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Temples, temples, temples – can’t live with them, can’t explore Asia without them. Around these parts, they’re everywhere you look. Some might say they’re a dime a dozen, but we’re hear to tell you about one can’t miss temple: Wat Rong Khun in Chang Rai.
Wat Rong Khun or, The White temple, is not your ordinary temple by any stretch of the imagination. Construction began in 1996 and it is still undergoing, with expectations of another 60-90 years till completion. Most temples we see are about 1000 years older. On the contrary, the White Temple’s contemporary, Buddhist fusion style seems more fitting for one of Tim Burton’s films than a roadside temple outside of Chang Rai Thailand.
The temple, as you would expect, is completely white. Kositpipat, the designer, believes gold is “suitable to people who lust for evil deeds” and wanted this temple to be different from the standard golden Thai temple. I think he was just working under tight budget constraints. Either way, I love his decision to go a different direction.
Still, the frosty exterior is quite striking in a “wow, never see it done this way before” kind of way. It’s refreshing, but don’t let the white paint lull you into a false sense of security – this is no fairy tale. The grounds are covered with ghoulish ghosts and heads emerging from the ground as if mimicking the depths of hell.
If it looks this crazy on the inside, you’re probably dying to know what the inside beholds. I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t the usual scenes from the life of Buddha. The inner murals are an amalgamation of contemporary pop culture reference with the occasional historical reference; think Spiderman meets September 11th. What do Peter Parker and Osama Bin Laden have in common? I suppose only Kositpipat knows for sure, but it does make for an unbelievably unique experience.
From Chiang Rai you can take a 20-30 minute bus to the White Temple from the bus station by the night market. Just ask the driver to let you know where to get off. You will be dropped off on the side of the highway and just need to cross the road and walk towards the temple.
Catch the bus from the same road you were dropped off on (though in the opposite direction).
Buses run frequently in the morning and afternoon