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.
entrance with signs indicating that alcohol and cigarettes are not be consumed within the grounds
a traditional wedding was taking place here
first glimpse of the main building
hundreds, nay thousands, of these votives hang on specially constructed pyramids
figures from the Chinese Zodiac adorn the top of this pavillion
and more votives are hung here too
another “no drinking” sign
a three sided head
an alien rises out of the ground
view of the main temple area
mythical bird sculpture
more mythical figures, these half bird half woman figures are known as kinnaree
you have to pass by visions of hell to cross the bridge to the temple
a mythical water monster
warriors guard the entrance to the bridge
there were monsters and mythical creatures everywhere
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.
postcards of some of his paintings
You can also visit the workshop and see some of the works in progress
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.