Wat Rong Khun

"Thailand's Bizarrely Beautiful White Temple"

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The White Temple

Wat Rong Khun (a.k.a. The White Temple) is one of a kind. The temple is the personal project of a skilled Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, who has dedicated himself to its creation since 1997. The original temple had been in a severe state of disrepair, lacking funding ran out for its restoration. Hearing this, Chalermchai set about creating a masterpiece of art and sculpture from the ruins. The result is a stunning contemporary Buddhist temple which one of the most stunning locations to visit in all of Thailand.

Naturally, with a travel destination this unique, thousands flock to the ivory white temple every year. Mainly constructed of plaster and glass, the temple is white to symbolize the purity of the Buddha. Similarly, the temple complex itself depicts the never-ending cycle of birth, life, and death known as samsara. Visitors pass through depictions of these various stages represented by the buildings, spectacular sculptures, and murals as they visit.

In addition to the main building, the Ubosot, there are other sights to see. Everywhere you look there is a new jaw-dropping sight to behold. To date, Kositpipat has completed three of a planned nine buildings on the expansive six-acre grounds. Visitors will marvel at the uncanny mix of traditional Thai art styles and more modern contemporary work. Likewise, interiors feature hand-painted murals depicting contemporary events and characters such as the World Trade Centre during 9-11, Spider-man, and Hello Kitty. As well, keep an eye out for the gold building. This unusual structure contains a crematorium and a lavish bathroom covered from floor to ceiling in gold leaf. Consequently, it is often referred to as the most beautiful washroom in all of Asia.

Chalermchai Kositpipat

Kositpipat and his temple are controversial in both Buddhist and government communities, and because of this draw no support from government or religious organizations. Much of the funding is instead out of Kositpipat’s pocket, having invested at least USD 1.2 million of his own money. In fact, the entrance fee is only 50 baht (about USD 1.50), so visitors are welcome to donate more, but the maximum Kositpipat will accept is 10,000 baht. The reasoning, Kositpipat does not wish to be influenced by large donors. In addition to Kositpipat, a team of over 100 volunteers help to build and maintain the temple.

Kositpipat is in his sixties and quite well known in Thailand. He has indicated that this temple is his life’s work, so he and his team of volunteers continue to expand the complex. Recently, when interviewed Kositpipat had this to say:

“The White Temple will continue to be built even after I die; the White Temple is my life’s work, my purpose in life, and my contribution to the world.”

Photographing Wat Rong Khun

The White Temple’s pure white exterior presents a challenge when shooting. Harsh lighting will create too much contrast and obscure detail in the fine sculptures. Creating separation between the white exterior of the temple and sky on cloud-covered days will prove equally challenging. Ideally, plan a partly cloudy day for your visit to achieve a perfect mix of contrasting blue skies. This weather will also present a chance at periodic diffuse lighting as clouds pass in front of the sun.

Also, this location is trendy, and you can expect throngs of tourists during the peak seasons. As a result, we recommend early arrival to beat the crowds. The temple is open year round from 8 am to 5 pm.

Finally, photography is currently not permitted in the interior of the temples, so do not plan to spend time photographing the insides of the buildings. Rest assured, however, you will not be short of fanciful subjects to place in front of your lens.

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