May 15, 2016
Visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun)
GPS waypoint: 19°49'27.7"N 99°45'47.2"E
Location: Chiang Rai Housing 1, San Sai, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai 57000
Features: open all year round, open 8am until 6pm, admission is free
Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple is Chiang Rai's biggest crowd drawer. Temples are usually gilded in Thailand, or the rest of the Buddhist world for that matter. But an iconoclast artist broke the mold and built a Snow White Buddhist temple 13 kms south of Chiang Rai City in 1997. It's the first installment of many. The entire project is set to complete in 2070.
Snow Blind White
The temple grounds are massive with many structures in place, most of them immaculately white. The Ubosot, or the main temple structure with its fiery white presence dominates the templescape in the middle of a pond. Some parts of the temple system are embedded by small mirrors to reflect the sun giving it an illuminating presence and glow - it's dazzlingly sparkling! The whole scene came across as both intense and insane!
in front of the Ubosot in all its white purity
The temple was already pre-existing before it became the White Temple - but it was in bad shape with no funds to give it a facelift. Then came Chalermchai Kositpipat. Normally, artists make a small statement in their gallery to give themselves credit for their body of work. At the White Temple however, Chalermchai Kositpipat, the artist who made it all happen, is making a single-handed attempt to eclipse his work by featuring himself - like a master showman taking the limelight. You see his face everywhere, his cut-out (for people to take a picture with), self portraits, pictures of him with celebrities and royalty, etc. His omnipresence cannot be missed. Going beyond his self-aggrandizing though, he spent his own money to build the temple, B40 million as of last count. Without argument, he is a very dedicated and talented artist.
Wish Hanging Ornament
You can buy for B30, a hanging ornament where you can write a wish. It is then hung to some of the temple structures en mass...by the hundreds of thousands serving as part of the structure itself. And it stays there for as long as the temple system stands - probably forever. This reminds me of the Temple burning in Burningman. An ornate and grand temple made of combustible wood and paper is erected in the desert where people who have lost a loved one can write something for them in a piece of paper. They then insert the paper within the wedges of the temple structure. On the night of the burn, the entire Temple is set to flame and fire engulfs the whole structure. People watch with tears in their eyes. The White Temple wish-feature isn't exactly as moving and profound as that of Burningman.
The artist could have stopped building when the Ubosot was done - afterall, it's the main deal and he would have cast the die on his immortality by that. But he continues to build and even after his death, the construction will continue...with his money. I guess there is something profound to be said about that.
For its uniqueness, surrealism and bold statement, you should see the White Temple when in Chiang Rai.
Location: 424/1. Banphaprakarn Rd., Chiang Rai 57000, Thailand
Coordinates: 19°54'24.0"N 99°49'48.1"E
Tel: (053) 711.055, 711.801, 712.036, 713.702
Fax: (053) 713.701
Features: clean and affordable hotel near Clock Tower
- the tourist area where most of the hotels, restaurants, ticket offices, tour operators are, is located around the Clock Tower area
- it's not beneath the elites to eat street food (but I suspect that's all over Thailand, not just Chiang Rai)
Chiang Rai being a big city, nearly all cities and towns connect to it by bus or plane (no trains though).
- if you are dropped-off at the Bus Terminal 2 Station (the new one), you need to take a blue songthaew to the old Bus Station (B15) which is in the heart of the city. If you checked-in near the Clock Tower, chances are, you can just walk it from the old bus station to your hotel. Otherwise, you may have to ride another blue songthaew from the old bus station to your hotel. If you take the tuk-tuk from the new Bus Station, you may be charged something like B170 to be taken to a hotel not walking distance from the old bus station
backpacker places (US$1 = Thai Baht 34.89 = Php 46.95 as of May 3, 2016)
- Wat Rong Khun - The White Temple - designed by Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the construction commenced in 1997 with 2070 estimated completion date. This is probably Chiang Rai's most visited tourist attraction (read blog)
- Baan Dam - Black House Museum - a macabre repertoire of Thawan Duchanee, a Chiang Rai artist who expresses his art around the dark side of humanity. 9am - 5pm w/ 12-1pm siesta, free
- Night Bazaar - a night market on foot for clothes, food and tourist merchandise. 2 sound stages for cultural shows and live music. One stage is in Thai while the other stage seems for tourists - cultural dance, English music, etc. Big open spaces for eating and drinking, open until about 11pm
- Saturday Night Walking Street - similar to Night Bazaar with its food stalls and merchandising, but the stalls are lined up on the streets
- Clock Tower - this is an iconic landmark in the heart of Chiang Rai where most of the tourist hotels, restos and recreation areas are clustered. Minor audio and light display at 7,8 and 9pm
- Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) - this is the original spot where the Emerald Buddha was first discovered in 1434 when lightning hit a chedi and revealed the Buddha within. The original Buddha has been moved to several locations through its history and finally rests in Bangkok. What resides in Chiang Rai is a jade replica
- Singha Park - almost 13km2 in size and 450m elevation, the park houses an assortment of entertaining and recreational facilities - rock climbing, zip lining, view point scenery, tour of tea plantation, bike tours, animal park, etc.
- Mae Fah Luang Art and Culture Park - B200 fee, opens 8:30am. Great garden, natural setting, abundant Teak wood carvings on display, quiet, gallery, museum pieces, etc.
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- small bottle of Leo beer at The Night Bazaar (recommended)
- street Roti with banana, egg and chocolate
- papaya salad (Som Tam)
- street hot coffee
- pad thai at The Night Bazaar
- one hour massage
- bicycle rental, 24 hours at Chiang Rai Hotel. Other places charge between B70-B100/day
- laundry service
- dorm bed in a fan room, shared toilet at Big Butter Hostel (too far away though)
- 1.5 liter drinking water at 7-11
- Standard Room for 2 pax, a/c, ensuite bathroom, tv at Suknirand Hotel during low season (B600 for high season)
- dorm bed, a/c in May (low season) at Ti Amo Guest House
(May 17, 2016) Am I welcome to live there? haha
May 15, 2016
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