Chiang Rai Tour – Wat Rong Khun

Just when we thought we couldn’t possibly handle another bloody temple, we arrived at this beauty. A temple like no other we had ever seen.

Wat Rong Khun. The White Temple.

Wat Rong Khun.
Wat Rong Khun.

Designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, work on this temple began in 1996 and isn’t scheduled for completion until 2070. Kositpipat believes that designing and building this Buddhist temple will give him “immortal life”. When finished, the complex will feature nine buildings including the ubosot (chapel), pagoda, hermitage, crematorium, monastery hall, preaching hall, museum, pavilion and rest rooms.

The loos themselves are the shiniest, flashiest loos I’ve ever seen!

"The most elaborate dunny I have ever seen" - John. [Photo by John McCormack.]
“The most elaborate dunny I have ever seen” – John. [Photo by John McCormack.]
From afar, the temple is pristine white, glinting in the bright sunlight. As you get closer, the artist’s style and the temple’s unique features appear.

Wat Rong Khun.
Wat Rong Khun.

For example, this bloke:

Alien... at a Buddhist temple.
Predator… at a Buddhist temple.

Or this guy:

Hanging ornaments.
Hanging ornaments.

Kositpipat depicts the journey to happiness by overcoming cravings with a piece called “Hell”, which you must walk past on your way over the bridge to the ubosot. Hundreds of human hands reach up from what looks like hell, clawing at the air above. Some hands hold bowls, while other grab toward the sky. Some are making what looks like rude hand gestures.

"Hell".
“Hell”.

The inside of the ubosot is festooned with intricate, colourful murals on the walls. These are not the murals you’ll see at most Thai Buddhist temples, however. In addition to paintings of the Buddha smiling serenely down on you, you’ll find pictures of Star Wars droids, Superman and even planes crashing into the World Trade Center. If the Predator statue outside aren’t enough to weird you out, R2D2 sitting beside Buddha should do it for you.

Photos are not allowed inside the ubosot.
Photos are not allowed inside the ubosot.

Visitors to the temple can also contribute a silver leaf to part of the project. The leaves hang from archways and in metal ‘trees’ and according to Ae, once the artist has gathered enough, the leaves will be made into a Buddha. In true tourist style, we were all over this. Names, wishes and all.

Leaves hanging from an archway.
Leaves hanging from an archway.
Hanging my leaf on a tree.
Hanging my leaf on a tree.

More of Kositpipat’s work is displayed in a museum and art gallery within the complex. His paintings are bright and colourful, and very striking. Ae also introduced us to a great nothern Thailand dish – yellow noodles. Hot and spicy, with chunks of chicken swimming in a red broth with yellow noodles. A tiny bit too hot for me, but a delicious dish nonetheless! And you’ll have a real hard time finding it south of Chiang Mai.

Pat, John and I at Wat Rong Khun.
Pat, John and I at Wat Rong Khun.
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