Traveling for months through Asia made us at some point feel ‘templed-out’.

The last thing we wanted at the end of our time in Thailand was to keep seeing more and more temples, but, after hearing about the White Temple or Wat Rong Khun being the most eccentric, original, unusual and unique temple in Chiang Rai, we thought we could do an exception and check it out.

The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

After a short bus ride from Chiang Rai centre, we found ourselves standing in front of this magnificent piece of modern architecture and art full of creativeness which didn’t recall anything like the traditional temples we’d seen previously

It’s hard to describe The White Temple without sounding inebriated and the only other time I felt the same way was standing in front of the crazy works of Gaudi’.

In fact this temple also has something else in common with Gaudi, it’s still under construction like the famous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

The White Temple was designed by the Thai visual artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, it’s construction started in 1996, the work still continues daily and is predicted to be finished between 60-90 years after its designer and partial founders death.

As its name states, the temple is entirely white a art from the silvery/glittering reflections of the many mirrors that decorate it. Make sure to have sunglasses on if the sun is shining on the day you visit it 😉

Statue at the White Temple, Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Dale entering the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Detail of the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

There is a bridge to be crossed to enter the temple which represent the passage from the life to the land of Buddha. This bridge goes over a ‘pond’ of sculptured hands reaching out as if they are trying to escape, some holding skulls, others holding little pots for donations maybe?

It is a very fascinating entrance almost disquieting, definitely matchless compare to the conventional Buddhist temples.

Entrance to the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Clay hands at the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

The White Temple is unconventional not only for its architecture, external design and its countless detailed decorations, but also for the craziness of the murals painted inside. Unfortunately pictures aren’t allowed once inside the temple, which is a shame, but I can give you my word, it was surprisingly weird.

To give you an idea the paintings represents the transition to get to the land of Buddha. I’ll try to describe it so you can picture on your head what we saw, easier said than done.

Try to imagine: as you enter on the wall facing you there is a huge Buddha, on the side walls there are clouds floating with people on, while on the back wall there are images of super heroes like Spiderman and Superman, scenes from Star Wars and Alien, Neo from the Matrix, Sponge-Bob Squarepants, the 9/11 attack to the Twin Towers, icons like Bush, McDonalds and Bin Laden and more. Simply incredible!

People were still working on painting the remaining empty spots on the walls. I’m incredibly curious to see the whole interior finished one day, aren’t you?

White Temple in Chiang Rai seen by its side - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

And That’s Not All!

The White Temple is surrounded by gardens, a gazebo, other small structures still in the process of being built that will probably be temples once finished and there is even a pagoda at its back, everything rigorously white apart from the golden toilets.

It was the first time I saw people queuing to get pictures of the toilets and not for the usual reason.

Garden around the White Temple, Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
"White Pagoda outside the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Sculptured head at the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Decoration at the White Temple in Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Man at work at the White Temple, Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
works in progress at the White Temple, Chiang Rai- The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece
Toilets at the White Temple, Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

Everything around is a piece of detailed art and what a different kind of art.

Hats off to Chalermchai Kositpipat for his amazing work and for the courage of creating a religious building in such modern style that I can easily expect being seen as controversial for some aspects.

How To Find –

To get to the White temple take the public bus number 8 from the Chiang Rai bus station, it takes 20-30 minutes and it cost only 20 Thai Baht (£0.45, €0.50 and $0.70), make sure to check first with the driver in case things have changed.

Price –

Free

Value For Money –

HIGH – You’ll only be paying the money for the public bus or taxi to get there considering the entrance is free.

Location Address & Map –

White Temple
located at Ban Rong Khun, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, along Phahonyothin roadside at Km816, approximately 13 km from Chiang Rai



View White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) in a larger map

Summary –

We recommend this temple to everybody, as you can gather from this post, it’s something completely different from the other Buddhist temples for its unique architecture and art style – completely worth a visit!

Remember to dress properly to avoid disappointment when they don’t let you inside, it’s still a religious building.

Buddha at the White Temple,Chiang Rai - The White Temple: The Beauty of An Unfinished Masterpiece

How do you feel about using contemporary art/architecture in sacred buildings?