We took a car up to Chiang Rai to visit the amazing white temple of Wat Rong Khun designed and built by the Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat, Thailand’s answer to Gaudi, whose aim is to promote and celebrate Buddhist art and thereby to collect sufficient funds to complete the building. Surprisingly, entrance to this glorious complex was free.
The buildings are painted brilliant white and sparkle in the light because they are covered with mirror mosaic pieces. According to the artist he wanted to build a temple that was different from other temples that are golden. He believes that gold is suitable for people who lust for evil deeds. The Lord Buddha represents purity and has escaped from the world to Nirvana. The use of small mirrors throughout the building is a symbol of wisdom (dhama) of the Lord Buddha that shines throughout the universe. It is a work in progress – most of the actual buildings are already in situ – but the artist reckons it will take him and his 67 helpers many more years to complete the project.
In complete contrast to the white and silver, the public conveniences are situated in a golden building with gold mosaic pieces. You have to remove your own shoes and don a special pair of sandals to enter these sacred loos!
The interior of the main building is not yet complete but the paintings that adorn the wall so far were spectacular and not at all what we were expecting – there is a huge (more conventional) painting of Buddha on the rear wall but on the wall surrounding the entrance is the face of a demon with George Bush and Osama Bin Laden in the pupils of its eyes. Unfortunately photography was not permitted inside but you can see some photos of the interior here
Afterwards we visited the exhibition of paintings/illustrations by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. They were all absolutely stunning and we bought a number of postcards and a small book. I was quite struck by the drawings using gold and silver crayons on black paper and would be interested to try this out but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such crayons for sale anywhere.
If we had known about it at the time, we would also have visited the black house, as a complete contrast to the white temple. Altogether this was one of the most spectacular sights I’ve ever seen and it would be interesting to return in a few years time to see what else has been added.