Without a doubt the most popular attraction in Chiang Rai is the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun in Thai). Even if you’ve seen hundreds of temples while traveling throughout Southeast Asia, we guarantee that you’ve seen nothing like this and so it is definitely well worth the trip.
The architect, Chalermchai Kisitpipa, is known throughout Thailand as being rather eccentric and after visiting the White Temple it’s certainly hard not to argue this point. Admission is free and it’s located just off Highway 1, about 12km south of downtown Chiang Rai.
Once you’ve gotten some great shots, you will walk over a short bridge with statues of somewhat eerie begging hands on either side of you.
You must take off your shoes, as with any temple, and place them on the racks provided. It is very easy to forget that this is a holy place as you look at the murals on the walls, but orange-clad monks and praying Thais remind us to be respectful. With painted images of Michael Jackson and characters from popular movies, such as The Matrix, it feels like there is a code that you can not decipher. Possibly the most disturbing part of the mural is portrayed below. We’ve asked Thais what they believe this mural means and they find themselves just as lost as we are.
To the right of the White Temple is a place where you can purchase a flat silver ornament for 30 Baht ($1US), write a message or a wish on it with the markers provided, and hang it on a “wish tree”.
If you like shopping, there is a mini mall there where you can buy all sorts of souvenirs, food and gifts for people back home. From a photographer’s perspective, the best times to visit the temple are evenings and early mornings. Most of the big tourist buses include the White Temple as part of their Chiang Rai itineraries, so it’s likely one of those destinations that will always be busy with people.