Maintain silence and decorum. No public display of affection such as hugs and kisses.

8. It is considered disrespectful to point feet at Buddha’s image or turn back on him.

9. Do not miss the restrooms in Golden Building. Everyone talks deliriously about them.

10. If you are an avid photographer, try to take photos of the exterior of the temple early. As the day progresses, the light reflecting off the white walls of the temple become harsh and may affect the quality of your travel pictures. Also if shooting photos on your phone, it is recommended to use   a camera app for better quality.

How to reach the White Temple from Chiang Rai?

Visitors can avail public transport from Chiang Rai. The bus fare will be THB 20 per person and one can reach the temple in 30 minutes. The bus stops a short distance away from the temple, on the other side of the highway.  One needs to walk from the bus stop to the Temple.

Visitors can catch the bus at this wooden bus stop for their return journey. If you are averse to traveling in public transport, you can book a scooter on rent for the day for about 250 THB (approx. USD 8).

You can pre-arrange a tuk-tuk to pick up and drop you back at your hotel for 400 THB (USD 13). The trip takes around 35 minutes. You can enter into an agreement with your tuk-tuk driver to wait for an hour or 2 to finish your sightseeing at White Temple and take you back

Best time to visit White Temple:

Though the White Temple is open all year, the best time to visit it is during the winter season between the months of December and February. The weather will be serene and agreeable with clear blue skies and light breezes.  Average day time during this period is 21oc and night temperature between 10-15oc.

Hot or summer season lasts from March to May. Average temperature ranges between 27oc in May to 36oc in May. Monsoon period is between June and September. Since the rain generally falls in short bursts of an hour or two, it will not spoil your travel experience.

Also, the average temperatures during monsoon hover around 27oc, which is conducive to sightseeing. Generally, it is better to arrive early on any given day and also plan the trip on weekdays to avoid the heavy rush.

Places to stay near White Temple:

Reun Pon Aek Hotel: 

1. Situated just 400m from White Temple, Reun Pon Aek Hotel provides spacious rooms, hygienic atmosphere, free Wi-fi, satellite TV, fridge, air-conditioning, shared lounge and Garden. 

2. Complimentary breakfast, free bikes, and airport transfers are some the freebies offered by the hotel.

3. Avg. price/night: Rs. 1,756/- (2 persons)

777 Food and Bed:

1. The Hotel located less than 0.1 km from the temple, boasts of multiple restaurants on the 1st floor and 24-hr front desk.

2. Clean and comfy rooms with private balcony, modern amenities like a flat-screen TV with cable channels, individual bathrooms with showers and free toiletries, on the house Wi-Fi, and air-conditioner provide value for your money.

3. Avg. price/night: 3,112/- (2 persons)

Manonnee: 

1. The ever-hospitable owner and the staff and Delicious food (Asian & American) by the in house-restaurant are the standout features of this hotel.

2. Spic and Span capacious rooms, comfy beds, fabulous interiors, excellent facilities like large restrooms with hot shower, garden, cable TV, fridge, excellent Wi-fi, and A/c will make your stay pleasurable and unforgettable.

3. Avg. price/night: Rs. 2,454/- (2 persons)

Hop Inn Chiang Rai:

1. Budget hotel with good value for money is the prominent aspect of this hotel.

2. Clean air-conditioned rooms with private balcony and amazing city view, free Wi-Fi, 24 hr front desk, Cable TV, amiable staff, and plenty of free on-site parking are rated as plus points of this hotel.

3. Avg. price/night: Rs. 1450/- (for 2 persons).

The Garage: 

1. Situated 5 km from White Temple, The Garage offers on-site café and restaurant that offers sumptuous breakfast and lunch.

2. Great host, cooperative staff, cushy accommodation, pleasing and well thought-out interiors, and exceptional amenities will make your day.

3. Avg. Price/Night: Rs. 1,017 (for 2 persons).

Other places to visit near White Temple:

1. Clock Tower of Chiang Rai:

- Designed by the same Thai born painter turned architect Chalermchai - Kositpipat, the Clock Tower bears resemblance to the White Tower for its distinctive architectural style. 

- The light and sound show at the Clock Tower at 7 pm, 8 pm, and 9 pm will transform the surrounding environment into surreal environs as the Clock Tower changes its color from Gold to pink to green and illuminate the adjoining areas.

2. Singhai Park:

- It is an agro-based sightseeing destination that takes visitors on a tour of blooming flora and fauna, stunning pictorial views of tea plantations, fun and adventure activities, fork to farm organic delicacies, native fresh fruits, and vegetables.

3. Baan Dam Museum:

- Also referred to as Black House, it is a conglomerate of 40 buildings that showcase architectural mastery and elaborate wood carvings.

- The Museum displays the collections by Thai painter and architect Thawan Duchanee that include an enormous array of works of art, cravings, and animal skins.

4. Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong:

- Built at the highest point in Chiang Rai, this Temple not only provides a stunning view of the Entire Island but also stores sacred relics and images of Lord Buddha.

- The 14m stupa known as Golden Pagoda is made of pure gold and exemplifies Lanna and Burmese architecture.

5. Wat Klang Wiang:

- The fire temple of the Chiang Rai is famous for its elegant 3-tier white pagoda, very ornate vihara or Main Temple, highly decorated scripture hall and a naval city pillar guarded by Yakshas.

