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Visiting The Stunning White Temple In Chiang Rai, Thailand (Wat Rong Khun)

Visiting The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) is a must-do on any Northern Thailand or Chiang Rai itinerary.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

In fact, it is probably the most popular tourist site in Chiang Rai as it is just so impressive and unique, with stunning architecture and intricate details.

Here’s everything you need to know to plan your visit to The White Temple, including opening times and entrance fee, what time to visit to avoid the crowds, and where to get the best photos.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Where Is The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) In Chiang Rai?

Wat Rong Khun is located about 14 kilometers south of Chiang Rai city center. You can find the Google maps location here.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

How To Get To The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) From Chiang Rai City

The quickest way to reach Wat Rong Khun is by taking a grab taxi, or by renting a motorbike or car. The journey from the centre of Chiang Rai should take around 20 minutes, and there is a big car park at the back of the temple.

Alternatively, you can also reach Wat Rong Khun by public transport. The public bus to The White Temple from Chiang Rai departs from the bus station roughly every 45 minutes between the hours of 8am until 4pm.

The journey costs 25 baht and it takes around 25 minutes to reach the temple by bus. You buy tickets on the bus.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

You can visit The White Temple independently, or if you prefer, you can visit as part of a tour of Chiang Rai. Here are some of the best day tours in Chiang Rai that cover all the major tourist spots including The White Temple:

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If you’re coming from Chiang Mai, it’s approximately a 3-hour drive to Chiang Rai. You can either book on a 1 day organised tour from Chiang Mai (which makes for a really long day so I would avoid this if you can), or get the bus to Chiang Rai and stay in Chiang Rai a couple of nights.

If you’ll be getting the bus, make sure to book online a day in advance on 12go.Asia as only one bus company operates between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai and tickets can often sell out!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

About The White Temple In Chiang Rai & What It Symbolises

The White Temple was built in 1997 by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who designed, constructed and funded the whole project himself!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Chalermchai wanted to create a masterpiece that would serve as an offering to Buddha and reflect his own artistic vision, and so he created The White Temple.

The temple symbolises purity and incorporates traditional Buddhist architecture with contemporary, unconventional elements.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The Bridge Of ‘The Cycle Of Rebirth”

The bridge of ‘The Cycle Of Rebirth’ is located at the front of the temple, near the entrance. This part of the temple is so unique as it is surrounded on both sides by hundreds of outstretched hands and arms emerging from the ground and reaching out towards the sky.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

This represents the endless desires and cravings of human beings, which often lead to suffering, which is a core concept in Buddhist teachings. The hands therefore symbolise the cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth.

The hands also depict the suffering and torments of hell, reminding visitors of the consequences of succumbing to temptations and sins. This symbolises the pain and struggle associated with human vices and the darker aspects of existence.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

It’s incredible to just take a moment and look at all the hands.

The bridge leading to the main temple symbolises the journey from the cycle of suffering and desire to a state of enlightenment and nirvana. Crossing the bridge represents the transition from the earthly, material world to the spiritual realm. 

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

To reach the main temple, you must cross the bridge over the sea of outstretched hands to reach the main temple. This therefore symbolises the need to overcome and rise above temptations.

Crossing the bridge signifies purification and refraining from desire, greed and temptation, which are necessary steps towards achieving spiritual enlightenment.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Opening Hours & Entrance Fee For The White Temple

The White Temple is open daily from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

The admission fee for foreigners is 100 THB per person. 

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Tips For Visiting The White Temple In Chiang Rai:

Dress Code For Visiting The White Temple

As Wat Rong Khun is a place of worship, both men and women should dress modestly, and shoulders and knees need to be covered.

I found the staff were very strict here – I was wearing a dress where my shoulders were covered and I had my hair down, but as some of the top of my back was uncovered in the dress, they wouldn’t let me go past the entrance gate until my whole back was covered.

Luckily there are stalls right outside where you can buy shawls for 100 THB so I just bought one and was then allowed in, so it’s a good idea to pack one in your bag beforehand just in case. 

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Photography At The White Temple

Photography is allowed outside the temple building. However, inside the main temple hall, photography is strictly prohibited. Which is a shame as the inside of the temple hall is so interesting!

