Tag Archives: Wat

White Temple (Wat Rong Kun) in Chiang Rai

 

The White Temple is probably one of the most interesting temples that I’ve visited while in Thailand.  The temple is a project that is started by Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat in 1997. White Temple 5
The temple is white to symbolise purity, in contrast to many traditional Thai temples that are colourful and covered in gold.  White Temple 9Its full of imagery of skulls, hollywood villains, monsters, aliens, demons and other evils of the world, which of course, has often caused some confusion among tourists when taken out of context.
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This week the Daily Mail in the UK decided to take offence at the temple, despite never actually setting foot in the place, and not doing a single bit of research into the motivations of the artist.
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In the words of the artist himself (who we saw painting inside the temple when we were there) in the information brochure:

“I want everyone to know our world is being destroyed by those who build weapons to kill, thereby ruining the environment because nothing is ever enough. They segregate and cannot find peace. I saw the violence and it hurts me me and mankind to observe the killing of the innocence by these two powerful individuals (referring to Bush and Bin Laden). Peaceful people do not want to see the murder of the muslims and the collapse of the new york twin towers. I want to show the eyes, as important organs, should look at each other with kindness and not with hate that can lead to war. I painted at that time to caution both bush and bin laden, so that they can look toward a peaceful and happy world. I painted superman and Ultra Man to let people know that there are no heroes in or world, actually people need heroes since our morality declines every day. However no heroes from the movie screen arrive to help the havoc of the twin towers. Eventually the world becomes ill not only with the environment, but also with the people. People lack moral standards, that is why I portray evil people as the demon with mouth opened encircled at the entrance to the temple. When people walk out they will feel that they leave the demon behind that is they have rid themselves from evil spirits and going towards the highest level of dhamma, where people will not be reborn. The thai designs that flow from the eyes, nose and mouth of the demon towards the back wall of the temple change into angelic carriage that takes the people who rid themselves from evil deeds to meet the lord buddha at the edge of the universe”

White Temple 3The temple is constantly being added to, with new buildings being constructed, sculptures being cast from concrete and paintings added to the interiors.  The project is expected to last at least 90 years, with instructions and plans to be followed after the artists death.

The artist gets up every morning at 2am, meditates and then works on the temple for the day along with his students. White Temple 2It even features quite possibly the nicest toilets in Thailand, or as its referred to in the brochure “the most beautiful toilet”, with its own slippers for wearing inside to keep it clean. White Temple 1

 

How to find the White Temple in Chiang Rai

The White Temple is located a few kilometres south of the main township of Chiang Rai on the right hand side of highway 1.  You’ll get to an intersection, hand a right and you are there.

Its probably easiest to get there on a hired motorbike that can be rented for about 200 baht a day, and a deposit of around 3000 baht (or your passport if you insist, but I don’t recommend giving your passport to anyone in Thailand unless its absolutely necessary).

White Temple Map

Bangkok to Ayutthaya by Train for Only 20 Baht

I’d read around the place that it was possible to get to the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya by train for under 20 baht if you went third class and just had to give it a try.  So, one day last September I ventured off to the Bangkok central train station (otherwise known as Hualamphong) to start my little temple exploring adventure.  I find it strange that the city isn’t a more popular tourist destination or more well known to Thais and foreigners. I find it even stranger that a city with such rich history hasn’t been preserved to the same degree as Ankor Wat in Cambodia considering Thailand’s economy and tourist market, then again TIT, This is Thailand.

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The former capital has some interesting history, it was a major trading city in the orient, definitely the biggest hub of trade in Asia and possibly the world, boasting over a million inhabitants in the late 1600s and early 1700s.  It was a truly multinational, cosmopolitan city with inhabitants from all major trading nations in the world.

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In the late 1700s the Siamese were at war with the Burmese and didn’t fare too well, while Thais often proudly claim that they were never invaded or colonised, yet the city is host to former settlements from the Dutch, Portuguese and Japanese and of course the Burmese did invade and in 1767 burnt the Siamese capital (and the foreign settlements) to the ground.    This probably explains the attitude of many Thais towards foreign Burmese labour nowadays.

Luckily there are still some temples around, giving you an idea of some of the former glory that this ancient city once had.  If only the Thais would do more to preserve, restore and promote this city to its former glory.

Getting to Ayutthaya: 

Ayuthaya is located around 80km north of Bangkok, and is a relatively easy train ride.  To book a ticket simply visit the ticketing desk and ask for a ticket  to the town, beware however, as Farang tourists are never offered the cheaper third class tickets unless they explicitly ask for one, and often are sold the more expensive (but marginally nicer) second class tickets for around 200+ baht, whereas third class are only 15-20 baht each way.

Getting Around Ayutthaya:

You’ve got two main options for getting around the city and visiting its various temple sites, by push bike or by Tuk Tuk.  While the Tuk Tuks are no where near as friendly as the ones you’ll meat in Cambodia, and speak a lot less english, you’ll still find them easier to deal with than their Bangkok counterparts.  Theres also a massive scene of modifying your Tuk Tuks here, did anyone say WIDEBODY!

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Hiring a Tuk Tuk for the day should cost you somewhere between 300-500 baht, which isn’t that bad if you are travelling in a group or meet some other travellers on the train up (as I did, whom strangely enough I ran into in the back of a bus on the way back from Koh Phangan 3 months later!) 

Bikes are nice and cheap (40 baht per person) but bear in mind you are visiting temples, so are often wearing long sleeves and pants for modesty and its incredibly hot and humid.  This is one of the few times I’d recommend a Tuk Tuk in Thailand.

The Temples:

Due to a massive rainstorm that went on for hours at around 2pm, I didn’t get to visit all the temples in the city, but still managed to visit some of the key attractions.  I’ll definitely be back this year to visit the rest.  Some temples are free to visit while others have charges around  50 baht.   There are rumours online that not all people charging entry at the temples are legitimate, so insist on a paper ticket when paying any money. It would be much easier if tourists were able to purchase a single ticket like Angkor Wat in Cambodia that could help fund the restoration and preservation of the temples.

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Wat Pra Si Sanphet: A former royal palace full of Thai style  stupas.  The biggest and most popular in the city. 50 Baht

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Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit: Home of a large bronze Buddha this temple has recently been renovated to some degree.

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Wat Pra Matathat: This was one of my favorite temples, even though it was one of the most damaged ones.  It very much reminded me of the temples around Ankor Wat,  with a famous Buddha head that is overgrown with tree roots.  Travellers must take care only to photograph or pose with the Buddha from a low height. 50 Baht

 

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There are loads more temples that we didn’t get to see due to the weather, which you can find out more about at Wikitravel.

Eating:

I only ate at one place, which we stupidly allowed the Tuk Tuk driver to choose, meaning he was probably earning kickbacks from the owner (he was drinking and eating there while we ate).  Prices were extortionate, and the quality of food was rubbish. Though from what I understand the city isn’t known for its cuisine, and any restaurants are more of a tourist trap than anything worthwhile.

Summing it up:

Ayutthaya is defiantly worth a full day trip from Bangkok, I wouldn’t however bother to stay there.  The temples are interesting, though no way near as well preserved as those in Cambodia, and the locals don’t seem to have put as much effort into the renovation or historical side of things.  But for 20 baht from Bangkok and the cost of a shared Tuk Tuk and the odd entry fee, you can’t really complain.