• Menu
  • Menu
visit the White Temple in chiang Rai - things to do in chaing Rai with kids

The White Temple in Chiang Rai – Wat Rong Khun temple

This temple is located in Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand and is a beautiful example of contemporary Buddhist art. The temple is still under construction, but it’s already a popular tourist destination.

The White Temple in Chiang Rai City (Wat Rong Khun) combines traditional Thai aspects with modern style and pop culture. Its creator Chalermchai Kositpipat is a daring creative artist who explores such thought-provoking combinations to focus on Promoting Buddhist practice and reminding people of the importance of meditation and spiritual practice.

the white temple

Where is Chaing Rai?

The Thai city of Chiang Rai is situated in the very north of Thailand, close to Myanmar and Laos. The nearest big cities are Chiang Mai, around 200km away, whilst Bangkok is about700 km away.

How to get to the White Temple

The White Temple is located in the Ban Wiang Phan, just a few kilometres from the famous Night Bazaar. The easiest way to get to Chiang Rai is by tuk-tuk or motorbike. The trip takes about 30 minutes, and clear signs will lead you to the temple.

The other option is public transport – the best way to catch the public bus is from the Chiang Rai Bus Terminal. We discovered that on the way back, it’s more difficult to catch the bus, came back to Chiang Rai by Tuk – Tuk.

A brief history of Wat Rong Khun temple

The original Wat Rong Khun was in bad condition. Restoration work began on the temple, but it was halted due to a lack of funds.

Chalerschai Kositpipat decided to completely rebuild the temple and funded the project with his own money. The artist built the new temple to be the centre of learning and meditation and for people to gain benefits from Buddhist teachings.

The White temple is probably one of the most famous temples in Asia

Who is Chalermchai Kositpipat?

Chalermchai Kositpipat is a famous Thai visual artist. He was born in 1955 in Chiang Rai.

The White Temple was built between 1998 and 2008 and is still under construction. The artist has expressed his intention to spend his own funds and the rest of his life working on this project.

Why did Chalermchai Kositpipat build The White Temple?

Chalermchai Kositpipat masterpiece and the main focus of his creative life, The White Temple, is designed to promote Buddhist practice by reminding people of the importance of meditation and spiritual practice. The main focus is to provide a meditative space and not simply a tourist attraction. The combination of traditional Thai art and pop culture has been criticized but has attracted many foreign visitors, and it’s considered to be one of the landmarks of Thailand.

Symbolism in the White Temple of Chiang Rai

The White Temple at Chiang Rai has an eclectic feel that mixes features and elements from other styles and epochs. The temple features an elaborate facade and traditional Buddhist architecture. The overarching theme of the temple is the escape of desire and greed and obtaining enlightenment.

The Bridge

You enter the temple through the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth” with many sculpture hands greedy reaching towards you. The legend is that The Bridge separates the human and The Lord’s Word.

The “Gate of Heaven”

Just after the bridge, you will arrive at the “Gate of Heaven”. The gate represents the main entrance to Heaven and is being guarded by Rahu and Death, who are holding the decision of mankind’s fate.

The Ubosot (main Shrine)

The Ubosot is the main building; the building from the outside is painted with reflective glass pieces. And has a three-tiered roof.

Inside, on the other hand, The Ubosot is very different. The interiors are colourful (internal photography is prohibited), with many pop culture icons painted on the walls. And where one would expect to see Buddha can see instead Hello Kitty, Neo from Matrix, Michael Jackson or other idols who have become temporal gods for many of us. It’s shocking and enlightening at the same time.

Only at the back wall of the Shrine, you can find a golden mural of the Buddha, with a few images of the Buddha in front of it.

The “Golden temple” or the toilet building

The temple raises questions about the universal use of gold in most other temple designs. The only golden building here is the toilet block. It is coated with gold paint, and The Temple’s sign has been replaced by one that reads “Thailand’s most posh toilet.”

ne of the most important things in the design of the temple is the symbolic meaning. The message is that white used on the temple proper represents true Buddhist purity, whereas gold tells of human values based on the material world and its nonsense. 

Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple Symbolism

Each detail is symbolic.

  • The ivory-white colour indicates purity.
  • The glass represents the wisdom of Buddha.
  • These creators deliberately selected this colour to express disapproval of modern obsession with money and wealth. Walking along the temple grounds, you get the impression of travelling in a surreal movie. Outside the temple has a metal Predator statue. It is a satire about international politics and the consumers’ thoughtless attitude against nature. The temple is decorated with detailed plasterwork with small chunks of glass in between.
  • They hold small notes of personal importance hanging from the trees.
  • The heds of pop culture icons also hanging on the “trees” include – the Avengers, and Maleficent

Museum of Chalermchai Kositpipat work

The museum shows the history of the Wat Rong Khun and also houses works by Chalermchai Kositpipat, which uses some of his artworks with satirical portrayals of the modern world and trending tendencies.

Wat Rong Khun survived an earthquake

On 5 May 2014, a devastating earthquake of magnitude 6.3  struck Chiang Rai. Though the white temple was badly damaged, Chalermchai Kositpipat decided to continue expansion.

Chiang Rai White Temple – opening hours

White Temple is open all day from 8 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is 200 Thai baht. Make sure to allow yourself at least four hours to explore the grounds and the museum.

Other places to see in Chaing Rai City

The Black House – The Black House is a contemporary art gallery, located quite close to The White Temple.

The Blue Temple – The Blue Temple is the other icon of the city, and it was built recently

The Golden Triangle – The infamous Golden Triangle, known as one of the world’s largest historical sources of opium, has now been turned into Thailand’s tourist attraction

Long Neck Hill tribes – For me, the most interesting of the hill tribes are The long Neck women who have stretched necks, due to wearing brass coils. The tribe is proud of their tradition and refuse to remove the coils

You can also make a stop in Chaing Rai City on your way to visit nearby Laos, Myanmar – The city is on the border of Thailand’s Golden Triangle with Laos and Myanmar.

The White Temple in Thailand

Wat Rong Khun is a unique temple in Asia that marks itself with glass that sparkles when it hits the sun. The white color represents the purity of the Buddha, while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings. There could eventually be nine buildings, including a temple for Buddhist shrines, a meditation hall, a monastery and a mosque.

Wat Rong Khun is truly an amazing contemporary Buddhist temple, and many people travel thousands of miles just to see its beauty.

This temple is definitely one of the most beautiful contemporary Buddhist temples in Thailand.

The White Temple – Wat Rong Khun – Pin it for later

Privacy Policy Disclaimer

This website uses affiliate links for income and support.

If you like our website, please consider using these links. You will be directed to the vendor, and we will get a small commission on your purchase price at no increased cost to you.

We have researched facts stated here as far as practicable but please check anything critical before committing your time and money. We do not claim any special knowledge or expertise, and we are not consultants for our readers.

Ania James

photographer, traveller, mother of twin girls, wife, worldschooler, rulebreaker

View stories

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.