Wat Rong Khun, better known as the “White Temple,” is one of the most recognizable temples in Thailand. This unique temple, located just outside the city of Chiang Rai, is one of the most visited attractions in the area. It’s not hard to see why.
The temple looks like something out of a fairy tale. The entire structure is a brilliant white colour with pieces of glass in the plaster, sparkling in the sun. It almost doesn’t look real. It’s more like a mirage you’ve stumbled upon – a beautiful mirage with a glistening pool of water below, filled with Koi swimming around.
Last year, we made our way to Wat Rong Khun just before Halloween. With all the demons and villains that met us as we entered, coming out of the ground and hanging from trees, it was the perfect time of year to visit.
A variety of character heads
Predator lurking at the entrance
Villains and Superheros
Wat Rong Khun was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a famous Thai visual artist. He chose white to signify the purity of the Buddha. The pieces of glass throughout it symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and Buddhist teachings. The temple is filled with Buddhist symbolism.
To enter the main chapel (ubosot), you cross a narrow bridge over a pool of hands and faces reaching up, trying to claw their way back to the surface, representing suffering souls in Hell.
Hands clawing their way to the surface at Wat Rong Khun
Skulls and hands reaching up from Hell
Reaching up from Hell
The pathway symbolizes the way to happiness by overcoming worldly things like temptation, greed and desire.
Guarding the path to the temple and casting those not worthy to Hell.
“Gate to Heaven” guarded by representations of Death and Rahu, who decide over men’s fate
After crossing the bridge you arrive at the “Gate of Heaven,” guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decide over men’s fate. At the end of the bridge, you reach the ubosot where there are several Buddha images in meditation.
Heading the main chapel or ubosot
Beautiful statue at the entrance to the ubosot
Side view of the main temple, the ubosot
Once you make your way out of the main temple and leave the fenced in grounds, you come to an ornately decorated golden building. This one represents the body while the ubosot represents the mind. The building was created in a gold colour to symbolize the focus on worldly desires and money.
Around the temple grounds are several concrete “trees.” Hanging from each of them are thousands of ornaments or ‘Lucky Leaves.’ For 30 Baht, you can add one with your name and a message written on it for luck.
Tree filled with lucky leaves
Thousands of lucky leaves
You can purchase a leaf for 30 baht and add it to the collection on the trees
Hanging my lucky leaf on the tree
You can also make a wish by throwing a few coins into the wishing well.
Ornately decorated gazebo covering the wishing well.
Make a wish at the temple’s wishing well
Most of Thailand’s Buddhist temples have centuries of history. By comparison, Wat Rong Khun is very young as construction on it only began in 1997.
Then, on May 5, 2014, a strong earthquake hit Chiang Rai and Wat Rong Khun was damaged. The designer, Chalermchai Kositpipat, decided to restore and further expand the temple.
At this point, the temple is not finished. It’s stated that eventually there will be nine buildings on site.
If you find yourself in Northern Thailand, Wat Rong Khun is a must-see. Just get there early to avoid the crowds.
Unique White Temple
Monsters lurking below
Cow being dragged below
Demon peering up from Hell
Skeleton head pylon
- The temple is located about 13km south of Chiang Rai
- The temple opens daily from 8 am until 6 pm.
- The temple gets very busy with both tourists and locals, so plan to arrive early.
- Admission is 50 Thai Baht per person.
- Dress respectfully. No revealing clothes. Shoes must be removed before entering a temple building.
- Taking photos is not allowed in the main building.
- Souvenirs, coffee and snacks are available on the grounds.