- The inside of the main temple is bedecked with fiery red motif and houses a Golden Buddha image.

6. Oub kham Museum:

- A heritage conservation center that preserved the great history of Lanna Kingdom, through priceless historical and cultural artifacts.

- The throne of King Tai Nuea, Lanna Buddha Statue, handwoven royal fabrics, and antiquated silverware are some of the invaluable treasures.

7. Wat Huay Pla Kang:

- The place is famous for 23 storey high white Guan Yin or the Goddess of Mercy (often mistaken for Big Buddha).

- A 9-tier pagoda (temple) guarded by golden and green nagas in the Thai and Chinese style with the largest wooden Guan Yin Bodhisattva inside evokes a spiritual feeling in visitors.

8. Wat Rong Seur Ten (Blue Temple):

- The Blue Temple built on the ruins of a 100 yr old ancient shrine, designed by the protégé of Chalermchai Kositpipat, is a fusion of modern art and traditional architecture.

- The burst of cobalt blue color on interiors and exteriors contrasted with golden embellishments and brilliantly carved sparkling white Buddha Idols at strategic places provide a feast to eyes.

9. Doy Din Dang Pottery:

- Doy Din Dang meaning ‘red clay hill’ in Thai is a Pottery studio made up of several buildings in the idyllic settings of Chaing Rai.

- Established by Thai artist Somluk Pantiboon, after an apprenticeship under renowned master Karatsu potter in Kyushu, Japan, the studio churns hand-made or wheel thrown conventional and contemporary ceramic art pieces.

10. Khun Korn Forest Park Waterfall:

- A Nature lover’s paradise, it is one of the tallest waterfalls with a height of 70 meters.

- Surrounded by lush green forests, it a favorite trekking spot for adventure trotters, as one has to trek 30 minutes to reach the fall.

11. Chang Puak Camp Chiang Rai:

- An ideal destination for adventure fanatics, Chang Puak Camp offers adrenaline pumping activities such as Elephant rides, ATV adventure, Crocodile show, etc.

- Elephant show, Karen longneck, and Souvenir shop amuse you.

12. Wat Rung Khun Night Bazaar:

- If you are an impulsive shopper, there is no great place than Wat Rung Khun Night Bazaar, splurge your money on exclusive handicrafts, souvenirs, artifacts, and variety of local delicacies and drinks.

- You can try out authentic Thai massages, watch folk music performances and other cultural extravaganza and learn about Thai culture.

FAQs

1. Who designed the White Temple?

White Temple is designed and built by the Thai born painter-turned-architect and millionaire Chalermchai Kositpipat. He funded the entire project out of his pocket. Till date, he has spent THB 1,080 million. He accepts donations from philanthropists, but not in excess of THB 10,000, as he fears they may influence him.

2. Is there any entrance fee for the White Temple?

Admission to the Wat Rong Khun or White Temple is free for Thai National, while it is TBH50 for foreigners.

3. What is the White Temple represent?

White Temple professes the virtues of Buddhist teachings such as Purity, Wisdom, and Dharma that prevent people from falling prey to worldly temptations such as desire and greed. It conveys that one could attain Nirvana and reach Heaven by overcoming the cycle of life and death.

4. What are the operating hours of the White Temple?

Wat Rong Khun is open daily from 8:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M. The temple remains open during weekends and on Thai National Holidays too.

5. What is the White Temple made up of?

White Temple is made up of simple iron and concrete framework, wooden roof structure, white plaster, and innumerable glass pieces.

6. What is the history behind White Temple Chiang Rai?

Wat Rung Khun or White Temple is planned and erected by local artist and draftsman Chalermchai Kositpipat in the year 1997 and thrown it open to the public in 1998.

But by 2000, the temple got damaged and badly needed renovation. Due to lack of support from Govt. and other institutions, Chalermchai decided to fund the project himself and rebuild the White Temple.

An earthquake that devastated Chiang Rai on 5th May 2014 badly damaged the White Temple. After thorough investigation and confirmation by an expert team on the structural stability of the temple, Chalermchai made up his mind to restore and further expand the Temple. The project is expected to be completed by 2070.

7. How old is the White Temple?

If one takes into account, when the White Temple was first thrown open to the public (1998), it is 21 yr old as of today (2019). The temple underwent a series of renovations back in 2000 and 2014 and the project is still going on and will not be completed until 2070.

8 .When was the White Temple build?

The Temple was first built in 1997 and underwent renovations in 2000 and 2014.

9. What is the dress code for White Temple Chiang Rai?

Wat Rung Khun or White Temple expects tourists to cover their shoulders and wear long shorts or long pants to enter the main building. Visitors are also expected to leave their shoes and footwear before entering the Ubosot.

10. How to get from White Temple to blue temple?

White Temple is 13 km from Chiang city center or Bus terminal.  A public transport charges 20 TBH to take visitors from the bus stop near White Temple to City center.

There is no bus transport to Blue temple. It is a 10-minute drive from the City center to Blue Temple. One can rent a scooter or tuk-tuk to reach the Blue Temple. Scooter or Motorbike charges per day will be around 200 -300 baht. Tuk-Tuk charges will be not more than 50 -100 baht.

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