As the White Temple is located 13km from Chiang Rai center, you’ll need some sort of transportation to get there. The long distance and busy roads don’t make the bicycle a viable option, and the 300 TBH charged by taxis and songthaews sure don’t make them the cheapest.
Whenever this happens we make sure to find the next cheapest alternative, that in this case was the public bus.
We walked to Chiang Rai Bus Terminal 1 (in the city center, near the night bazaar) to find a bus that could take us to our destination. As we arrived at the bus station, we came across a rickety old blue bus with a tarpaulin saying “White Temple” on it. That was easy!
The banner and the unsolicited ticket revisor that kept expansively confirming that was the “only bus to the White Temple” made us a little suspicious. But after several locals bought the ticket at the station kiosk and got on the bus, we took a change and did the same.
Bus timetable (2017):
Mornings 06:15 – 07:10 – 08:10 – 09:10.
From 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM every 30 minutes.
Afternoons 14:35 – 15:10 – 15:45 – 16:20 – 17:00
Cost: 20 Baht, one-way trip.
Duration: 20 minutes.
The bus was old and worn out, but chock filled with character and was worth the trip itself. From the weird proportions, the rickety noises, and the dashboard decorations of Buddhist memorabilia, photographs, and every happy meal toy under the sun.
The revisor lady from before proved to be quite helpful by waving at us at the nearest bus stop to the White Temple: a generic spot just off Highway 1 (Phahonyothin Road), that we wouldn’t be able to identify on our own.
On the opposite side of the road, a few meters ahead were the grounds of the Wat Rong Khun.
White Temple (Wat Rong Khun)
Opening hours: from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, closes at mid-day for an hour.
Ticket fee: As from October 2016, non-thai people will be charged 50 Baht.
What to wear: shoulders and knees must be covered, and as always, shoes must be taken off before entering the main temple.
If you’re tired of visiting temples by now, suck it up and don’t miss this one — it’s one of Chiang Rai’s most visited attractions for a reason!
The lavishly decorated temple is unlike anything we saw around Thailand. Every element was consciously designed by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and is full of symbolism.
On the bridge leading to the temple, you’ll find depictions of the anger, suffering and worldly temptations that you’ll have to leave behind to find happiness.
Imagine if there was a Black Friday in hell and your soul was 50% off…👋💀 . #thailand #chiangrai #whitetemple #boo #white #travel #hands #planetgravy #creepy #beautifuldestinations #vsco #vscocam #wanderlust #travelstoke #whitewalkers #instatravel #travelgram #bbctravel #portuguesespelomundo #visualsoflife
The temple is white to represent the purity of the Buddha, and the glistening intricate mirror work embedded on the plaster is there to reflect his wisdom to the world.
The interior of the main temple is all gold (and much smaller than it appears to be). On the back walls are paintings of pop culture reference like Hello Kitty, Spider-Man, the Terminator, and George W. Bush. These represent life without faith, they’re the false heroes incapable of saving the world from war and destruction.
On the walls in the front, where the altar is, you’ll see paintings of humans flying freely through the clouds. These represent the people who followed Buddha’s teachings and achieved peace. Sorry for the lack of pictures, but taking photos is not allowed in the main building.
The site grounds
On the outside of the temple is a canopy of prayer plates and by walking under it you’ll reach the meditation hall, the famous golden restroom, the art gallery and the museum.
The museum is dedicated to the works of Chalermchai Kositpipat: many of his works are a satirical commentary on international politics and the destruction of the planet. You’ll need an hour for the visit.
The temple site is still under construction and expanding. Only by 2070, the artist complete vision will be finished.
In front of Wat Rong Khun is a small area with cafes, restaurants, and shops.
About Chalermchai Kositpipat
Back to Chiang Rai
Head back towards the highway where you got off the bus and find a wooden pergola/ bus stop on the opposite side. Hail to the first bus you see (every half hour-ish). The trip back is a further 20 THB.
If you have any questions or new info to share about buses to the White Temple, leave it in the comments below.