Photo: Not called the White Temple for nothing.

Wat Rong Khun

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A visit to the famous White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun to give it its correct name, has become absolutely de rigeur for any visitor to Chiang Rai. Spectacular, spectacularly kitsch or just simply kitsch this highly ornate, all white, icing sugar temple certainly divides opinion.

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According to the artist/architect, the white plaster coating symbolises Buddha’s purity, while the pieces of glass covering the walls represent Buddha’s wisdom. (Even the apparently very pure koi carp in the surrounding pool are white.) The temple is a work in progress with new elements continually being added, although damage from a 2014 earthquake necessitated some minor structural repairs, putting new additions temporarily on the back burner.

Plenty of saffron on site too. Photo taken in or around Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Plenty of saffron on site too. Photo: Mark Ord

Wat Rong Khun was created by artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, who actually began his career as a movie billboard painter, before moving on to religious-themed paintings. His highly controversial creations, which combine an eclectic mix of traditional Buddhist themes with pop culture imagery as well as borrowings from other religions, is highly unorthodox to the extent that attempts were made to have him banned by the Buddhist church. However since Thailand’s revered former king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, purchased some of the artist’s works, Chalermchai consequently received much greater mainstream acceptance allowing him to continue his unique creations and at the same time certainly helping him to become considerably wealthy.

As the artist’s most prominent work, Wat Rong Khun displays perfectly this mix of traditional and modern imagery, with interior murals combining scenes from the life of Buddha with sci-fi, superhero and pop star images such as Keanu Reeves from The Matrix, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Superman and so-on. It does remain controversial to some Buddhist traditionalists, as well as for different reasons to visitors, who can’t decide whether it’s an awesome or ... Travelfish members only (Around 400 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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How to get there
The temple is located 13 kilometres south of Chiang Rai at the junction of Highway 1 leading south to Phayao and Highway 118 heading Chiang Mai-wards and is easily reached by public transport. You can either head to bus terminal 1 where southbound local buses to Phan, Mae Kachan or Wiang Pa Pao for example will let you off here for 20 baht or head to the songthaew station behind the main market where there are departures every 15 minutes, also for 20 baht. The blue pick-up buses have White Temple written in English on the sides.

Wat Rong Khun
Ban Rong Khun
Mo–Su: 08:00–17:00
T: (053) 673 579 
Admission: 50 baht

Location map for Wat Rong Khun

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Rai.
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