With a bridge crossing a tranquil lake and a display of hundreds of outreaching stone hands leading to the gate of heaven, Wat Rong Khun is easily the most aesthetic temple I have ever laid eyes on. The way this temple is structured symbolizes the Buddhist teaching of withholding your desires to reach true happiness and enlightenment.
On my last day in Thailand, I flew from Phuket to Chiang Mai and decided to embark on a long journey to witness the beauty of Wat Rong Khun–a famous Buddhist temple that is also known as the “White Temple” among travelers. My fascination with this temple first started when I was at the Unicorn Pub in Hanoi, Vietnam, and a bartender told me about this beautiful white temple with golden toilets. For aesthetic purposes, I knew I needed to come here! I booked my tour in advance through KKDay, who came and picked me up at my hostel on a bus with other backpackers. Wat Rong Khun is located in Chang Rai and it took about 2 hours to get there, but trust me, this was definitely worth the trip.
This temple is both awe-inspiring and quite horrific at the same time. The outreaching hands definitely made me think of all the corrupt people in the world that value their egos and material things more than helping others. These people definitely fall victim to themselves in the end because at death they have nothing left. However, after I crossed the bridge and reached the inner chamber, the beautiful art, intricate statues, and gleaming white architecture made me realize that finding peace and happiness is in this crazy world is definitely possible–just don’t try to take any shortcuts or else you’ll just end up as another hand!
What’s both confusing and hilarious is that the murals depict both popular eastern and western characters like Hello Kitty, Superman, and Harry Potter, as well as western singers like Michael Jackson (unfortunately no photography was allowed inside so I did not take any pictures, but there are likely pictures floating online). According to Slate, juxtaposing these pop culture figures with Buddhist figures has sparked controversy from the Thai government, but I honestly see this display more as modern art than defamation or blasphemy. The golden toilets are also worth a trip to. You will definitely never see anything else in the world like this!
I would highly recommend coming to Chiang Mai and Rai on your trip to Thailand, because much like Kyoto and surrounding areas in Japan, these towns are filled with temples, unique art, nature, and are more relaxing than other huge cities like Phuket and Bangkok. The major con to coming to this temple was there are a lot of tourists and staff with megaphones rushing us through because the bridge is quite narrow for people pass through on. However, there are many temples in Thailand to choose from! The road to heaven is not an easy one, but coming here reminded me that letting go of your personal desires and working towards a greater concept is a very important lesson in life.