The temple inside features modern iconography, including references to pop culture and global events – from Pokemon to 9/11, to bridge the gap between traditional religious art and modernity.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Best Photo Spots At The White Temple

The most famous photo spot at The White Temple is at the bridge of ‘The Cycle Of Rebirth’. This is located in front of the temple and this spot can get quite busy if you want to get a nice photo without other people in.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

You can get photos from the centre of the bridge, as well as from the side to capture the hands if you want a different perspective.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Going further along the bridge you’ll reach The Gate Of Heaven – another nice spot on the bridge just in front of the temple.

Outside the main temple on the sides of the building it is far less crowded than on the bridge, so you can get some lovely photos of the incredibly intricate details on the side of the building.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

I loved exploring all the corners around the building and playing with the angles in my photos.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

There are so many spots around the back of the temple to get photos, and if you walk down the steps on the side of the temple so you’re a little bit further away, you can also get some really unique photos without other people in.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The White Temple also looks incredible from above if you have a drone. Make sure you adhere to all laws and regulations if you’ll be flying aerial equipment.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The Golden Temple at the back of the complex is also a nice spot to get photos, and if you’re looking for the bathroom – it’s located in this incredible gold building. And inside the bathrooms is just as beautiful as the outside. Have you ever seen toilets so impressive?!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Also, outside the temple gates you’ll see several sculptures of heads hanging from the trees!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Lots of these hanging heads have bizarre and tortured expressions, symbolising the pain and suffering that comes from sinful behaviour.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Look for more detail and you’ll find a beautifully intricate no smoking sign, traffic cones and ash trays in the shape of skulls, and a sink with lots of covid references!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

When Is The Best Time To Visit The White Temple

Normally the best time to visit a popular tourist destination is first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds and enjoy the site before it gets busy. However, the best time to visit The White Temple is actually one hour before closing.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

At 8am when the temple opens, as well as throughout the day, a lot of tour groups appear. However, if you visit at the end of the day, there are no tour groups, and far less people which means it is easier to take photos without other people in!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Behaviour Inside The Temple

You are supposed to enter the temple via the bridge and exit via a different way so it is a one way system, and once you go over the bridge you shouldn’t go back again.

Although some people do walk back again, especially if they want another photo at the beginning of the bridge.

Just be aware that there is a warden that will shout on the megaphone to keep walking and not turn back so please try to respect this, especially if it is busy as the bridge is narrow.

Remove your shoes before entering inside the temple. And remember as this is a holy place to be respectful and not loud.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Where To Go For Food & Drink At The White Temple

Right opposite the entrance to The White Temple is a really nice cafe restaurant called Khru Sichan Coffee that has an outdoor seating area with great views of the temple.

The food and drinks are really nice and very reasonably priced – we enjoyed some food here after our visit to The White Temple.

There are several other coffee shops and juice stalls around if you prefer somewhere else.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Souvenirs & Gifts

Opposite the entrance by the cafes you’ll also see a little shopping mall with several shops selling souvenirs and gifts.

Where To Stay Near The White Temple

We stayed at the 777 Food & Bed Hotel right opposite The White Temple for one of our nights in Chiang Rai and it was amazing to see the temple from our balcony! The photo below was taken from our balcony – what a view!

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

Staying in this hotel also meant we got the chance to see the temple lit up at night, which was amazing!

We enjoyed a walk outside the grounds (you can’t go inside the grounds – there is a security guard and gates), but you can still see it very well from the street. It was so nice and peaceful to be the only people around.

Chiang Rai White Temple In Thailand Wat Rong Khun

The hotel is basic but the view from the balcony was a million dollar view and we were so glad we stayed here!

Otherwise, there are several hotels in the centre of Chiang Rai that you can stay at. We spent a couple of nights at the Blue Lagoon Hotel which I can also recommend.

The breakfast here is great, as well as the outdoor pool – plus it’s very close to the bus station and the Chiang Rai Night Market so it’s in a really handy location.

Other Places To Visit In Chiang Rai Close To The White Temple

Two other incredibly beautiful temples in Chiang Rai that you can’t miss are The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten) and Wat Huay Pla Kang – also sometimes known as the Big Buddha Temple.

Baan Dam (Black House) is also worth a visit, and if you’re looking for two great cafes to visit, Cat n’A Cup in downtown Chiang Rai and Lalitta Cafe, just down the road from Wat Huay Pla Kang are definitely worth checking out.

Cat n’A Cup is a cat cafe that is free to enter as long as you buy a drink or food, and has the most gorgeous cats I have ever seen!

Lalitta Cafe is a famous Instagrammable cafe that has a 10 metre high waterfall and is surrounded by mystical fairies, colourful umbrellas and thousands of orchids. It’s honestly so beautiful!