North Thailand Road Trip (Part 4): The Bizarre White Temple of Chiang Rai

There is a man who so wanted to be remembered after his death that he built the most weird temple in the whole of Thailand. That man is Chalermchai Kositpipat and the weird temple is Wat Rong Khun.

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai Province, North Thailand

The weirdness starts with the temple’s color. White is rarely used in traditional Thai temples. All the temples that I visited: Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Lampang Temple, and the UFO-like temple in Pathum Thani; are awashed with gold. Chalermchai departed from this tradition and made gold to represent money and worldly desires while white represents purity.

To further demonstrate that point, Chalermchai painted the toilet with gold.

Golden Toilet at Wat Rong Khun complex, Chiang Rai, North Thailand
The Golden Toilet

I think that this is the most beautiful toilet that I had ever peed in.

The weirdness doesn't stop there because located around Wat Rong Khun are things that will never be seen in a traditional Thai temple like the statue of the Predator…

Predator at Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

…and the head of Batman.

Batman's head in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

Even the “No Smoking” sign was also beyond the usual.

No Smoking sign in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

I’m not sure, though, if the skulls can scare smokers from doing their usual yosi habit.

I read in other blogs that pop culture references and are also painted within the White Temple. So, instead of seeing images of Buddha and traditional Buddhist/Hindu icons, visitors will see Hello Kitty, Superman, Michael Jackson and even the New York Twin Towers being bombed by airplanes. These untraditional murals represent the woes of modern world such as war, greed, and corporate branding.1

I didn’t enter the Temple so I didn’t saw those not-so-Buddhist images. You may view some it in an article in MSN.

Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, North Thailand

The White Temple has a small lake around it. Kind of a moat where a water dragon resides…

Water dragon at Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

…and fishes too.

Feeding the fishies in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

The funny thing with these fishes is that they are fed using the baby bottle.

Feeding Koi fishes in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

I had to cross the bridge before I reached the White Temple but before I can do that I had to pass through these hands:

The outstretched hands represent those who were damned in hell.

Hands and more hands in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

The Hands of the Damned is the scariest artwork in the whole area. Too bad that Chalermchai didn’t place a statue of the Hell Girl beside these hands.

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

The bridge to White Temple represents the path to eternal bliss (in Buddhist teaching). It is guarded by Death and Rahu, who decide the fates of the dead.1

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

The White Temple is not actually devoid of Buddhist/Thai traditional art elements. It boasts of three-tiered roof, Nagas, and the images of Buddha are located in many places.

Visitors to Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

Chalermchai placed fragments of broken mirror on the walls of Wat Rong Khun thus making it shine under the sun.

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

Chalermchai continues the construction of other buildings for Wat Rong Khun complex. Aside from the ubosot (main temple), which is now standing, Chalermchai plans to build a house for the monks to make the place not only as a tourist spot but also a full-blown Buddhist temple.

Statue in Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, North Thailand

Wat Rong Khun is indeed bizarre. It is a perfect break for tourists who are already temple-tired after visiting one traditional Thai temple after another. Chalermchai’s artistry for this temple is really good but it still failed to “captivate” me. As for me, the best Thai temple for me is the traditional ones.


Travel Notes:

1. Admission is free for Wat Rong Khun and anyone (even foreigners) can freely enter the place. Of course they accept donations and you can do that by throwing your money to this golden wishing well:
[ins Wishing Well]

2. Wat Rong Khun is a temple despite its appearance so each visitor is expected to show respect and wear proper clothing.

3. The place is also a tourist spot so souvenir shops are available in the area. There are also restaurants and other shops that sell food. So, tourists need not be afraid that they will be starved at this place.

4. Taking photos inside the ubosot or the main temple is strictly prohibited. Postcards showing the not-so-Buddhist murals inside the White Temple may be bought at the souvenir shops in the area.


North Thailand Road Trip (Part 3):Coffee Time at Le Petit Café
North Thailand Road Trip (Part 5): Eating Bugs in Chiang Rai Night Market


Sources of information for this post:

1. Bizarre and Beautiful: Inside Thailand's Wat Rong Khun Temple in MSN website.

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  1. I visited this place and the same eerie feeling while walking along the temple ground. It wasn't a solemn place as there were so many tourists, both locals and foreigners looking around. I did not see that golden restroom you mentioned. I bet it was also splendid inside.

    1. Eerie indeed but not that much because its very touristy.

      Puntahan mo yung Wat Rong Khun uli para maka-weewee ka sa Golden CR. ;-)

  2. My Singapore friend went to Chiang Rai not too long ago, didn't see any photographs of this place. Maybe he didn't get to go. I wouldn't be keen either, rather eerie...everything.

    1. Ah...but you have to go. This is beyond the normal Thai temple. Worth the visit.

  3. I love the hands and the monster slayer ISH! the temple is so unique, he will surely be remembered because of this archi. Truly, when you sometimes break the habit of what everyone does, (thinking outside the box) you will truly create an impact, I truly love those outstretched arms! :) <3 <3 <3

    1. I agree with you. Chalermchai will forever remembered because of this temple.

      Those hands will come and get you Steve. :-P


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