Unlike the ancient golden temples found throughout Thailand, this northern wat is gleaming white, with numerous modern and fanciful touches.
Travel to northernmost Thailand to visit the unique Buddhist temple of Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple. Chalermchai Kositpipat designed the temple to blend traditional Buddhist symbolism with a modern perspective. View the temple glittering in the sunshine with its reflection mirrored in the small lake in front of it. Return at night to see it glowing in the moonlight when its white paint, glass and mirrors give it a ghostly appearance.
Begin your tour walking across the Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth, leading to the Gate of Heaven. You’ll pass numerous outstretched hands representing desire. Featuring ornate white and mirrored walls, the main three-tiered building or ubosot is used for ordaining monks. Look for traditional Naga serpents, symbols of protection of the temple.
Construction of the temple began in 1997. Although still a work in progress, it opened to visitors in 2008. The artist has incorporated numerous depictions of modern people and events in its decoration. Closely examine the murals inside the ubosot to find unexpected portrayals of aliens, Superman, Batman, Hello Kitty, Elvis, Mickey Mouse, Kung Fu Panda, Michael Jackson and Neo from The Matrix. The 2001 attack on the World Trade Center Towers in New York is also illustrated.
The site contains one golden structure, a three-tiered public restroom. Step inside to see the decorated toilets.
Leave your mark at the temple by tossing a coin into its fountain and making a wish or hanging a medallion with thousands of others onto the branch of a concrete tree. In the site’s gift shop, purchase photographs of some of the more popular scenes from the temple walls.
To get to Wat Rong Khun, take a bus or taxi from Chiang Rai in the very northern part of Thailand, near the borders with Myanmar and Laos. The temple is open every day. Enter for free, remembering to comply with etiquette and dress expectations for temple visits.
Upon returning to Chiang Rai, see other works designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat: the town clock tower and the Black House.