Wat Rong Khun, The White Temple
Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple as most foreigners refer to it, is an unconventional Buddhist temple in the Northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. Designed in 1997 by famous Thai painter-turned-architect Chalermchai Kositpipat, this magnificent temple is a bizarre blend of traditional Thai architecture and the surreal.
Although Thailand has many Buddhist temples, no other temple is quite as unique as Wat Rong Khun. The main temple itself, Phra Ubosot, is painted white to symbolize Buddha’s purity. It is an ornate, glistening silver structure, covered in a mosaic of mirrors which sparkle in the sun. To get to the temple, visitors must cross a bridge over a sea of outstretched hands, which are to symbolize desire.
Construction began in 1998, and despite currently having a somewhat complete appearance, workers continue to expand the temple and complex, which is not expected to be completed for the next few decades. It is planned to comprise nine buildings including the ubosot (chapel), pagoda, hermitage, crematorium, monastery hall, preaching hall, museum, and pavilion, which will be built on an area of about 3 acres. Also on site is the gleaming, golden restroom building. This has been referred to as “the most beautiful restroom in the world,” and despite that lofty claim, I would have to agree that I don’t think I’ve seen many more restrooms quite this beautiful.
There is also an area where visitors can inscribe a prayer or message on a metallic chime, which will then be built-into structures on the temple grounds. One area featured a pathway with a sea of chimes serving as a beautiful roof. Another had an ornate towering tree, compromised of thousands of glistening chimes.
Admission is free, and there is also a museum on site which houses many of the artist’s original works. The museum unto itself is worth a visit, and there is also a gift shop where you can buy prints and other souvenirs. The artist has a unique, refined style, which can even be very psychedelic at times. The museum showcases how his style has changed over time, and also features some of his bronze sculptures, which are magnificent. There is a reason why the artist is so well regarded in Thailand!
All-in-all, Wat Rong Khun is a must-visit destination if in Chiang Rai or visiting Northern Thailand. Not only a unique temple, but also an unique, artistic creation.