Wat Rong Khun, better known as the White Temple, is one of over thirty thousand Buddhist temples in Thailand. But it’s the only temple that illustrates a frieze portraying a plane hitting the World Trade Center as Spiderman looks on. With its contemporary Buddhist design and intricate and complex impressed veneer, the White Temple just outside Chiang Rai, is different from other devout structures in Thailand . Even the “templed out” will be overcome by the temple’s rare magnificence on their Thailand trip.

Wat Rong Khun

Photo: CEphoto, Uwe Aranas via Wikimedia Commons

Exquisite Detail, Mirrored Trimming, and Metaphors Galore

Chalermchai Kositpipat, the artist who first constructed the temple, began constructing Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai in 1997. The extraordinarily meticulous, all-white exterior signifies purity held only by The Buddha. Mirrored borders, almost a garnish to the exquisite details, is meant to symbolize self-reflection.

The bridge to the entry spans across a sea of hands and arms stretching for comfort and help from the sweltering pits of the inferno. Skulls, demon heads, and popular culture characters from the underworld—such as Hellboy and Hellraiser—are omens of what is to come. For the guests who subscribe to Western culture who struggle against the seductive influence of mass commercialism on a for sure daily basis, Kositpipat’s message is remarkably applicable: one must overcome hell (the cycle of death and rebirth) to reach heaven transcendence, and nirvana.

Wat Rong Khun

Photo: Carlos Adampol Galindo via Flickr

Humans are Wicked

The decor quickly changes from untainted white to flaming and perplexing. Murals portray whirling flames of tangerine, ruby, and marigold and the faces of infamous demons, sprinkled along with pop-culture Western idols that include Freddy Kruger, Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, and a T-800 series Terminator.

Phantasmagorias of nuclear conflict, extremist attacks, and oil drives strike home the disparaging influence that the human race have partook on earth. The is also a presence of Harry Potter, Superman, and even Hello Kitty; which muddies the idea somewhat, but the whole message is clear: humans are wicked.

Interior of Wat Rong Khun

Photo: Jeremiah Ro via Wikimedia Commons

Almost Lost

On May 5, 2014, a large magnitude earthquake struck seventeen miles away from Chiang Rai. Wat Rong Khun experienced substantial damage, and a distraught Kositpipat originally confirmed that the White Temple would have to be demolished. Since then, however, Kositpipat has found that the damaged illustrations, fractured  pillars, and a broken spike can be restored. On your Thailand trip, you can still travel to the temple, but may not be allowed inside depending on the work being undertaken at the time.

Wat Rong Khun

Photo: Seksan Phonsuwan via Wikimedia Commons


Respect the native culture by making sure your arms and legs are covered when you travel here. Despite the temple can be seen as more of a work of art, it is still a religious complex, and this dress code is strictly enforced.

Wat Rong Khun

Photo: JJ Harrison via Wikimedia Commons

You may or may not attain enlightenment on your Thailand trip, but you will definitly come away with a sense of awe and wonder.

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