Visiting The White Temple, Chiang Rai Thailand

Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple as it’s more commonly known, is easily the most popular attraction in Chiang Rai, Thailand. I, like many others before me, came to Chiang Rai just to experience this Buddhist temple (but this northern Thailand town has so much more to offer, see my post on Things to do in Chiang Rai here) and yes, it was really worth the trip.

The Chiang Rai White Temple is a relatively recent addition to the tourist landscape. It was first opened to the public in 1997. It is owned and funded totally by local artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He decided he wanted to have total control over the design, so it’s built just how he wants it with his own money. He will take only small donations up to 10000THB if you feel inclined to help out.

Even before entering the temple complex, the artwork of Kositpipat greets you. Everything fits the theme, even such mundane things as traffic cones and no smoking signs.

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White Temple Chiang Rai
Before entering you can share a bench with this fellow
Chiang Rai temple
The masks were hanging near the entrance to the White Temple Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai White Temple
That’s one way to make a No Smoking sign stand out
Wat Rong Khun inside
Even the traffic cones here match the temple

The main building cannot be missed for it’s white intricate architecture and lovely tiered roof. Everywhere visitors look there is something new to see. The Chiang Rai White Temple interior is actually quite small, and no photography is allowed. You will be asked to remove your shoes as you approach over the dragon bridge. As we entered right when the gates opened, a long line formed immediately to go inside the temple.

By the time we approached the small inside space it was completely crowded with genuine worshippers, so we had a brief look and moved on to allow them space. Totally unexpected though is the artwork on the walls, depicting modern fiction and non-fiction characters such as Spiderman, and Michael Jackson. In my (non-Buddhist) opinion this is one of the least interesting areas, but perhaps if we had stayed longer we would have appreciated it more.

White Temple Chiang Rai inside
Side view of the White Temple
Where is the white temple
The intricate design of the White Temple, with storm clouds looming overhead
White Temple of Chiang Rai
One of the amazing statues as we entered the temple
White Temple Chiang Rai entrance fee
This sculpture is in the ground near the temple bridge
Rong Khun temple
The mirrored mosaic tiles show up well on this “tusk”
White Wat
The view as we exited the temple
How to go to White Temple Chiang Rai
Some of the great statues around the temple

As you walk through the grounds there are stunning white statues, decorative fences and other structures that fit beautifully with the white temple.

White Temple Thailand Chiang Rai
A love seat, White Temple style!
Wat Rong Khun how to get there
Strange heads decorating a doorway
Wat Rong Khun Chiang Rai
The fence separating the temple from the rest of the complex
Wat Rong Khun temple
Decorative features on one of the gates
White Palace Chiang Rai
This was strangely set up for photos. Notice the faces of the animals missing where the subjects stand.
Chiang Rai White Temple
The bell is a little less traditional than usually found at temples.
White Temple Chiang Rai
A lovely golden structure near the main gate

There is a wishing well, where of course visitors can throw in a coin for good luck. There are also many little hanging silver decorations that can also be puchased, written on and hung in various places for more good luck.

White Temple
The coins glittering on the bottom of a well. This one is based on your star sign. Stand in the right spot, and throw in a coin for luck.
White Temple
Thousands and thousands of these silver ornaments hang in various places around the complex, including in “trees” and under the walkway canopy
White Temple Chiang Rai
This ceiling of the other end of this walkway is covered with the silver hanging good luck baubles
White Temple Chiang Rai
There were a few of these tree structures, where each layer is created by hanging good luck tokens

One building really stands out, because against all of the white, it is instead gold. Still in the same intricate curly style, this golden building is, in fact, the toilets.

White Temple Chiang Rai
Some very fancy toilets. I couldn’t avoid the crowds here

What really got me though, were the masks hung throughout some of the trees. Some were non-specific, but what were the Marvel superheros, a Pirate, Deadpool and the Ninja Turtles doing here?

White Temple Chiang Rai
Terminator and Deadpool, hanging in a tree…
White Temple Chiang Rai
No, I do not understand why these were in the trees
White Temple Chiang Rai
More fictional characters to add
White Temple Chiang Rai
And a ninja turrtle to complete the strange assortment of masks

The whole temple was almost pulled down after a huge earthquake hit the area in 2014. Chalermchai Kositpipat did not want to rebuild the Temple if it was structurally unsafe and had to be removed, but luckily the damage was mostly only superficial so relatively easy to repair.

Building works at the temple are ongoing, and are not expected to be completed until 2070. That means each visit over the years until then will see more and more newly added sections. During our visit we could see another large building being erected behind some of the existing buildings. The plan is to build a centre dedicated to Buddhist teachings. Kositpipat believes that by building this huge offering to Lord Buddha he will become immortal.

White Temple
One of the areas we couldn’t go to and is still under construction. This building looks like it will be pretty impressive when it’s finished.

After you have looked all through the temple grounds, just outside the exit is an art gallery of Chalermchai Kositpipat’s artwork. It’s free to enter and worth a look. Some of his artwork is fantastic!

How to Get to the White Temple, Chiang Rai

The White Temple is about 15km from the centre of Chiang Rai. If you are staying in town, no doubt every tuk tuk driver you come across will offer to take you to the White Temple. We didn’t use this option, but my guess would be it would cost around 300-350THB (around $10USD/$12AUD) for a driver to take you there, wait, then bring you back to town,

The alternative, which we chose, was to take the local bus from the bus station in the centre of Chiang Rai. There is a sign with times it runs on it, so you can’t miss it. The bus we took left exactly on time. It cost 20THB   ($0.60USD/$0.85AUD) each way and drops you right at the intersection of the road the temple is on.  It’s only about 100m down the road and easy to see from where you get off. To return, we went back to the bus stop near the intersection, and waved down the next local bus that came along.

A third way to see the White Temple is on a Chiang Rai day trip from Chiang Mai. See below for a list of some of the tours, perhaps combined with other local attractions in the city.

 

White Temple Entrance Fee

Entry to the White Temple is free for Thai nationals, while foreign visitors pay a small sum of 50THB ($1.60USD/$2.10AUD)

The temple is open everyday from 8am to 5:30pm

(Information correct as at January 2018)

Looking for more things to do in Chiang Rai? Read my post here.

Are you visiting Vientiane, Laos while in the area? Here’s what to do during your visit there.

Want a Thailand travel guide? Pick up one of these for your trip


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18 thoughts on “Visiting The White Temple, Chiang Rai Thailand”

  1. WOW that place looks amazing! Visiting Chiang Rai in a week or so and really looking forward to checking this place out for ourselves. Thanks for sharing <3

    • Enjoy Sandy. We really liked Chiang Rai! In case you haven’t read my full post, make sure you go to the Cat Cafe 🙂

    • Thank you! It’s growing all the time, so I am sure there will be more added in the coming months too.

    • I agree! I just loved it. I will be visiting again any time I am in the area to see the changes as the new parts are completed.

  2. Great read! I came here a few years ago but I don’t think I paid close enough attention as I missed the finer details you mentioned like the traffic cones and no smoking signs being decorated in similar fashion. Beautiful temple!

    • Thanks Roxanne. Since it is still being built, you may not have missed those things, they may simply have not been there!

  3. Such a pretty and detailed post, thanks for sharing! I’ve been to the White Temple once and it was amazing, but going through your post, there’s so much that I missed so I’d love to go back! For the Marvel characters, I sort of remember reading that it has something to do with the struggle between good vs evil but don’t quote me on that!

    • Thands Angelica. That kind of makes sense about the Marvel characters. It’s so quirky though, I can’t wait to see what has been added next time I visit.

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