Chalermchai Kositpipat, the Thai artist who created this strange mix of old traditional Buddhism with modern art hopes that the White Temple in Chiang Rai will eventually be on the Must See List.
Not the Must See List of Chiang Rai, but the list of Asia, alongside with the greats such as Angkor Wat.
After visiting here on my recent trip to Thailand, I could see how one day this could be a possibility.
For now it is definitely on the Northern Thailand list.
Wat Rong Khun, as it is known by its formal name is bizarre and with the bright blue sky and the mirrored pieces blinking off the sunlight and the whole area bathed in a glow of white, I had the feeling that I had just landed in the middle of the Artic, rather than the hot and humid heat of Thailand.
It is a current work in progress, the artist finishing off a section at a time, once it is perfectly clear in his mind how he wants it to look. He anticipates the completion will happen after his death and is training his predecessors to finish his vision.
He has set limitations on single donations to his project as he cannot risk handing over the power to any outside forces and so having his artwork altered in any way other than what appears in his mind.
Inside his head is the constant play between good and evil, which can be seen throughout the temple and its grounds in both the sculptures and paintings on the inside.
The bridge stands as the connection between heaven and hell. The pond before entering the bridge is not a pond of water, but a pit of outstretched hands and skulls pleading to be released from their eternal state of doom.
At the entrance to the bridge stand two guards who are preparing to seal your fate: the Pit of Hell or the Abode of Buddha awaits you.
I decided to scurry on past, avoiding all eye contact from fear of being thrown to the demons below. The theme of good and evil is strangely depicted through a mural on the front wall of the temple as you walk through the door. Spin around and look at the menacing eyes staring at you, with the vilanous George Bush and Osama sitting in each eye.
Staining the monsters face, scenes from movies can be found as Chalermchai tries to depict the idea that the heroes of our movies are not a reality of our lives. References to the Matrix, Avata, Spiderman, and the burning towers can be seen in the apocalyptic end of the world piece of art.
The Buddha sits serenly opposite the chaos in its usual place in a Buddhist temple reminding us that we need to release our need for consumption to make us happy.
And if the temple becomes too blinding for you in its purity, then take a break at the Golden Toilets. Possibly the most elaborately designed toilet block ever to be seen.
And then finally, just across the street you can retire to GreenHut Coffee, where you can sit on a chair in the front garden and quietly watch the temple from a safe distance with the most delicious and unhealthy ice coffee you could ever dream about.
The White Temple is located 13km south of Chiang Rai. Entry is free. I’d recommend a bike ride from Chaing Rai as a great way to visit the temple and early morning would be best for photographs, when the sun is shining on the front of the temple.
Would you put the White Temple of Chiang Rai on your must see list of Thailand?
My stay in Thailand was hosted by Tourism Authority of Thailand. Opinions are of my own.