Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple, is the reason I decided to take a day trip from Chiang Mai to the city of Chiang Rai. I had been wanting to visit this extraordinary temple for years. I had seen photographs of the White Temple and knew if I only visited one temple during my entire trip to Thailand this was going to be it!
After some research, I booked this tour with Viator, which was run by Touring Center and not only included a day trip to the White Temple, but explored the ancient royal city of Chiang Saen and a long-tail boat ride on the Khong River. We began the day at 7 AM, where we were picked up at our hotel in Chiang Mai and hopped aboard our air-conditioned minivan. One of the nice things about this tour was that it was not over crowded and only included 6 people total, which made it seem more like a private tour. Heading towards The White Temple, we made out first stop about an 1.5 hours into our drive in a market area for about 20 minutes. This area sold all different types of handmade Thai souvenirs, jewelry and local refreshments/snacks. We roamed around and took advantage of purchasing some unique items.
NOTE: Anything you purchase can be kept safely in the van in you decide not to carry it around with you.
Next, we headed towards our main stop, Wat Rong Khun and arrived around 10:15 AM. It did take a few hours to reach the temple, however it was worth it. Our guide Tui, was great as he provided information along the way and answered many questions. Upon arriving at the temple, we were given our ticket to enter the complex area and had an hour to roam the grounds and take pictures.
* NOTE: Our specific tour was awesome because we were one of the first tour buses to arrive at The White Temple and we avoided the majority of the tourists. When we were leaving the temple, there was a line to enter the temple grounds and it was almost impossible to take photos without random people in all of your photos. If you are going mainly to take photographs, I suggest staying in Chiang Rai and going to the temple before 8 AM when things are much calmer. If you’re unable to stay in Chiang Rai, your other option maybe to arrange for someone to take you earlier than the tour companies go, however I’m not sure if that is an affordable option.
About The White Temple
By the end of the 20th century, the original Wat Rong Khun was in bad shape. Funds were not available for renovation, but in 1997, Chalermchai Kositpipat, a local artist from Chiang Rai, decided to completely rebuild the temple and fund the project with his own money. The incredibly detailed, all-white exterior, hence the name of the temple, represents Buddha’s purity. Mirrored fragments symbolizes self-reflection. The bridge to the entrance crosses over a sea of arms reaching out for help from the fiery depths of hell.
You will notice an incredible amount of detail in the designs and panels that make up the outside of the temple.
Inside Wat Rong Khun is a mural spanning across the walls, depicting Buddha, mythical creatures and modern references like Superman, Pokemon and Michael Jackson. Photos are forbidden inside Wat Rong Khun – so unfortunately you will have to go see it for yourself!
* NOTE: Be respectful, before entering the temple, you must remove all shoes, hats and wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.
As we continued walking around the temple, I was mesmerized by the glistening fragments and the purity that covered this entire masterpiece.
At the same time, I also thought this is the most insane architecture I have ever seen. It really makes you think that Chalermchai Kositpipat had quite the imagination.
I couldn’t help but to graze my hands along the staircases and walls. It really was magnificent! Built with so much detail and by far the most beautiful temple I have seen in my life.
Beyond the Temple
We continued walking the grounds surrounding the main building and looked at all the detailed sculptures encrusted on the walls.
Once you exit the main temple and veer to the left, you will see a path covered by a canopy. This canopy leads to a yard with several tree-like sculptures with silver prayer plates. If you are interested, you may purchase a prayer plate and hang it next to the others. You will also find a gold encrusted building, which is the restroom and a souvenir shop.
Future of The White Temple
The White Temple is still a work in progress and not expected to be completed until 2070. Yes, 2070! Many of us may not be around to see The White Temple upon completion. Kositpipat has spent millions of his own THB to dedicate himself to this project, and accepts monetary contributions but refuses donations over 10,000 THB to preserve his artistic freedom. I highly recommend visiting The White Temple if you’re planning a trip to Thailand. I promise it will be unlike any other temple or architectural structure you have ever seen!
After visiting The White Temple, we boarded our bus and took about an hour ride through Saen Ancient City, Wat Chedi Luang, before arriving to the restaurant for lunch. Lunch was included in the purchase of this tour and I must say, it was very authentic and delicious. Everyone was hungry by this time and we weren’t sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. We were served a variety of traditional Thai dishes to share and there was more than enough for the table to serve themselves more than one helping each. Tui, our guide, even asked if anyone had dietary restrictions before we arrived at the restaurant, so if you’re vegan, vegetarian or gluten free you can be easily accommodated.
Following lunch, we made our way back on the bus and headed to the Golden Triangle.
The Golden Triangle is an area of approximately 950,000 square kilometers (367,000 sq mi) that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. The Golden Triangle is one of Asia’s two main opium-producing areas. We were able to learn about the history of opium in this area and even visit The Opium Museum.
Following our tour of this area, we were guided through a market area and down a hill to Mae Khong River where we a took a boat ride along the river and even got to visit Laos.
* NOTE: YOU MUST BRING YOUR PASSPORT FOR THIS TOUR IN ORDER TO TAKE THE BOAT TO LAOS.
Riding the boat to Laos was approximately a 15 minute ride each way. The boat isn’t glamorous by any means, but hey, it’s definitely authentic and gets you to where you need to go. Sit tight and enjoy the view.
We had the opportunity to explore a local market once we arrived in Laos. You can buy anything from souvenirs and fake designer purses to traditional Laos beers. We spent about 30 minutes in this area, then returned to the boat and made our way back to Thailand, retrieving our passports and boarding our tour bus. We made our 3 hour ride back to Chiang Mai, but not without making a pit stop for snack and a restroom break along the way. Tui even purchased a drink and snack for everyone when we stopped briefly on the way back to Chiang Mai. Overall, just a wonderful day touring with Tui and Touring Center.
You would think that after a full day tour we would be exhausted, but we were just getting started. Tui and our driver were nice enough to give us information regarding the Old City and night market and even drop us off in the area to begin our evening.
After a day of touring Northern Thailand and Laos, I can say that it was a complete success! We couldn’t have been more fortunate with the weather and the tour company, Touring Center! Tui, our guide, did an amazing job throughout the course of the day. He was professional, knowledgeable and even helpful with giving recommendations once we were back in Chiang Mai. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone who plans to take a day trip to Chiang Rai to see The White Temple and more on their trip to Thailand! This tour was slightly more than some of the other tour companies offering similar packages, but the overall quality of our experience, food and inclusions seemed to be worth so much more than what we paid. I personally would have been okay with leaving out The Opium Museum and spending more time in Laos, but I know other people in our group enjoyed the museum. The long commute was absolutely worth it and I am so happy we had a chance to experience it all during our trip to Southeast Asia.
(This is not a paid advertisement, I’m just being completely honest, as I always am on my blog posts).
What you think?
Would you take this tour to see The White Temple?
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