Visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The White Temple, also known as Wat Rong Khun, is the most iconic temple in Chiang Rai and all of Asia for that matter.
Hundreds of visitors travel here every day to see the unique and amazing artworks. But what makes it so special?
The White Temple is privately owned by the local Chiang Rai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. Although covered in the surreal and abstract art, this temple is actually still a place of worship for the Thai Buddhists.
What to Expect
It took almost 10 years for Chalermchai to renovate and decorate the White Temple with art covering both the interior and exterior. The White Temple was officially opened to the public in 1997.
The interior of the temples is decorated with intricate paintings from floor to ceiling. The paintings include all sorts of movie stars, cartoons, and politicians. There is so much in the fine detail that you could stand inside looking at the paintings for over half an hour, or more.
Photography is permitted outside, but not inside the temple.
In 2014 the temple was damaged by a major earthquake that caused widespread damage across a lot of northern Thailand.
Chalermchai initially closed the White Temple and said he would not repair the damage done. However, it was later confirmed the building was still structurally sound, and Chalermchai recommended with his artwork.
How to get to the White Temple?
Chiang Rai’s White Temple is located about 14 kilometers south of the town center, so you can easily visit without an organized group tour.
From Chiang Rai – go straight down Phahonyothin Road towards Chiang Mai. The travel time is about 20 minutes each way.
The round trip cost by songtaew is about 300 THB (USD 10) while the round trip cost by taxi is about 500 THB (USD 15). In both cases (taxi or songtaew) the driver will wait for approximately one hour while you visit, then take you back to town.
There is also a public bus (the blue bus) that departs Chiang Rai Bus Station for about 20 THB one way. It’s slower but saves a little bit of money.
From Chiang Mai – the GreenBus which runs from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai passes the White Temple. You can book a ticket to Chiang Rai and request the driver to stop at the White Temple along the way.
TakeMeTour also has a fantastic day trip to the White Temple from Chiang Mai. You will also get to visit the Blue Temple and the Black House in one day. If you are traveling on a limited time, this is the perfect option.
How much is the entry fee?
Entry for foreigners is 100 THB. It used to be just 50 THB but was raised.
Entry for Thais is free. This is standard for many things in Thailand and not worth disputing.
Considering that Chalermchai has spent over USD 1 million on restoring this temple, the entry fee is well worth it.
What are the White Temple opening hours?
The White Temple is open daily from 9am to 5pm. There may be other hours posted online, but this is the official timeslot!
The temple could be closed on public holidays.
Chalermchai Kositpipat Gallery (Next Door)
Perhaps even more interesting than the White Temple itself is the gallery next door. The Chalermchai Kositpipat gallery contains paintings from both Chalermchai and other local artists. Most of the paintings and sculptures here are pretty surreal.
I spent over an hour walking through this gallery taking in all the artworks. I highly recommend visiting for at least 30 minutes.
Conclusion – Is it worth visiting the White Temple?
This is one of the most incredible artworks I have seen in Thailand. For the entry fee of just 100 THB, and the short commute from Chiang Rai town I would definitely recommend visiting the White Temple.
Would I make a trip to Chiang Rai just to see the temple? Probably not.
If you are traveling to Chiang Rai be sure to stay for a few days to check out some waterfalls and hot springs around the province.
I’ve written a huge guide to Chiang Rai here, so check it out!
Explore Chiang Rai like a local.
Discover incredible landscapes and waterfalls.
Experience the true Northern Thai culture.
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Thailand Travel Resources
- An easy checklist on what to pack for Thailand
- A huge Thailand travel guide
- Complete Chiang Rai travel guide