Yesterday we visited Wat Rong Khum (Thai: วัดร่องขุ่น) thirteen clicks outside of Chiang Rai City. I’ve been there before but after reading more about the artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat (Thai: เฉลิมชัย โฆษิตพิพัฒน์), and his life and love for his hometown of Chiang Rai I had to see it again, this time with both eyes opened, and with the attitude that it’s more than just an ill-conceived Thai project, a exercise in kitsch for the tour bus crowd.
It’s a real temple…no doubt, construction beginning in 1996 with a completion date of about 60 – 90 years after the artists death. Talk about ones dedication and love of his hometown. Yes, the White Temple is a pretty funky place and a lot of fun, best to see it in the early evening when it’s not too hot, and for a few nice photos with the sun setting directly behind the temple.
Chalermchai Kositpipat is a bit controversial in Thailand, but his gift has been well received and you can check out some of his other work. “Only death can stop my dream, but cannot stop my project,” Chalermchai was quoted as saying about the temple, adding that he believes the work will give him “immortal life.” So for a bit of Alice in Wonderland meets the Buddha take the ten kilometer drive, hire a taxi or scooter, it’s free and make for a pleasant afternoon away from the city.
It all goes down well in Chaing Rai, a bit of a hippy town that’s home to some of Thailand best known artists, laid back and quiet with a good café culture, cool evenings, and some nice dry season trekking or motorbike trips. Sure it’s not Bangkok, or even Chiang Mai, but if you’re looking for a quiet relaxing place, where the people are friendly and not yet bored of the antics of us foreigners give it a try. Stay a few days—longer than just a brief stop over to wait for the boat to Laos.
Visit the White Temple, or the Black House. How about a boat trip on the Kok River, a trek in the woods, or a motorbike ride through the mountains (yes, Thailand has them too)? And check out the YouTube Red Elvis video, it’s in Thai but you get the general idea and a nice look at some of the temple.