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Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand: Local Story & Good Time to Visit

Discover the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand

The Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand may look like heaven because it’s absolutely breathtaking. But believe it or not, it also has some depictions of hell. And you might not know that it’s not like any other temple in Thailand, as it wasn’t entirely funded by charity! The founder contributed 1 million USD from his own pocket! Let’s explore the fascinating story (that’s probably known only among the locals) of the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand, including how and when to visit.

A Blend of Heaven and Hell

Hands reaching out, representing the suffering and torment that humans face at the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand
Hands reaching out at the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand

The Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, one of Thailand’s most renowned and successful artists, known for his outspoken nature and frequent television appearances even before undertaking the temple’s creation. He ensured that the artistic quality of the temple is exceptional.

Despite its pure white appearance symbolizing the Buddha’s purity, the temple’s entrance is designed to resemble the gates of hell, with reaching hands symbolizing human suffering and torment. To reach the Buddha, visitors must symbolically release their desires and sins as they cross the bridge.

Beyond the bridge lies the main hall, adorned with intricate white plaster designs and shimmering silver mirrors. The white glass signifies the Buddha’s wisdom radiating across the world and universe.

Chalermchai aimed to create distinctive Buddhist art that showcases Thailand’s cultural magnificence to the global audience. Wat Rong Khun, known as the White Temple, offers not only a glimpse of heaven but also reflects on human suffering and turmoil.

Pro tip when Visiting Chiang Rai White Temple!

When you’re walking around the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand, don’t miss the restroom. It’s a stunning golden building that you might mistake for part of the temple, but it’s actually the restroom. You’ll be amazed by how beautiful it looks.

Don’t get banned at Wat Rong Khun!

Pro tip when Visiting Chiang Rai White Temple!

And speaking of the restroom at the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand, there’s quite a story! In 2015, the temple’s creator, Chalermchai, made headlines with a temporary ban. He banned Chinese tourists from visiting Wat Rong Khun for half a day. This decision followed a Chinese woman’s improper restroom use. She left the door open, didn’t flush, and scattered used toilet paper and sanitary napkins. (Source: Thairath News)

Later, Chalermchai lifted the ban. The temple’s creator went viral again when a clip surfaced. He announced over a loudspeaker, criticizing a Chinese tourist who allowed his child to urinate in front of the main temple hall. Chalermchai urged tour guides to better supervise their groups. (Source: Post Today)

In 2016, Chalermchai mentioned in an interview that he often scolds Chinese tourists. But when they don’t come, he misses them. He restructured everything and worked with all parties. He employed many staff who can speak Chinese. Now, Chinese visitors understand much better. There are people and signs to guide them at the Chiang Rai White Temple in Thailand.

Some Facts & Figures

Traffic cones & demon head at Wat Rong Khun - White Temple
Traffic cones & demon head at Wat Rong Khun - White Temple

You might find it surprising to learn some intriguing facts about the Chiang Rai White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun. Chinese tourists make up 70% of its visitors, with Westerners accounting for about 20% and Thai visitors only 10%. This trend is largely due to Chiang Rai being among the top seven cities favored by Chinese tourists, significantly shaping the temple’s visitor demographics.

Another lesser-known fact is that construction of Wat Rong Khun is ongoing. Despite its awe-inspiring appearance, the temple remains unfinished and is projected to continue development until 2070. Once completed, it will encompass nine buildings, including a library, a meditation room, an art gallery, and accommodations for monks.

These facts underscore the enduring allure and ongoing evolution of this extraordinary Buddhist masterpiece in Thailand.

Travel Tips and Best Times to Visit Chiang Rai White Temple

Best time to visit Chiang Rai White Temple

Are you planning a visit to the Chiang Rai White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, in Thailand? Here are some travel tips and insights on when to go:

How to Get There:

Wat Rong Khun is conveniently located just a half-hour drive from Chiang Rai airport. You can drive yourself or hire various modes of transportation. Options include a tuk-tuk, taxi, motorcycle, or songthaew (a shared taxi truck). Tuk-tuks and taxis typically charge around 300 baht for a round trip to Chiang Rai city. A songthaew ride from the city costs approximately 20 baht for a one-way trip. If you’re traveling from Bangkok, a short domestic flight to Chiang Rai takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Pro Tip for Riding a Songthaew in Chiang Rai

When hailing a songthaew, a shared taxi truck commonly used for short trips in Chiang Rai, here’s a savvy tip to ensure a smooth and confident experience:

Songthaew Payment Protocol:

Locals typically pay as they exit the songthaew. When the vehicle stops, confidently hop off and approach the front window to settle your fare directly with the driver or their assistant, if present. Take note of how much locals pay for similar distances—it’s usually around 10 to 20 baht, depending on the route.

Avoiding the "How Much?" Question:

To blend in seamlessly and pay the local rate, refrain from asking the fare outright. Instead, prepare the exact amount and hand it over confidently when you disembark. This approach signals to the driver that you’re familiar with local customs and fares. They may assume you’re a seasoned traveler or that you’ve previously paid the same fare, ensuring a hassle-free transaction.

By following this pro tip, you’ll navigate Chiang Rai’s local transportation like a seasoned pro. This ensures a smooth and enjoyable journey throughout your visit to the captivating Wat Rong Khun and beyond.

Robot sitting in a chair in front of Wat Rong Khun

Best Time to Visit

The temple opens its doors from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM daily – check update on Google Map. However, if you plan to visit the art gallery within the temple grounds, note that it operates from 8:00 AM to 5:30 PM on weekdays and from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM on weekends and public holidays.

Important Reminder:

Always check the operating hours of attractions like the Chiang Rai White Temple before your visit, as they can be subject to change. This ensures you plan your travel time accordingly and avoid any unexpected closures or schedule adjustments.

For a more serene experience and optimal photo opportunities, consider visiting early in the morning. During our visit, we found that arriving early allowed us to enjoy the temple grounds with fewer crowds. This is perfect for capturing Instagram-worthy shots without many people in the background. Avoiding late morning visits can help you beat the rush of tourists. This way, you can fully appreciate the beauty and tranquility of the Chiang Rai White Temple.

We hope these tips will ensure you make the most of your visit to this unique and spiritually significant destination in Chiang Rai, Thailand.

If you’re more concerned with the best time of the year to visit the White Temple, visit this post for more information.

A Hidden Gem: Exploring the Blue Temple in Chiang Rai

Sunset at the Blue Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

While the Chiang Rai White Temple, or Wat Rong Khun, is undoubtedly breathtaking, my most memorable experience during my trip wasn’t there—it was at the Blue Temple, also known as Wat Rong Suea Ten.

Located just about 20 minutes away from the White Temple, the Blue Temple left a lasting impression on me. I arrived just before sunset, and the soft pink and orange hues of the setting sun cast a magical glow on the temple. This transformed it into a scene of ethereal beauty that words can hardly describe. What made this experience even more special was the serene atmosphere, with fewer tourists around compared to the bustling White Temple.

If you’re visiting Chiang Rai, make sure to include a visit to the Blue Temple in your itinerary. You won’t regret witnessing its captivating beauty and tranquil ambiance, which truly embody the essence of Thai architecture and spirituality.

Impressive statue of a White Buddha, Blue Temple, Chiang Rai

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