Although, as I am fast discovering, there is an endless list of things to discover here in Chiang Rai, when researching the city before moving, there wasn’t a lot that came up on Google searches. However, the one thing that did appear repeatedly, and I feel is the main pull for tourism to the area, is Wat Rong Khun, more commonly referred to as the White Temple.
Wat Rong Khun differs hugely from the endless amount of temples you see in this country. Apart from the main fact that it is white, with the majority of Thai temples being bright colours, mainly gold and red, Wat Rong Khun also has contemporary aspects to it, which makes it a more unconventional Buddhist Temple.
The temple is the brain child of Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, and was built in 1997. What makes the temple stand out as a symbol of the modern world is that it takes the beauty of traditional Thai art, however brings it a modern twist. Upon first glance, the gardens surrounding the temple appear rather traditional and nothing out of the ordinary. However, upon closer inspection, you see that the delicate architecture is made up from a pit of twisted hands, reaching up.
Inside the main room, the art looks beautifully ornate, with images of Buddha everywhere. However, peer a little closer, and you will find some Sneaky Prawns from the film District 9, or perhaps a minion from Despicable Me; and I think I’m right in remembering I saw Chewbacca from the Star Wars trilogy in there somewhere. Unfortunately there were strictly no cameras within the main hall of the temple, so you will just have to take my word for it.
We wandered around the grounds some more, dazed at how the sunlight reflects in the surrounding moat, and dances on the white walls of this incredibly individual building. I fear that on a cloudy day, the impact would not be as wonderful.
Some of the building is being reworked, due to damage caused by an earthquake, that struck the district on 5th May 2014. At first, the damage was thought to be so severe that the temple would have to be demolished; however, upon closer inspection, only some parts need to be restored.
It is a simply breathtaking building, and I cannot stress enough, that if you ever find yourself in this beautiful city, certainly pay Wat Rong Khun a visit. I don’t know why I waited so long until I did so myself.