The White Temple is probably one of the most interesting temples that I’ve visited while in Thailand. The temple is a project that is started by Thai artist Ajarn Chalermchai Kositpipat in 1997.
The temple is white to symbolise purity, in contrast to many traditional Thai temples that are colourful and covered in gold. Its full of imagery of skulls, hollywood villains, monsters, aliens, demons and other evils of the world, which of course, has often caused some confusion among tourists when taken out of context.
This week the Daily Mail in the UK decided to take offence at the temple, despite never actually setting foot in the place, and not doing a single bit of research into the motivations of the artist.
In the words of the artist himself (who we saw painting inside the temple when we were there) in the information brochure:
“I want everyone to know our world is being destroyed by those who build weapons to kill, thereby ruining the environment because nothing is ever enough. They segregate and cannot find peace. I saw the violence and it hurts me me and mankind to observe the killing of the innocence by these two powerful individuals (referring to Bush and Bin Laden). Peaceful people do not want to see the murder of the muslims and the collapse of the new york twin towers. I want to show the eyes, as important organs, should look at each other with kindness and not with hate that can lead to war. I painted at that time to caution both bush and bin laden, so that they can look toward a peaceful and happy world. I painted superman and Ultra Man to let people know that there are no heroes in or world, actually people need heroes since our morality declines every day. However no heroes from the movie screen arrive to help the havoc of the twin towers. Eventually the world becomes ill not only with the environment, but also with the people. People lack moral standards, that is why I portray evil people as the demon with mouth opened encircled at the entrance to the temple. When people walk out they will feel that they leave the demon behind that is they have rid themselves from evil spirits and going towards the highest level of dhamma, where people will not be reborn. The thai designs that flow from the eyes, nose and mouth of the demon towards the back wall of the temple change into angelic carriage that takes the people who rid themselves from evil deeds to meet the lord buddha at the edge of the universe”
The temple is constantly being added to, with new buildings being constructed, sculptures being cast from concrete and paintings added to the interiors. The project is expected to last at least 90 years, with instructions and plans to be followed after the artists death.
The artist gets up every morning at 2am, meditates and then works on the temple for the day along with his students. It even features quite possibly the nicest toilets in Thailand, or as its referred to in the brochure “the most beautiful toilet”, with its own slippers for wearing inside to keep it clean.
How to find the White Temple in Chiang Rai
The White Temple is located a few kilometres south of the main township of Chiang Rai on the right hand side of highway 1. You’ll get to an intersection, hand a right and you are there.
Its probably easiest to get there on a hired motorbike that can be rented for about 200 baht a day, and a deposit of around 3000 baht (or your passport if you insist, but I don’t recommend giving your passport to anyone in Thailand unless its absolutely necessary).