When we saw photos of Wat Rong Khun for the first time, we knew: we really have to go there. The White Temple in Chiang Rai is very different from any temple we have seen so far on our travels through Thailand.
It is completely white, decorated down to the smallest detail and has representations that you will not find in any other temple.
Or have you ever seen wall paintings in a temple showing Michael Jackson, Master Yoda or Superman?
White Temple: History and Significance
The white temple was created by the Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. By building the temple, he set himself a monument and made a great gift to his hometown.
Chalermchai financed the construction of the temple entirely himself, both with his own money and with donations. However, he attaches great importance to not being dependent on large donors and only accepts donations up to an amount of 10,000 THB (approx. 250 euros).
Although Wat Rong Khun already looks great, it is far from finished. Only around 20 percent of the planned complex has been built so far and the White Temple is not expected to reach its full splendor until 2070. Then in the future we will have to pass there every 10 years and see what has happened.
In 2014, the future of the temple was briefly very uncertain. An earthquake seriously affected Wat Rong Khun and for a short time even a complete demolition was up for discussion. Fortunately, the basic structure of the temple was not damaged and most of the damage has now been repaired.
Visit to the White Temple
A visit to the White Temple follows a set route. After the visitors have passed the turnstiles at the entrance, they first go on a duck march over the bridge of rebirth.
Left and right hands and heads protrude from the underworld. Crossing the bridge symbolizes the turning away from worldly desires, so it is only going in one direction.
Stopping to take pictures is not allowed, and certainly not turning back. The path leads straight to the sky gate. The main building, the so-called Ubosot, is waiting behind it.
Inside the Ubosot, a completely new sight awaits the visitor. While everything outside shines white, the walls of the chapel are brightly painted.
Every inch of the murals reveals a new surprise: drawings by George Bush and Osama Bin Laden, Michael Jackson, who does the moonwalk and even Hello Kitty have found their place on the wall.
The Ubosot is the absolute highlight of the tour. Behind there are some smaller buildings and of course you still have the opportunity to donate something
For a small donation, you will receive a small sheet-shaped metal piece on which you can write your name.
Of course we did that too. The leaves are then hung up. Tens of thousands are already hanging there and make a great picture.
The visit to the White Temple is free. The temple is open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. As in every temple, shoes must be removed before entering and covered shoulders and knees are also mandatory.
Taking photos in the White Temple
The Wat Rong Khun is a photo subject as it is in the book. As a photographer, you can’t get enough of a picture here and great photos are almost guaranteed here.
The White Temple is of course a very popular tourist destination and it is accordingly crowded there. The temple is full of great detail so you can definitely take photos without people .
It becomes more difficult with a complete picture of the temple without disturbing tourists. In the main season this is relatively hopeless during the day. It looks better in the early morning.
Photography is forbidden in the main building, which is why you will look in vain for photos of Michael Jackson and Master Joda in this report.
White Temple: arrival and location
Chiang Rai is located in the far north of Thailand, not far from the borders with Laos and Myanmar .
The White Temple itself is not located in Chiang Rai, but about 15 km outside of the city. You can also explore the temple very well on a day trip from Chiang Mai , just like we did.
Day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai
In Chiang Mai you can book an organized day tour to Chiang Rai in many accommodations and travel agencies.
The journey takes about three hours each way and is usually carried out by minibuses.
On our excursion we made a stop in Mae Kampong, a small northern Thai mountain village that today serves as a model location for homestay tourism in the north.
You can stay with the locals here and get a taste of the traditional life of the inhabitants of this region, who call themselves Khon Muang.
A second stop took us to hot springs and we were really surprised when we suddenly saw a kind of geyser shoot out of the ground at the roadside.
In the hot springs you can treat yourself to a foot bath and boil eggs. Sounds strange, but it works really well.
We only recommend the foot bath for die-hard people, because the water is really, really hot. Ouch!
A day trip from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai starts at 8:00 a.m. and you’ll be back around 7:00 p.m. The stay at the White Temple itself takes about one and a half hours, which is easily enough to see everything.
Overnight in Chiang Rai and travel to the White Temple
If you want to go to the White Temple in the early hours of the morning, then of course you have to stay in Chiang Rai. You will find a wide range of accommodation in Chiang Rai.
There are several ways to get to the White Temple from the city. Regular buses run from the old bus station to Wat Rong Khun for THB 20 each way. A taxi costs around THB 300.
All information about the White Temple at a glance
Here you will find all the important information compactly at a glance:
Admission: 50 baht (approx. 1.30 euros)
Opening times: daily 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Photography: allowed, except inside the main building
Dress code: shoulders and knees covered, no shoes (but you have to do them before moving out the main building).
From Chiang Rai: 15 km, by bus 20 THB, by taxi 300 THB.
From Chiang Mai: 180 km, as part of a day tour (8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) by minibus
Do you have any questions about the White Temple in Chiang Rai?
Have you been to the White Temple of Chiang Rai? Do you have another tip for us? Then we look forward to your comment.