Wat Rong Khun – The White Temple of Chiang Rai

On the outskirts of Chiang Rai sits Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple. This beautiful intricately designed white and silver masterpiece is still in the making, however what has been done so far is simply spectacular says Ann Amies – who recently travelled their on our Bangkok to Laos tour. The brains behind it is Ajarn Chalermchai – an art graduate from Silpakorn University. Here is his story.

Located in the outskirts of Chiang Rai,the White Temple is simply spectacular and has a story to match

When studying as a young man, Ajarn found it apparent that most inspiring Thai artists were more interested in international modern art, rather than their country’s ancient Thai art. He (Ajarn) was the same for a while, however he soon grew bored of other people’s art like Monet and Van Gogh and grew more interested in Thailand’s ancient arts. This set him on the road to aspire to become a world famous contemporary Thai artist.

A cut out of Ajarn at the temple
A cut out of Ajarn at the temple

In 1997, he began putting this dream into reality by building a temple in Thailand that he wanted people to come and marvel at like they do the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat. That temple was Wat Rong Khun. Along with 80 followers, they began devoting all their time, effort and energy to make this structure their life work.  Ajarn himself said “I wished to build a temple like heaven. It is paradise on earth, the human world can touch”. It is still being put together today and is expected to take 90 years to complete.

The first thing you notice when you enter the complex is the brilliant white of the temple. So many temples these days are adorned in gold or a mixture of colours and this Wat standing in brilliant white is a beautiful contrast. The white has been chosen to symbolise the purity of Buddha and the glistening tiny mirrors that decorate it are there to symbolise man observing his own mind and to reflect kindness onto others – one of Buddha’s dharmas (teachings).

Hard at work
A volunteer hard at work

When inside the main temple you will be greeted with a slightly unorthodox painting on the wall. Ajarn has opted to show symbols and figures from modern day. You will spot Spiderman, Superman, Ben 10 and Hello Kitty to name just a few! To the right of the wall is an image of the World Trade Centre being attacked and beside it the faces of Bin Laden and Bush as demons – the artist wished to make a point of the evil our world and he has purposely put Superman and Ultraman away from the towers, indicating that no movie heroes can help our world from the evils of greed. It’s definitely a temple with a difference. Unfortunately we have no images of this as photography is banned within the temple – you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

Towards the back of the temple complex you’ll come across some of the volunteers who work here. All diligently tapping away and adorning the stone with silver and gold decorative pieces. Around the corner from here you’ll come across a building that Ajarn has himself designed to be his personal mausoleum that he will be buried in once he passes.

The White Temple is an included highlight on all our Thailand Tours that visit Chiang Rai. Find out more about our Thailand tours here

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