The Creepily Peculiar White Temple of Chiang Rai

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Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

I don’t normally get all googly-eyed and awestruck at temples (unless there’s a monk hell-bent on self-immolation out front, Zippo in one hand, leaky gas can in the other), but The White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand is special. 

Crazy, creepy, cool kinda special. Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand 2

If a savant on suicide watch could throw up the contents of his mind, I reckon this would be the result.

Disembodied heads dangling from trees. Ghoulish hands reaching from the pits of hell.

It’s Gandalf vs. Dumbledore in a “wand-off”, lovingly encased in blinding white. It reminded me of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, except without much solitude — this is a tourist attraction after all. And a free one to boot. Crowded or not, I’d probably be back there right now if flights to Thailand were just a little less expensive this time of year.

Water Fountain at Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Wat Rong Khun, as the contemporary Buddhist temple is known in Thai, is the vision of artist and Chiang Rai local Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat. He figures it will take another 90 years for the project to be complete.

Koi in pond -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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hands reaching from the ground -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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Guard -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, ThailandSculpture of skulls -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

If he spends as much time and detail as he did on the bathroom facilities (pictured below), it could conceivably take much longer.

Ornate washrooms -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

White Power

So just why is the White Temple white? Kositpipat believes gold is “suitable to people who lust for evil deeds” so he wanted this one to be different from the traditional golden temple. More pure. More contemporary.

A quick look at the place and you can see that this is no ordinary temple.

Side view of temple -- -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Skull with snake through eye socket -- White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Now here’s a riddle for ya — what do George Bush, Osama Bin Laden, Kung Fu Panda, Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddie Krueger, Darth Vader, one of the Transformers, that dude from Avatar, the Hulk, Batman, the Joker, a cellphone, (I’m running out of breath here), Jigsaw from The Saw movies, Ultraman, Spiderman, Superman, a couple of Angry Birds, Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, and a Converse sneaker have in common?

They’re all part of a peculiar mural inside the White Temple.

Avatar, Transformers and the Matrix -- Wat Rong Khun White Palace, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The entire back wall of the monastery is dedicated to a painting of a red demon with George Bush in one eye, and Osama Bin Laden in the other. Inside the mouth of the demon is a scene depicting the fall of the Twin Towers, complete with a gasoline pump snaking its way through. That’s Spiderman looking on at your right.

White Temple interior, Twin towers, 911 and Spiderman, Chiang Rai Thailand

The other pop culture references are found dotted throughout the demon’s mouth.

What’s the meaning of all this? To paraphrase the handy pamphlet from the gift shop, according to creator Kositpipat, it refers to “the killing of the innocence” by the likes of Bush and Bin Laden, and how no heroes (like our friendly neighbourhood Spiderman) can save us.

Pretty gloomy if you ask me. He could’ve added a Smurf or two to brighten the mood in the room.

Take a look around the grounds and let me know your thoughts on the White Temple in the comments section below…

Naked creature -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

Half-buried futuristic robot -- Wat Rong Khun, White Temple, Chiang Rai, Thailand

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What are your thoughts on the White Palace of Chiang Rai? Creepy or cool? Or maybe a little of both…

I am a travel blogger and freelance travel writer. I left behind my cubicle-shaped cell to see the world. Now I inspire others to shake the shackles and escape through travel. This is my blog.

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