Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chiang Rai White Temple

There are basically two things to see in Chiang Rai, the white temple and the black temple (well, black house, but whatever). Today, we did the white temple.

We walked over to the old bus station in the center of town and asked around for Wat Rong Khun. They pointed us to platforms 7 and 8. We bought our tickets from the lady there - 20 baht each (about $1.50 total). I've been doing better at reading Thai (I already speak/read/write Cambodian, and Thai characters are similar), so I was sure we were right because it said วัดร่องขุ่น on the little sign.

We got on the bus and waited forever until it was finally full, and then we headed out down the main road toward the temple. You can see the temple off to the right after about 30 minutes, so you won't miss it. The bus lets you off on the left (they drive on the left side of the road), so you have to cross the highway to get to the temple. No crosswalk, but it's not too bad if you're a little patient, and there's a traffic light and a median to help you out.

It was a little cloudy and drizzly when we arrived, but it cleared up a little later to give us some nice pictures.

The grounds around the temple are immaculate and pristine. They really do a great job keeping the buildings sparkly white and the grounds colorful and trimmed.

As you start to explore and look closer, the place gets weirder and weirder. This is not your normal temple.

Demons guard the bridged entrance to the white temple.

The hands of those suffering in hell? Reaching up toward the heavenly white temple?

Hellfire and damnation await those who smoke here.

Beheaded heros/villains in a temple?

This is probably the last thing I want to see before I pray/meditate in a temple.

If you go off to the left, there's a separate building that wasn't open to the public yet, but it was even cooler than the main temple.

The attention to detail is just incredible!

The white temple is so shiny and sparkly!

The artist that has designed and dedicated his life to building this masterpiece is named Chalermchai Kositpipat, and supposedly he was working up on the roof of one of the buildings today. He has been building this place for more than 15 years, and he has plans for it to continue long after his death. You can see parts that are mapped out for additions, and you can see signs throughout that it is definitely a work in progress. This would be very cool to come see in another 10 years or so.

You can see that they've mapped out a grid on the back wall of the temple for future artwork
We wanted to support his efforts, so we donated to the temple (the temple and grounds are free to visit) and got this ornament to add to the collection.

Photography is prohibited in the main sanctuary in the center, which is too bad because it's almost impossible to describe. Take the normal buddha storyline, but then add modern characters and events, both fictional and real, and mash them all together in one giant mural across all inside surfaces. Oh, and a weird giant face eating the entry door. And buddha on top. Some of the scenes include spider-man, superman, Harry Potter, Jack Sparrow, the WTC attack, Pearl Harbor, Sailor Moon, Hello Kitty, and Michael Jackson. Artists were adding scenes while we were in there too, so this may be a constantly changing canvas. All in a Buddhist temple. It's interesting and unique, to say the least.

For more info on the white temple, click here for a very helpful page.

On the way back, we flagged a songthaew for 20 baht each and and Isa sat up front and I sat in the back with this guy.

He didn't speak any English, but that didn't stop him from having a full conversation with me in Thai. Every once in a while I would just smile and nod and agree with him, and it made him happy and he kept talking and gesturing with his hand like he's doing in the picture. For 30 minutes. I think he was genuinely sad when we got to town and I got off.

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