8 Things You Didn’t Know About the White Temple in Chiang Rai
As one of the most unique, and somewhat bizarre, destinations in Southeast Asia, the White Temple in Chiang Rai is a site not to be missed on your trip to Thailand! You may have seen pictures of the glittering white facade before but here’s what you probably don’t know about the White Temple.
The White Temple is designed and funded by the same man
The breathtaking architecture and design of the White Temple was created by the Thai national artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. Born in Chiang Rai, the same city in which the temple is built, Kositpipat has dedicated his life to restoring and further developing the White Temple, which is known locally as Wat Rong Khun.
The White Temple has a three-tiered roof
Visitors may not notice it on first glance, but the White Temple has more than one roof. Inspired by the traditional design of Buddhist temples in Thailand, the building has a three-tiered roof. It is decorated with unusually intricate Naga serpents and makes for an incredible sight from afar.
The color white symbolizes the purity of the Buddha
Temples in Thailand are very often decorated or adorned in gold trim but the creator chose to use white instead. And rather than white be used as an accent color, the brilliant color (or lack thereof) envelopes the buildings from roof to footer, as well as the surrounding bridges, fences, and statues.
Nearly everything about the temple depicts a religious or symbolic message
In addition to the pure white color choice, much of the structural choices, mythical creatures, and positions of the White Temple’s guardians and deities depict a religious or symbolic meaning. The common theme of the temple is of escaping greed and desire and moving towards enlightenment through Buddha’s teachings.
The restroom building is considered the most ornate and beautiful of its kind in Thailand
Visitors can look forward to visiting bathrooms housed in an entirely gold building featuring ornate exterior decorations.
The White Temple is a work in progress
Although the temple construction began in 1997, changes are constantly being made to the buildings and the surrounding gardens. The artist continues to make small additions and alterations to the nine buildings that make up the compound. In fact, it is estimated that his work will not be finished for several more decades and will be carried on by others after his death.
The main temple’s interior artwork features famous people, superheroes, and cartoons
A striking contrast to its traditional Thai structure and beautiful Buddhist motifs are paintings featuring iconic people and modern creations on the interior walls of the main building. There are depictions of Spiderman, Darth Vader, Michael Jackson, Hello Kitty, and even Angry Birds characters intermingled with flames, demons and tragic scenes in history.
The White Temple survived an earthquake
On May 5, 2012, the White Temple was damaged by an earthquake that struck Thailand’s Mae Lao District of the Chiang Rai Province. However, after being inspected by a team of engineers, it was announced that the temple had no major structural damage and was reopened to the public for viewing.
Touring the White Temple independently
It is not difficult to arrange a tour to the White Temple it’s open every day from 6:30 AM to 6 PM. Plan to give yourself at least 40 minutes to explore the grounds and various buildings that make up the entire White Temple complex.
There is an art gallery and small shopping venues for people who want to purchase mementos of their visit. There is also an on-site café that serves iced beverages and Thai food for thirsty and hungry patrons.
On your tour, you’ll also visit the completely opposite, yet equally intriguing, “Black House”, another artistic representation of a Thai temple yet with a darker, more sinister side.
Because both places hold a local religious and cultural significance, visitors are encouraged to wear polite attire that covers shoulders and knees, especially women.