Hundreds of hands reaching out to the heavens crowd over a pit. It looks like a scene from a rock concert mosh pit or even a scene from a horror movie depicting hell. But it definitely isn’t both, in fact, it’s the farthest thing from anything you might imagine. This is actually the entrance to one of Thailand’s most famous landmark; Chiang Rai’s White Temple.
|HANDS REACHING OUT REPRESENTING EARTHLY DESIRE|
From the city’s old bus station, we left our bikes in the middle of our Chiang Rai temple run and boarded a bus that would take us to Wat Rong Kun. This structure, which was formerly a run-down Buddhist temple 15 kilometers south west from town, is now one of Thailand’s iconic places to visit.
|SUPER ORNATE DECORS IN WHITE SIGNIFYING THE PURITY OF BUDDHA|
Reconstructed by local Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, in 1997, the once dilapidated structure now rises like a gleaming white castle. As of the moment, the artist has admittedly splurged a big fortune, 40 million baht to be exact, to make this his grand masterpiece.
|A GOLD GANESH SCULPTURE / METAL PRAYER LEAVES USED AS ORNAMENTATION|
And he isn’t even done yet. Work is continually going on in the area, bringing about more buildings which would total in nine structures once everything has been finished. He estimates that it would take him until 2070 to accomplish everything.
|MYTHICAL KINAREE FIGURES NEAR THE POND|
|A BUDDHA IMAGE ON THE ONLY GOLD STRUCTURE ON THE COMPLEX|
We’ve had our sights on the White Temple ever since setting foot in Thailand a few years back. We were quite disappointed however to learn that it was located in Chiang Rai, the northernmost Thai territory. It was located so far from Bangkok that it took us multiple visits before finally seeing the ornamented temple with our very own eyes.
|ONE OF THE MINOR TEMPLES|
|WISHING WELL AT THE WHITE TEMPLE|
The White Temple was struck by an earthquake last May 2014. It was initially declared that the whole complex would be demolished and rebuilt, good thing engineers have deemed the structure to be unaffected, so visitors are again allowed to visit it, well except the insides of the main hall or ubosot, which was still off limits during our visit.
|DEATH AND RAHU, THE GATE GUARDIANS|
|WEIRD CREATURES ADORNING ONE OF THE ROOF OF THE TEMPLES|
That was really too bad, as I heard so much about the murals painted inside the main hall. You’d be surprised to find an interior of a Buddhist temple filled with so many pop icon references, like Neo from the Matrix, Superman, Terminator and even Hello Kitty among others, gracing its walls. I haven’t seen this even in photographs as I heard that taking pictures are not allowed inside during the time when it was still open to the public.
|WAT RONG KUN, CURRENTLY UNDER RESTORATION|
|THE BRIDGE OF THE CYCLE REBIRTH|
Well, it was supremely stunning enough from the outside that we didn’t really mind that we were unable to see the ubosot from the inside. From its intricate details, its koi pond, to its amazing naga bridge, one can’t help but wonder what’s going on with the guy who made all of these. It is a work of a genius.
|GOD IS IN THE DETAILS|
And indeed, we had a little glimpse of that genius mind as we wandered through the adjacent gallery showing off his works. It houses his personal paintings, sketches and even sculptures. It’s just too bad that photographs were also not allowed inside the gallery, you really have to see it with your own eyes, I guess.
|THE CRAZY-GENIUS ORNAMENTATION OF WHITE TEMPLE|
This Chalermchai guy is definitely something else. He made something as ubiquitous as a Thai Buddhist Temple into something else entirely while still retaining the spirituality and the meaning of the original. The White Temple is definitely worth going all the way to Chiang Rai for.
|A TREE MADE FROM THOUSANDS OF PRAYER LEAVES|
White Temple / Wat Rong Khun
Address: Pa O Don Chai Road, Chiang Rai, Thailand
Contact Number: +66 53673579
Entrance Fee: Free / Donation
Dress Code: No skirts, no revealing clothes
Open Hours: 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM everyday
GPS Coordinates Map: 19.824335, 99.762689