We must admit that we went to see Wat Rong Khun (or “White temple” as it is known among tourists) quite unprepared. We have seen so many temples before that we even hesitated if it is really worth it. But this one looked quite different: white and very artistic, like the top of a wedding cake. So we decided to give it a chance.
As we were approaching the temple we saw this life size cardboard cut-out. Having no idea who it is, Tom decided to take a silly photo.
Only later we discover that we took it with Chalermchai Kositpipat who designed, constructed, and opened Wat Rong Khun to visitors in 1997. To date he spent THB40 million of his own money on the project, but if you think entering the temple will ruin your budget you are mistaken. It is for free, even though donations are allowed but are not to exceed THB10,000, as Chalermchai refuses to be influenced by big donors. Today the works are ongoing, but are not expected to be completed until 2070. Kositpipat considers the temple to be an offering to Lord Buddha and believes the project will give him immortal life. Well, let’s see if he will be still the one who will finish the temple in 2070 with this blessing…! 🙂
Seeing the temple for the first time you can do nothing but gaze in awe. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. You can see even monks cannot resist taking a picture of it with his mobile (and a selfie soon after).
To reach the main building you need to cross the bridge called “the cycle of rebirth” that goes over a small lake. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolise unrestrained desire. We loved especially the only one with the red nail. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire.
After crossing the bridge, the visitor arrives at the “gate of heaven”, guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decide the fate of the dead. So far we have survived, but I guess we will not be able to escape it forever.
As we entered the main building we couldn’t believe our eyes. Only here we understood we really weren’t in a temple but in a very extravagant art exhibit in the style of the temple. Innocent white was substituted with wild orange flames and demon heads incorporated into a painting that looks like some kind of apocalypse and features: Michael Jackson, Neo from Matrix and Terminator. Looking closer we notice characters from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda, Spiderman and Hello Kitty mixed with images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, oil pumps and Osama Bin Laden riding a rocket… The message is somewhat confusing, but the overall moral is clear: people are wicked! We were not allowed to take a picture inside the temple, but we found one online so you can get an idea.
Once we got out of the small temple we stroll around the area trying to sort our thoughts but still noticing more eccentric quirks around us.
The sun is slowly going down so we have to leave the main area. Since we started this tour with a silly photo we decide to end it with one as well. I laugh at Tom’s pose only to turn around to see Kositpipat (the creator of the temple) staring at us from the nearby café. He wasn’t laughing!
We sit on the bench opposite the temple to see how it will be illuminated in the night but no luck. It’s a Songkran (Thai New Year and biggest water festival) period and there will be no lights tonight. Still, it is nice to see the temple sparkle from time to time as the passing cars’ headlights refelct on the thousands of tiny mirrors on the building.
Well, it is time to hitchhike back to the city. What a great day! 🙂