9 Facts About the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

white temple main gingerbread

We visited the White Temple as part of the Chiang Rai White Temple and Golden Triangle Tour with Pon Chiang Mai Tour. To see more of our Northern Thailand adventures check out: Laos: No Visa Needed Only in Northern Thailand at the Golden Triangle and Northern Thailand’s Karen Long Neck Tribe, Is It Worth the Visit?.

  • Wat Rong Kung, commonly known as the White Temple, is one of the newest and most recognizable wats in Thailand

Construction began in 1997. The artist designed the temple hoping one day it would become as iconic as the Taj Mahal in India or Cambodia’s Angkor Wat

white temple reflection

  • A contest was held to determine who would design the temple.

The winner of the contest, Chalermchai Kositpipat, has a museum on site displaying his works of art. When touring the museum be mindful not to step inside the taped boundaries surrounding the displays or you will acquire a closely following guard while browsing.

white temple artist museum

  • Visitors must first pass through Hell to enter the temple.

In front of the temple outreaching hands emerge from the ground symbolizing uncontrolled human desires such as material desires, greed, and lust.

white templle chiang mai

us crossing the bridge to the white temple

statues of hell crossing the bridge

  • After fighting material desires, greed, and lust, we arrive at the Cycle of Rebirth Bridge. 

Death and Rahu, stand guard on the bridge protecting the entrance to Heaven where visitors are freed of their suffering. We took our time enjoying the architecture and stunning details while crossing the bridge. Foot traffic flows in one direction through the wat and turning around is prohibited.

side view of bridge from the fence

bridge to the white temple

crossing over the bridge

us on white temple bridge chiang mau

  • Every statue at the wat represents Buddha.

The white coloring symbolizes the purity of Buddha. The plaster is decorated with small pieces of glass representing the wisdom of Buddha and self reflection. The wat shimmers in the sunlight. Statues of dragons and mythical creatures protect the temple from evil.

bell at white temple

white temple up close

white temple statues chiant mai

dragons on the bridge

  • Photos are prohibited inside the wat. 

A chaotic mural of modern day super heroes, cartoons, and real life legends cover the walls inside the wat including: Superman, minions, Angry Birds, Iron Man, Harry Potter, and Ronald McDonald.

side view of white temple

looking up at white temple roof

  • 30 million Baht later, the temple remains incomplete.

The temple was designed and funded by the artist. With no further funding, a completion date for the total 9 buildings is unknown. Abandoned scaffolding still surrounds the unfinished second building. 

unfinished white temple chiang mai

wishes at white temple chiang mai
Silver wishes and prayers hang from the ceiling in the walkway exiting the temple.
  • The restrooms are glamorous.

The bathrooms located in a beautiful gold building at the entrance of the White Temple are considered some of the most ornate in Thailand.

white temple gold bathrooms

skulls in tree

gold building white temple

  • The temple is less crowded weekday mornings.

We arrived at the White Temple around noon on Wednesday just before buses arrived filled with visitors. Knees must be covered to enter the grounds and shoes must be removed before entering the wat. For more tips on visiting Thailand wats check out: What to Know About Wats and Bangkok, Thailand.

in front of white temple

shrunken heads in tree

the temple entrance

September 2018


Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

The Traveling Gingerbread is a place for us to share budget travel tips for people with full time jobs, fun facts, itineraries, and where to find the best craft beer. We have been traveling together since 2013. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours, experiences, and local breweries. We can't walk by an Irish pub without stopping in for a pint of Guinness. In 2019, we brewed our first beer and were hooked, although, we have no intentions of brewing more than small batches. We'll continue our self appointed roles of professional testers and creating craft beer trails.

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