Chiang Rai: The Unforgettable White Temple
As I travel the world, I go to a lot of religious temples. I’m not personally religious, but these churches, mosques, and temples is where humanity has chosen to spend A LOT of money, attention, and resources. Not to mention all the history around each institution. The architecture, grand-ness, and the fact that humans built these magnificent structures (some took a coordinated effort of over a hundred years to built!) is definitely something to feel.
But to be honest, after you go to a lot of churches, for example, they all start to merge and look the same in a way. Same with Hindu and Buddhist temples. It’s not that each one is not grand and impressive in it’s own right, but they all have the same elements and it’s hard to remember them individually. Except for very few…
I could never forget the Sagrada Família, the Hagia Sophia, the Taj Mahal, or the White Temple. That’s right… the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand! I’ve never heard of it either until I went there, but it is a temple I keep thinking about over and over again.
Seeing the temple for the first time from the road is absolute eye-candy. It feels like you’re entering some type of snowy fairy-tale! The snow queen must be hiding in there!
It’s already different, but as I walked onto the property through the streets, I started noticing some weird stuff… like the traffic cones 💀
Oh, and then I met my new bae 💁🏻
At this point, after the travel to the temple, I needed to use the restroom… that’s when I found out that the bathroom building was almost as magnificent as the temple itself ✨
Yes, that’s right! This gold building is the BATHROOM!!!
The golden building: A structure that stands out because of its color is the rest rooms building. Another very ornately decorated structure, this golden building represents the body, whereas the white ubosot represents the mind. The gold symbolizes how people focus on worldly desires and money. The white building represents the idea to make merit and to focus on the mind, instead of material things and possession.” - Wikipedia
Wait, is it Halloween already?!!!
Walking around the property, I couldn’t help but notice scary masks hanging from the trees:
Wait a minute… some of these look familiar…
What kind of temple is this anyway?!!! Super confusing to see modern superhero / villain masks on a religious temple…
Walking through Hell
To enter the beautiful temple…
One must first go through hell…
I want to be the one with the red nail…
“The bridge of “the cycle of rebirth”: the main building at the white temple, the ubosot, is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire. Next to the lake stand two very elegant Kinnaree, half-human, half-bird creatures from Buddhist mythology.” - Wikipedia
Kung Fu Panda?!!
At this point, I see a Buddha and I’m expecting just a boring temple inside…
…but I’m once again wrong. Did I mention this temple is unforgettable?!!
Sure, inside as you walk in there’s a normal giant Buddha and a meditating monk (like the type that’s supposed to bless you). I assumed the monk was real, but my friend later told to shocked me that it was in fact a sculpture! I didn’t look too closely because there was an truly mind-blowing mural drawn on the back wall (where the Buddha and monk were facing). I couldn’t take pictures here, but I still managed to snap a few…
That’s right! Yes - that is a Kung Fu Panda in a Buddhist temple! And there was more…
Pikachu, Minions, Angry Bird flying into the Twin Towers! WUT?!!!!
I was so fascinated by this mural, I had to look it up. This is the best interpretation I found:
“All this looks very unusual and even strange but that was the idea of the Thai Buddhist artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. His idea is to show the good and bad using images from the popular culture of the West and unfortunate events of 9/11. These unusual murals are placed opposite the Buddhas. I believe they are meant to show that people should clean themselves, their minds from bad intentions and wrong ideas, and that all the popular culture with violence, greed, hedonism is the wrong way in life. People should give up all these unnecessary and turn to the path of purification and enlightenment.” - Travel Photo Report
The mural is like a drawing of a psychopath. But it is also familiar. It is stuff that our mind is stuffed with now-a-days. Sort of like a bad dream. It is too much. The monk, in contrast, has been able to tune all of this out to find piece and enlightenment.
When we left the temple, my friend thought of it as “built for tourists”. I disagreed. By connecting the temple to today - something everyone who comes in can see and relate to - the message is so much stronger than just another grand Buddhist Temple. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful message of the temple since.