Wat Rong Khun, known as the White temple Chiang Rai, is one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen, never mind one of the best temples in Thailand. It’s intricacy, detail and the story behind architect Kositpipat’s planning will mesmerise and intrigue. Oh, and you will be greeted by this little fella!
How to get to the White Temple Chiang Rai – Wat Rong Khun
There are two main cheap ways that you can get to the white temple Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) from the centre of Chiang Rai town. The first is to get the bus, and the second is to travel by Songthew. The bus to the white temple goes from the main bus station (near the night market) and is clearly labelled in English. We boarded early at 7.30am which got us there in time to be one of the first people in the temple and the price was just 20 baht! The second way to get there is to take a Songthew (red trucks) for about 150, but that price can be split between more than one traveller and there are often people to share with.
You can get a taxi to the white temple from Chiang Rai for a fair bit more – around 150-200 one way or 300 baht round trip. You can ask the driver to wait for you and I’d suggest just telling him to wait, and note specifying how long, because you never know how long you will want to spend there. Taxis are actually a bit cheaper than tuk-tuks and the air you breathe in is much less polluted, so I wouldn’t recommend this distance in a tuk-tuk.
How long should I spend at the White Temple?
I would recommend that you spend around 2 hours at the white temple Chiang Rai to fully appreciate the temple, art gallery and shops.
If you are taking a taxi, I suggest that you tie this in with a visit to the Blue Temple and Baandam Museum for around 700 baht. This trip will take you half a day.
To make this into a full day trip, ask him to drop you off at Barrab Restaurant after these temples, eat there and then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Wat Phra Kaew at your leisure.
Our First Failed attempt to visit the White Temple Chiang Rai
I traveled to the White temple with my fellow travel blogger friend Elly Vos from the Ocean View Bunkhouse. We took the 20 baht bus from the bus station and then seemed to arrive at the White temple as the heavens opened! We’re a month away from rainy season, and it really belted it down, so bad, in fact. that it wasn’t even possible to get any of the outside. Drenched right through our ponchos, we managed to see some of the inside of the temple, but then decided it was too bad, and that we should return the next morning.
The very next morning, we arrived at 7.30am exactly, and we met our fabulous Mexican photographer friend Gustavo, who I would go on to meet again and spend time with in Chiang Mai, for Songkran and the Chiang Mai temples.
Entrance to the White Temple Chiang Rai
I recommend that you arrive at around 7.30am to be first in the quest, otherwise people will be constantly invading your photos. Entrance to the temple is 50 baht – well worth it (I paid twice!) and this includes entrance to the art gallery.
Temple Dress Code – What to wear for the White Temple Chiang Rai
The white temple is an art exhibition, but predominantly a place of worship and it is important to respect local customs and dress codes. What should you wear to the white temple Chiang Rai? I recommend flip flop to easily slip off your footwear on entrance to the temple (unless its raining in which case you will slip everywhere!) with a loose fitting long sleeved top and comfortable loose trousers. A skirt covering the knees would be ok, but no shorts for men.
Entering the White Temple – Temple Guardians
Many temple guardians promote good and ward off evil spirits outside the white temple Chiang Rai. The devil was expected, but also to my surprise, I met Deadpool and Terminator!
Many temple guardians are spookily in the form of heads hanging from the trees.
Make sure that you go in as fast as you can to be one of the first to enter, to avoid people in your shots of the spectacular temple entrance.
Remember that you should also take all of the photographs that you want before entering the main temple. The idea is that you resist the temptation of hell (represented by the hands pulling you down) and that you move towards enlightenment by approaching the Buddha, thus aiming to escape the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth (samsara).
Inside the Main Temple
Remember to take off your shoes before you go in the main temple. You will be handed a plastic bag to carry them through (as mentioned, you are not allowed to turn back through). Note that no pictures are allowed inside the main temple. It is a shame that I can’t reveal its beauty to you, but good for the preservation of the art and respect for worshippers. Also remember to keep a noise to a minimum as people are worshipping.
The inside of the temple is decorated ornately with gold depictions of Buddha, combined with modern artistic depictions of good and evil including the Twin Towers, Aliens, Kung Fu Panda and Superman. It really is a work of art.
As you walk out the back of the temple, you will realise that it’s not just one temple, but a temple complex, which is in fact, still under construction (as of April 2018).
White Temple Chiang Rai Toilets – The Best Wee of Your Life!
If you were wondering about the toilets at the white temple, look for the stunning gold Lanna style building. You will feel like a King or Queen, and have the best wee of your life!
Also, don’t miss the art gallery, There are some beautiful modern pieces.