I can’t deny that after seven months exploring Asia, for all its cultural differences, religions and beliefs, it’s no surprise that I’ve seen a hefty number of Temples by now. When in a group and a temple day is suggested, I’m the one rolling my eyes and suggesting a water park instead, a scooter ride maybe? You know, something that might just take my breath away…
… But never before did I think that a Temple would leave me breathless. Yes breathless. Oh dear Buddha, I’ve found the One Temple that Rules Them All (and it even has a Lord of the Rings reference inside). The White Temple in Chang Rai is a sight for sore eyes (quite literally); it’s like a fairytale Kingdom made of ice-white snow and the flurry of white fish circling the entrance adds streams of magic to the scenery.
It personally reminded me of a real-life ‘Frozen’ castle – glistening and twinkling as shards of mirror caught the sunlight even when it wasn’t shining.
Regal building’s of gold, of a similar design, added a rich component to the overall picture and the contrast of more minimalistic structures in the background gave a vintage undertone…yet there is nothing ‘old-fashioned’ about the White Temple itself!
Created by Charlermchai Kositpitpat (best name to say ever) in 1997 as an offering to the Buddha himself, Kositpitpat hoped his glorious masterpiece would grant him lifelong immortality. He dedicated his life to rebuilding the original Wat Rong Khun temple, now recognised worldwide as The White Temple, putting 40,000,000B (£900,000/$1,250,000) of his own money into the renovations so far. It’s estimated that the temple won’t be completed until 2070 (wonder if Kositpitpat will get his immortality to see the completion👀) and will include a center for Buddhist teachings & mediation, alongside a monastery.
Either side of the walk-way are crippled hands reaching out for your touch, some with random red fingernails which lustfully stand out in comparison to the pure white decor. The impression being that the hands represent unrestrained desire and you must walk over the bridge to reach happiness without being swayed by greed, desire or temptation!
Spirals and spiky icicles give a sharp edge to an otherwise image, as soft as snow (apart from the random erect penises you find lurking in the undergrowth).
Aside the glorious temple, you’ll find decapitated heads stuffed with hay for the local birds to nest in – but not just your average beheaded villain – the head’s of much-loved superheros, like Spiderman (bet you weren’t expecting that?! Better warn the kids!) .
Inside the main temple, you have a Madame Tousaards waxwork of the Dalai Lama (too realistic not to be creeped out by) sitting beneath a pure white Buddha. Locals are praying, but fast, as the turnover is quick, with this temple being the busiest I’ve seen since Angkor Wat. But unlike the archaic ruins of Angkor, this temple is no older than 25 years and its contemporary twist is most-seen in the colourful paintings that mark the walls inside the main temple. As always, they tell a story of religion being the answer to war – but for the first time ever (that I’ve seen anyways), it’s a modern man’s war.
There’s much loved cartoon characters, like my baby brother’s favorite little Minions fighting the Eye of Sauron (there’s my earlier reference to Lord of the Rings). Picachu is there, Nero from the Matrix and the Kung-Fu Panda, all getting in on the action. What blew me away (if I can use such a phrase) was seeing an image of the Twin Towers burning down and a destructive nook pointing towards the hands of time! I just couldn’t believe what a breath of fresh air it was to visit – and the artist sure does have some balls drawing upon such contraversial topics right under the eyes of the Buddha himself!
Usually I’d visit a place like this, and leave quickly; impressed for sure, but ready to move on – but I could have stayed at the White Temple for hours. I even wanted to make a lasting imprint of my stay, paying 30B (65p/95c) for a ‘Lucky Leaf’ to hang upon the tree. I wrote the date, my brother’s name, my name and of course the name of the lovely Claudia with whom we met travelling from Laos.
From the skulls that sit upon the traffic bollards to the jingling chime made from the ceiling of keys, I absolutely loved the juxtaposition of Good and Evil that became more and more apparent as you made your way through the gorgeous grounds (when we first saw the decapitated heads, we were totally baffed🤣)…
If you want to inject a stroke of magic into your day then visit my NUMBER ONE favorite temple ever (beating both Myanmar’s Shwedaggon & Cambodia’s Angkor Wat for me😱). Honestly, the artist in me couldn’t recommend it more and if you can, make sure it’s on your list of things to see in Asia👍!