Wat Rong Khun- 'The White Temple' (Chiang Rai, Thailand)
Northern Thailand is known for its abundance of gorgeous temples. That, and elephants are the staple attractions. You could go to three a day, and still round a corner and find another one that doesn’t even exist on maps. I met a decent amount of people who thought the awe effect of these temples wore off after the first few. Seen one temple, you’ve seen them all right? I even have to admit that their beauty tends to melt together. You find ones that seem to have a similar architecture and vibe to another few you’d seen in the weeks before. Even so, the magic never really wore off for me, as cheesy as it sounds. Even the smaller ones, I found something worth visiting for. A nifty sculpture, an interesting experience, something nice I found along the way.
Although some of the temples blend together in my memories, there’s some that totally stand out among the rest. One of those was Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple to tourists. It lies about 13 km outside of Chiang Rai’s city center. Easily accessible by motorbike, like most things. We went the first day we arrived in Chiang Rai. I was not in the best of moods. We’d just come off a long-ish, albeit beautiful, bus ride from Chiang Mai. But, I begrudgingly went, knowing we only had a few days in the city and I wanted to see as much as I possibly could in that time. I didn’t regret that choice.
Almost the moment we got there, I was taken aback. It was an intense sight. Kind of intimidating. Enormous, and gorgeous even from afar. Rightly so, the place was crawling with visitors. I was eager to be one of them. The closer you got to the structure, the more you saw it’s true nature. From a distance, it looked heavenly, but when you got closer, you saw it was constructed of people suffering and desperate to escape. Talk about relatable.
Wat Rong Khun was constructed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, a Thai artist whose work demonstrates a great deal of Buddhist influence. He privately owned the temple, and began rebuilding Wat Rong Khun in 1997. The building still continues today. The intricate sculptures are based off beliefs in Buddhism.
Wat Rong Khun is one of those places that really stuck for me. It remains one of the most unbelievably beautiful things I’ve ever seen with my own two eyes. Walking through it bizarre because it feels as though you stepped into a place that isn’t even of this earth. Bizarre in an amazing way. It’s humbling to see how many amazing places there are, just out there existing.