Why you must visit the White Temple of Chiang Rai

Even though it was years ago, one of the strangest temples that I have ever been in is still Wat Rong Khun, the White Temple of Chiang Rai, found in northern Thailand. It was quite a while ago that I went on my Thailand adventure but this temple still stands out as one of my favourites and I think you should definitely visit if you have the chance.

The temple is just outside the town of Chiang Rai and well worth the three-hour bus journey from Chiang Mai where I was staying. I got to enjoy some of the beautiful countryside along the way and had some time to read up about this strange temple. 

The White Temple of Chiang Rai in Thailand
The White Temple of Chiang Rai in Thailand

I can not compare it to any other temple in Thailand as it is quite unique in it’s white colour and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster which sparkle in the sun. The white colour signifies the purity of the Buddha, and the glass symbolises the Buddha’s wisdom. Every detail of the temple and structures carries meaning and encourages the visitor to reflect on the Buddhist teachings that show the way to escape from the worldly temptations, desires and greed and focus on the mind instead.

The White Temple of Chiang Rai in Thailand
The bridge of the cycle of rebirth

The main building at the white temple, the ubosot is reached by crossing the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth”. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire. It feels quite eerie as you walk across this bridge.

The White Temple of Chiang Rai in Thailand
The Gate of Heaven

After crossing the bridge, you arrive at the “gate of heaven”. This entrance is guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decides the fate of the dead.

I was sure to dress respectfully, which means no revealing clothes, shoulders covered and a long skirt. You have to take off your shoes before entering a temple building. Unfortunately taking photos inside the temple is not allowed. Normally this would not bother me but I would have loved to capture the inside. Inside the temple, the decor swiftly moves from pristine white to fiery and bewildering. It was quite mind blowing with its murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as batman, Freddy Kruger and even Micheal Jackson. Images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, and oil pumps hammer home the destructive impact that humans have had on earth. I have often wondered about this strange ensemble of figurines as the presence of Superman and Hello kitty confuses me a lot. But I am quite sure that the overall moral is clear: people are wicked.

I do enjoy the fiery “don’t smoke” sign that clearly sends the message of going to hell for smoking.

Even the restrooms are worth a visit as they are situated in”the golden building: It is said that his golden building represents the body, whereas the white ubosot represents the mind. The gold symbolizes how people focus on worldly desires and money.

What are your thoughts on this strange and unique temple?


    • I agree Jo! Things are quite busy on my side as I am packing and getting ready to move to China for work, so not getting as much time as I would like to spend here on my blog. But I can definitely not complain as a new adventure awaits and I will soon be bloging about it! How are you?


  1. I did the same thing as you when I visited Chiang Mai years ago… went on a 3-hour bus ride out to Chiang Rai and saw the White Temple 🙂
    I also loved the ‘do not smoke’ sign and also have a photo of it!

    Liked by 1 person

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