During the two years that I have spent living and travelling around Asia I’ve seen more temples than I care to remember. However, out of all of these sacrosanct places of worship one in particular stands out.
The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun), is situated just outside of Chiang Rai in northern Thailand. Technically, it is a private art exhibition, but the style has distinct links to that of a Buddhist temple, and there are plans that in the near future monks will be housed within the grounds. It was designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat, and opened to the public in 1997. It is free to enter the complex.
The ornate structure is imbedded with mirrored chips which make is glitter in the light. The design is extremely baroque, and the tiniest of details are adorned beautifully, (even the the bathrooms are ornate and coloured a stunning gold in contrast to the temple). Many of the features have a deeper, ominous meaning; for example the hands that reach out desperately as you cross over he bridge into the temple represent unrestrained desire. Also, inside the ubosot there are some obscure murals which are out of sync with the rest of the design; there’s an amalgamation of human destruction and modern idols which portray the negative impact our life on Earth has.
If you do make it to Chiang Rai another must see in the area is the Black House (Baan Dam). It was created by Chalermchai Kositpipat’s teacher Thawan Duchanee, because of this there are some stylistic similarities between the White Temple and the Black House.
However, the Black House has a more sinister appearance. There is an array of unique structures scattered around the grounds and each houses some obscure artifacts. Animal furs are lavishly draped over gothic bed frames, chairs are adorned with horns and reptile skins. Each room seems to whisper about errotic soirées that occurafter daylight.