Visiting The White Temple Of Chiang Rai In Thailand – Wat Rong Khun
No visit to Chiang Rai is complete without a stop at the White Temple. It may, arguably, be the best attraction in Chiang Rai and what draws most visitors to this small, northern town of Thailand.
The artist, Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat, who is known throughout Thailand, has made this project his life's work. With many years of dedication in designing and constructing this beautiful temple, he continues to grow and improve on it, claiming it will take 90 years to complete.
Additionally, he does not accept any monetary donation from anyone and has financed the project himself so that he can have complete control over it. He believes that funding it himself will allow him artistic freedom. Aside from the project itself, there are continued cleaning and maintenance efforts year-round to keep this temple and it's surroundings in perfect shape.
Unlike other temples in Thailand which are mostly gold, the decision to make it all white was based on representing the purity of The Lord Buddha. There small, reflective mirrors throughout the building are also symbolic in that they represent the wisdom of Buddha shining through the universe.
Every detail that has gone into this temple and it's surrounding grounds and structures has been done with Buddhist teachings and symbolism in mind. The goal is to provide visitors with feelings of peace and happiness and that is exactly how we would describe our experience visiting this beautiful place.
The temple is located about 20 minuted outside of the town of Chiang Rai and there are multiple option on transportation to get there. You can have your hotel hire a taxi for you for about 500 THB each way ($14 USD), negotiate a Tuk Tuk for maybe 300 THB round trip, or get on a bus for about $0.60 USD (20 THB). If you're making the trip from Chiang Mai, it will be a 3 hour ride on Greenbus.
Being up for adventure and the kind of travelers that like to mix with the locals, we got on the bus. We got on at the same location our Greenbus dropped us off when arriving in Chiang Rai. It was a fun ride on a quirky blue bus with rickety seats and oscillating fans attached to the roof. To us, you just can't beat the fun that comes with doing it the way locals do!
The bus drops you off on the side of the highway, so it's a bit tricky crossing over to the other side where the temple is. You'll be able to see the top of the temple popping up from behind the building that is on the actual highway. You'll just need to go down that street about 2 minutes to get to it.
Exploring Wat Rong Khun
The admission is 50 THB per person ($1.40 USD), so for about $2 you get to go and see one of the coolest places in Thailand. How's that for budget travel?!
As you can see in these photos, the temple has fantastic detail in it's design with images that certainly can paint a picture in anyone's imagination. To walk the path to the temple's entrance is an experience in itself. Desperate hands reaching up from the "pit" below and structures of beasts and heavenly figures surround you as if encouraging to go inside and pray so that you can escape them.
The lake by the temple, along with the long pathway to the entrance that is lavishly decorated with sculptures and intricate carvings give Wat Rong Khun it's massive appearance. Once you step into the actual temple, however, you realize that it is quite small as compared to the average temples that you may find in Chiang Mai.
The entrance to the temple building only allows one way traffic, so after you have visited the inside, you will have to walk out from the exit at the rear. As you walk out, you'll follow the pathway along the side of the building which will provide a different perspective of the place. Make sure to take some photos from this angle on your visit!
The area around the White Temple has a few more attractions to offer. There is a wishing well where visitors can throw in a coin or two and make a wish. There's another opportunity for wish making if you purchase thin, metal ornaments that can be written on with black markers. The markers are provided at a table near the " where you can hang them.
Once you purchase your ornament (3oTHB each) you can take a few minutes to write down your wish on them, then take them to one of the tree-looking structures and hang them from one of the "branches." There is also a tunnel that you can walk through featuring thousands of hanging ornaments with wishes on them. It's quite a spectacular feeling. As if the energy from the souls walking under them will help the likelihood of them becoming true.
There is also an art gallery with no additional fee to enter. The art featured inside are those of Ajarn Chalermchai as well as his pupils. It is not a very big gallery, but contains many beautiful pieces of artwork. It gives visitors a further glimpse and understanding into the inspiration behind erecting this temple.
Golden Toilet - The Most Beautiful Bathroom
If I hadn't read about this place beforehand, I might have mistaken the golden, beautifully decorated, building as another temple. Nope. It's a bathroom! As in toilet, WC, washroom, or what they are referred to here in Thailand, "hong naam" - ห้องน้ำ.
As you walk around the premises of the White Temple, there are many beautiful things t look at. So, it makes perfect sense that even the toilets here must fit into the whole theme. The building is wonderful to look at and take photos of. Perhaps it is even the most photographed bathroom?
The White Temple is definitley a MUST VISIT for anyone traveling to or through Chiang Rai. There's lots to enjoy here and you can even feel like royalty if you use the "facilities."
About the Author
Hi! I'm just a California girl addicted to travel and adventure with a passion for art and dance on the side. Born in Iran, but I consider myself a citizen of Earth, adhering to the belief that "The world is but one country and mankind its citizen." I strive to make a positive impact on everyone I meet and learn as much as possible from them. My degree out of college is in Marketing. However, I entered the hospitality business at an early age and worked my way up to hotel management. After about 13 years in that industry (5 of which I was a hotel assistant manager), I made the decision to move to Thailand and leave the 9 to 5 grind behind. My husband and I set off for a life of living abroad and hopes to continue traveling the world, just 3 months after our wedding. It all started with the two of us, along with our cat, together in Thailand. Can't wait to see where life takes us next!