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 in Chiang Rai Reflection in Thailand

  • 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 of the taped boundaries surrounding the displays or you will acquire a closely following guard while browsing.

Museum Sign at White Temple

  • To enter the temple, visitors must first pass through Hell.

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

Standing in front of the White Temple in Chiang Mai

Chiang Rai White Temple Thailand

Hell outside the White Temple

  • 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.

Bridge at White Temple in Chiang Mai

Bridge into the Chiang Rai White Temple

Bridge at White Temple in Chiang Rai Thailand

Standing on the Cycle of Rebirth Bridge at the White Temple

  • 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 Tower in Chiang Rai

Glass Pieces in Chiang Rai

The White Temple in Chiang Rai

Detail of the White Temple in Chiang Mai

  • Photos are prohibited inside the wat. 

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

View of Chiang Rai White Temple Thailand

Main Room at Chiang Rai White Temple

  • 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 portion of the White Temple in Chiang Rai

White Temple Tunnel in Chiang Mai
Silver wishes and prayers decorate 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.

Golden Temple near the White Temple in Chiang Rai

Pirate in Tree at White Temple

Golden Temple at the White Temple in Chiang Rai

  • 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.

Bench in front of White Temple Chiang Rai

Head in Trees at White Temple

Statue at the White Temple in Chiang Rai

September 2018


Author: The Traveling Gingerbread

My husband, Mitch, and I have been traveling together over 6 years. Living and working full-time in Pittsburgh, PA, we travel as much as our vacation days and finances allow. We cram each adventure with activities, tours,  and experiences to maximize our time. We always try to visit to a local brewery and can't walk by an Irish pub without stopping in for a pint of Guinness. CREATION OF THE TRAVELING GINGERBREAD: In Tokyo, we smiled every time we saw someone talking on their large, animated phone case. We had to buy one. Having an obsolete IPhone 5, the selection was limited. We purchased a gingerbread off a neglected rack in Shinjuku, Tokyo and The Traveling Gingerbread was born. You can purchase your own gingerbread friend here! The Traveling Gingerbread offers realistic budget travel tips for full time employees, fun facts, and where to find the best craft beer.

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