Temple ‘Lifeguards”: My exploration of Chiang Rai’s White Temple

Sorry for the lack of posts! I spent the past two days on the slow boat from Chiang Kong, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos with little to no internet!

I promise I will catch up!


Sunday , May 10, 2015



I woke up with not a care in the world, well besides filling my stomach ๐Ÿ˜‰

After a satisfying breakfast of rice porridge and fruit (check out my instagram! afranca3990), I slowly began my day.ย I needed to check out by 10am (so early!) but the hostel said I could keep my bags in their office until I got back from the White Temple.

The White Temple, was literally the reason I came to Chiang Rai. Well, Chiang Rai is on the way to Chiang Khong which is on the way to Laos….BUT, The White Temple was my main interest in Chiang Rai.

If you do some research you will find that Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) was in really bad shape by the 20th century. So artist,ย Chalermchai Kositpipat, decided to completely rebuild the temple with HIS OWN money. The temple is still intended to be a center of learning and meditation for people to gain benefit from the Buddhist teaching, but is has also become an art galleryย of sorts.

Though at times the symbolism may be puzzling (as you will see in some of my pictures), it generallyย refers to the message of escaping desire, greed and passion and moving towards the sublime through Buddhist teachings.

The temple is about 20 minutes outside the city, but you can take a city bus for 20 baht (~1 USD). I think there are bus stops along the way in the city, but they recommend that you to catch the bus (the blue bus) at the Bus Station in town (remember Bus Station #1).



The lady on the bus collecting money was SO NICE! She made sure we got off at the right stop and she even made sure to show us where to get the bus going back to town. Amazing!

From the bus stop, you can easily see The White Temple, I mean, it is a giant PURE WHITE building on a very sunny day. Kinda hard to miss…

Similar to Wat Phra That on Doi Suthep there was a pretty large crowd!


Wat Rong Khun


Overall, the temple was fascinating! In the photos below you will see some of the interesting symbolsim I mentioned above…


Wat Rong Khun:




I think, I didn’t ask to confirm, there was a way to make a donation and then in return you could write a wish or a desire or a hope on a metal piece of decoration that was hung throughout the complex. Here are a few that I could read:



“For a lifetime of happiness”…. so sweet!


When I finally entered the temple ‘area’ (the vicinity surrounding the main temple was closed off by a fence), I noticed the sign that said, “Close for lunch 12-13”. WHAT?! It was 11:40! Boo.


Wat Rong Khun


Anyway, I went in with a goal to squeeze in as many photos as I could in 20 minutes. As I was doing my “thing” I started hearing a whistle. As a lifeguard back in the day, I totally recognized the sound. I kid you not, there were men sitting under an umbrella whistling at people, exactly like lifeguards!

I completely understand that the temple is very sacred and that they want tourists to properly respect the site…


come on…


Anyway, making sure I wasn’t the one getting scolded I continued taking pictures until I hear,

“Time to go. Time to leave. Go, Go, Go.”

Um. Excuse me. I look down at my watch and it is CLEARLY not noon.ย It is not like there is some great distance to traverse in order to get to the gate, it would literally take me 30 seconds to exit. Annoyed, but wanting/needing to get in a few more shots I pushed the limits and took photos as I was literally being pushed out.


Wat Rong Khun


Wat Rong Khun, Continued:



The only good thing about them closing for lunch, is that you get an opportunity to take a picture of the temple without a million tourists in the way.


Wat Rong Khun


Contemplating staying until they re-opened I got some lunch.ย Pork Rib and Noodle Soup. nomnom.



Every time I order soup I think, “This isn’t going to fill me up!” and then I NEVER end up finishing my soup. Also, this soup was definitely spicy! Not bad spicy, but it had a kick! Aside from the pork and noodle, the soup had a variety of mushrooms, and some kale (I believe).

After lunch and a coffee, and still 30 minutes until they open. I decided to leave.

Do I wish I got some more shots? Sure…

But oh well.

So future travelers, beware, the temple is closed from 12-1 and by 12 they really mean 11:45 ๐Ÿ˜‰


Also, the main temple was closed (you couldn’t walk over the bridge), but I think this might have to do with some damage after an earthquake in 2014, but they are clearly working on repairs, so hopefully it will open back up again!



Love always, Arianna the Wandering Pipette




Article Name
Temple 'Lifeguards
Chiang Rai's Wat Rong Khun, better known as "The White Temple".

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