Jul 02 2011

Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai

Published by at 8:51 am under Chiang Rai

Let’s head up the road from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai for this post, where we’ll check out the unique Rong Khun temple. The temple is located some 15 km south of Chiang Rai city at the junction of highway 1 leading south to Phayao and highway 118 heading Chiang Mai-wards.

The icing sugar temple

You can't actually eat this.

The ‘white temple‘, as it’s also known, is … well, very white and incredibly ornate. The white plaster everywhere symbolises Buddha’s purity, while the pieces of white glass stuck all over it represent Buddha’s wisdom. (Even the apparently very pure koi carp in the surrounding pool are white.) The temple is a work in progress by famous painter of all things Buddhist, Chalermchai Kositpipat.

Chalermchai began his career as a movie billboard painter, before moving on to religious themed paintings. His work, which combines an eclectic mix of traditional Buddhist imagery with modern symbols, was initially highly controversial. However Thailand’s revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej himself purchased some of the artist’s works, allowing him much greater mainstream acceptance, and certainly helping him to become much richer.

Wat Rong Khun also displays a mix of traditional and modern imagery, combining scenes from the life of Buddha with sci-fi and superhero images, including Keanu Reeves from The Matrix. It does remain controversial to some traditionalists, as well as to many tourists, who can’t decide whether it’s an awesome or totally kitsch sight.

Spectacularly kitsch or just spectacular?

Spectacularly kitsch or just spectacular?

The temple is entered by a bridge over a sea of demons, skulls and grasping hands, which is supposed to represent the transition via hell, (or more specifically the mouth of the demon Rahu), from earthly existence (the start of the bridge), to nirvana (the far side of the bridge).

Got to hand it to the architect!

Got to hand it to the architect!

Anyway totally kitsch, sacrilegious, a work of art: whichever you think, it certainly brightens up a drive between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, and to our minds well worth a visit. It’s open from 06:00-17:00 and there’s no entrance fee, though donations are welcome.

Thanks to my wife for some additional pix!


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3 Responses to “Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai” ...

  1. wanderingcaton 02 Jul 2011 at 7:00 pm

    it’s actually located at the junction of HWY 1 leading south to Phayao & HWY 1208 leading NW to Mae Korn & Huay Chomphu…more than 10KM north of the junction with HWY 118 leading west to Chiang Mai.

    btw the red traffic cones belonging to the temple are also worth looking out for, as is the sign/sculpture at the entrance indicating that it is an alcohol-free zone :P some viistors like the golden toilet building too.

  2. […] own steam. The resort is around 40 minutes outside of Chiang Rai and around 20 from the popular Wat Rong Khun. Rustic and […]

  3. […] a few pix before of the famous ‘White Temple’, Wat Rong Khun, in north Thailand’s Chiang Rai province but had a particularly great sky and light on our […]

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