Visiting the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
The White Temple, otherwise known as Wat Rong Khun is privately owned work of art local Chiang Rai artist/architect Chalermchai Kositpipat. Although covered in the surreal and abstract art, this temple is actually still a place of worship for the Thai Buddhists.
The temple took almost 10 years for Chalermchai to renovate and decorate. The art covers both the interior and exterior of the temple.
The exterior is covered in intricate white and silver decorations, hence its name The White Temple. Photography is permitted around the exterior of the temple.
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 not permitted inside the temple.
In 2014 the temple was damaged by a major earthquake which caused widespread damage across a lot of northern Thailand. I have not been back to the White Temple since the earthquake. 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.
Where is the White Temple?
The White Temple is located about 14 kilometers south of Chiang Rai town (location). To get here you will head straight down Phahonyothin Road towards Chiang Mai. A one way trip by songtaew or taxi will take about 20 minutes.
You can get to the White Temple by taking a songtaew for about 300 THB round trip, or a taxi for about 500 THB round trip. With both private options the driver will wait for approximately one hour while you visit, then take you back to town.
It is also possible to get a bus or a shared songtaew from the Chiang Rai Bus Station for about 20 THB.
Check out The Lost Passport’s custom Chiang Rai itineraries if you want to continue on further south to see some awesome waterfalls in the Doi Luang National Park.
How Much is Entry?
Entry for foreigners is 50 THB. Entry for Thais is free. Given the amount of time and money that has gone into restoring this temple, the entry fee is well worth it.
It is suggested that Chalermchai has spent over 40 million THB on the White Temple to date!
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 painting and sculptures in here are pretty surreal.
I spent over an hour walking through this gallery taking in all the artworks. Depends if this type of art interest you, but I highly suggest visiting.
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 50 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!
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Thailand Travel Resources
- An easy checklist on what to pack for Thailand
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- Complete Chiang Rai travel guide