During a very short trip through Chiang Rai in Northern Thailand I found myself utterly stunned. With the time I was due to be there, there was only enough time to pick one of two places that were meant to be utterly beautiful and intricate in every way. I picked The White Temple over The Black House. After going to many temples I knew that it was likely going to be something lavish and boy was I not at all disappointed. Only, The White Temple was extravagant in ways I hadn't expected.
While Wat Po, in Bangkok, is prodigal in all things (as seen by The Reclining Buddha) The White Temple is a little more understated from just looking at it. The closer you get, the more you are able to see just how much effort had been put into it and why the trip is worth every last bhat paid to get to the Wat. Like all other temples, you do have to be modestly dressed, but a few moments of warmth is worth it. The artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, who rebuilt the temple into a modern exhibit used pieces of current culture in the interior that juxtaposes not only the small area where The White Temple rests but also the exterior itself.
Going up to the temple there are white figures, lined with mirrors. There are dragons, buddhas and the souls of the damned and this is all just from the outside. It has such a strange aesthetic to match with an interior that features Harry Potter. That's right, the Thai neo-Buddhist While Temple has paintings of Harry Potter flying about on his iconic broomstick. Of course there is also Hitler and Captain Jack Sparrow. A medley that ties together oddly but if you get a tour guide to explain, it's meant to represent our false idols and the overwhelming evils we have keeping us from the state of Nirvana. Not the band. Sorry, Kurt Cobain! There are people depicted who manage to avoid the distractions and seem very blissful so the motif of The White Temple is clear. The execution is more interesting than beautiful and too literal for my taste but a definite must-see of Thailand. If not for this than for the nearby golden bathrooms.
Cost: Donation not exceeding 10,000 Bhat.
Notes: Photos are not to be taken inside.