Wat Huai Pla Kang is a temple complex containing a big Buddha statue (known as Big Buddha Chiang Rai), a 9 floor pagoda and a beautiful white temple. It’s about 5 miles North of Chiang Rai City centre. The scale of this temple is MASSIVE!
Getting to Wat Huai Pla Kang – Big Buddha Chuiang Rai
There is no public transport so you will have to get a taxi there. Download the GRAB App for private taxi’s (it works like Uber) and you should pay around 150 baht to get there. I hired a tuk-tuk driver to take me to Wat Huai Pla Kang and wait for me, and combined this with Wat Rong Suea Ten (Blue Temple) for 350 Baht. If you have a spare evening when you arrive, you can do these after arriving in Chiang Rai at around 4/5pm as an evening trip, and then see the White Temple and Black House the next day.
Big Buddha Chiang Rai is not actually a Big Buddha!
This temple is mistakenly referred to as the Chiang Rai Big Buddha because it is actually a representation of Guan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. Guan Yin is a female Bodhisattva in Thai Buddhism, which means someone that reached enlightenment (Nirvana or extinguishing of the flame of Dukkha or suffering) during their lifetime and continued to help others. Guan Yin is a compassionate being who responds to people who cry out for help.
The white Guan Yin statue is 23 stories high! Statues of various depictions of Buddha surround the massive Guan Yin statue.
You can go up in the lift to the top of Guan Yin for just 40 Baht (about £1). Even the temple lifts are elaborately decorated! There are fantastic views of Chiang Rai from the top.
The 9 Tier Pagoda at Big Buddha Chiang Rai
The complex also has a 9-tier pagoda guarded by golden and green nagas (snake/dragon like mystical creatures).
There are opportunities to make incense offerings at the foot of the pagoda steps and at small shrines around the main pagoda. Buddhists burn incense as a way to honour the Buddha, his Dharma (teachings) and the Sangha (community). The burning of an incense stick resulting in fragrant smoke, which teaches the necessity to burn away negative qualities within yourself (buddhagroove.com).
Inside, there is a large wooden Guan Yin inside and it contains wooden Guan Yin statues on every floor.
There are two great things about visiting Wat Huai Pla Kang. Firstly, it’s relatively undiscovered by tourists at the moment (writing in April 2018), so you will get an authentic temple experience. Secondly, it is disabled friendly with slopes up to the Big Guan Yin statue for wheelchairs and little buses.
I would rate this temple as a must visit in Chiang Rai, along with the White Temple and the Blue Temple.