My last review for now from Chiang Rai and probably my favourite sight in Thailand, the White Temple is a brilliant (literally!) white and silver complex of buildings which some people have described as the Thai Sagrada Familia. That’s because the completion date is far in the future (currently projected to 2070), and I think also relevant is the prolific use of mirrored tiles and the existence of a workshop where you can see scale models of the temple.
A lot of the site is still unopened to the public, but what you can see is well worth the free entry. It is hard to stress how beautiful it is and how interesting the decoration is. On the walk to the main building, you cross a bridge over a pit of clawing, grasping hands, surrounded by grotesque sculptures of nightmare visions, all representing the suffering we must go through. It’s Giger-esque, with even the traffic cones having macabre overtones.
You aren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple, so I’ll try to describe what I saw – a crazy mural which depicts human lives, worries and suffering on the entrance wall, which pans round through life’s journey to enlightenment on the wall opposite. This mural includes (on a far from exhaustive list) Batman, Michael Jackson, Minions, Neo from the Matrix, Angry Birds, Superman, the September 11th attacks, space shuttles, Spider-Man, nuclear missiles, and warplanes. In the middle of the room is a waxwork monk.
Outside, there is a pond with lots of fish, various shrines, and a walkway made of shards of metal which visitors can write messages on and have incorporated into the temple, along with all of the buildings which are incomplete but still pretty from the outside. Around the site are numerous restaurants and souvenir shops, including a few which sell mangosteen ice cream.
This is another one to let the pictures do the work, so read on. Seriously, if you are in the area and don’t go, you are really missing out!
Address: Pahon Don Chai District, Chiang Rai 57000
Directions: About 12km outside Chiang Rai on the road to Chiang Mai. Parking is available, or you can take one of the many buses from the town.