2020 Guide to the White Temple of Chiang Rai
Today the White Temple of Chiang Rai (Wat Rong Khun) is one of the towns top attractions, with thousands of tourists visiting it each year. However, this wasn’t always the case. By the start of the 20th-century, the original Wat Rong Khun was in a bad state of disrepair. Enter Chiang Rai local and artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. He saw the deterioration of this once magnificent temple and decided he wanted to do something about it. So set about the huge project of restoring and designing the temple, completely with his own money, into the complex that so many people visit today.
The temple itself isn’t actually completed yet, there will be 9 buildings in total apparently. But, the ones that are finished are very impressive and well worth a seeing if you are visiting Chiang Rai. My short guide below will tell you everything you need to know about how to get to the White Temple of Chiang Rai, top tips for visiting, unusual highlights to look out for there, and how to get back to Chiang Rai afterwards.
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How to get to the White Temple from Chiang Rai
The White Temple lies 13 km south of Chiang Rai town centre. So the easiest and cheapest way to get there is on the local bus. They leave regularly from the old bus station (bus station 1) from as early as 7 am. The buses to look out for are blue and normally have Wat Rong Khun written on the front or side. But if you are unsure, there are plenty of locals at the bus station who will help you find the right bus. Tickets cost 20 TBH (£0.50 $0.60) one way per person, the journey takes around 20 minutes and the bus conductor will helpfully tell you where to get off, if not just ask! The bus will drop you off on the opposite side of the road to the temple, but it’s easy enough to find once you’re there.
Opening times and entrance fee costs
The White Temple is open 8 am – 5.30 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am – 5 pm Saturday to Sunday. The entrance fee for the White Temple is 50 TBH (£1.15, $1.50) for foreigners with Thai people being able to visit for free. Read the Trip Advisor reviews here.
Top tips for visiting the White Temple
It’s a temple, so like everywhere in South East Asia make sure you are appropriately dressed. Knees and shoulders need to be covered. However if you do get caught out, there are a few shops nearby that sell sarongs and long trousers, but the temple itself doesn’t rent them out.
As one of the top attractions of Chiang Rai, it gets seriously busy here. If you don’t want to fight the crowds I would recommend visiting as soon as it opens. We went around 10 am and it was already super crowded by then.
Don’t take any photos within the main temple. There will be plenty of signs telling you this anyway, but please make sure you adhere to it and be respectful!
Unusual highlights to look out for
Inside the temple look out for the pop culture characters incorporated into the intricate painting on the walls. These are said to represent how in today’s society people wrongly worship these personas as instead of the gods of their faith.
Make sure to look out for the hundreds of Lucky Leafs hanging in the grounds beyond. These can be purchased for 30 TBH (£0.70, $1), words or a message can be written on them, then they are hung one of the structures in the grounds for good luck.
Near the exit also look out for the ‘severed heads’ of a collection of superheroes and villains hanging from a tree. These represent the same meaning to the paintings of the pop culture characters within the temple.
The temple is also home to a gallery of Chalermchai Kositpipat’s paintings. This was actually the highlight of my visit to the White Temple of Chiang Rai, so make sure you don’t miss it. His paintings are simply exquisite depictions of religion, portraits and landscapes combined using a beautifully vibrant colour palette. At the end, there’s also a gift shop where you can buy postcards and prints of his work.
(One of the hundreds of Lucky Leafs at the White Temple)
How to get back to Chiang Rai from the White Temple
Getting back to Chiang Rai from the White Temple is slightly trickier than getting there. As you exit the end of the road where the temple is, turn left and head to the bus stop which is next to a red brick pavilion. Once you’re there you can either wait for the next bus to flag down. Or alternatively, you can flag down one of the blue songthaews (van taxi) who can take you back to town. Make sure you negotiate on price though and don’t pay more than 20 TBH (£0.50 $0.60) per person.
(Look out for these severed heads of superheroes and villains on the way out!)
Hopefully, my short guide has answered any questions you may have about visiting the White Temple of Chiang Rai. Despite the crowds, it was still one of the most impressive and unique albeit slightly crazy temples I’ve been to so far and would highly recommend. Have you recently visited the White Temple? Let me know what you thought in the comments!