Chiang Rai's number one attractions The White Temple, Wat Rung Khun
Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist from Chiang Rai, it is more an art installation than a traditional temple.
The entrance fee into the temple grounds is 50 baht. Once inside, the main temple is reached via a bridge which crosses the sea of suffering, where grasping hands reach up in desperation from below.
The intricately carved temple is strikingly beautiful. The pure white façade brought alive by light and shadow in the midday sun.
Inside the temple colourful artwork contrasts sharply with the exterior. Swirling clouds and demonic faces juxtapose pop culture imagery including Neo from the Matrix, Bumble-Bee from the Transformers and the scary tricycle riding doll from the Saw movies.
The stylistic clash of old and new continues in the temple grounds, where the pretty manicured gardens are home to a semi buried Predator and the decapitated heads of movie characters hang from trees, alongside Buddhist shrines.
Even the toilets had gargoyle guardians.
Getting to the White Temple
You can take a non air-conditioned bus from the old bus station in Chiang Rai, for 20 baht. Leg room not included.
Songthaews are also available on a private hire basis from the bus station. We found the cheaper option was to flag down a taxi. Reluctant to use his meter the driver agreed a still very reasonable 150 baht fare.
A word of warning. Our driver tried to take us to the wrong temple. Make sure you’re heading for Wat Rong Khun, not Wat Rong Suea Ten. The latter being the blue temple, despite our drivers initial insistence to the contrary.
When your visit is over skip the lurking tuk-tuk and taxi drivers directly in front of the temple and walk to the main road where you can flag down a songthaew, for a 20 baht return journey.
Even if you’ve explored all of the traditional temples in Chiang Rai and are feeling “templed-out” you should make the effort to put this one on your list. Its only 15 KM from town and is different enough from the others to make it worthy of your time.