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Published: November 2nd 2009
A serious no smoking sign at Wat Rong Khun
Look closely and you will see cigarette packs in the flames and in hands.
A relaxing day for the Strickfadens in Chiang Rai after all the travel and climbing of temples in Cambodia? We think not.
And now for a completely different kind of temple...Wat Rong Khun or "The White Temple". Wat Rong Khun is white to represent the purity of the Buddha. Almost all temples use gold but the artist who is creating this masterpiece thought gold creates greed and wanted to be purer. There is nothing like this temple anywhere. It is completely unique and just blows you away when you see it. Basic construction is concrete covered in little silver mirror tiles and white plaster. The entire site is under various stages of construction with lots of other buildings going up all over and should be complete in about 90 years! The main temple is nearing completion and should be done in a few years. Inside the temple it is very detailed and has impressive murals. Some of them almost comic bookish in design like painted figures of George W. Bush in one demon eye and Osama bin Laden in the other eye. American and Japanese comic book heroes flying though the sky and space. The World Trade Centers being hit
with the planes. War, oil, jetplanes, cars, bombs raining from the sky. Very much a testament to modern history. There is a golden buddha painted on the alter wall that takes up the whole wall and there is a monk in mediation sitting in lotus position in front of it. Rick and I are at odds whether the monk was real or not. I swear he was not breathing and thought perhaps he was an phenomenally well done statue and Rick says he's like Santa Clause "HE'S REAL!". Tammy who will never reach a state of calmness such as this can't recognize it. ; )
The artist designed a usable toilet house using gold. It is supposedly completely golden on the outside & inside with all the facilities open to the public for "use". However, much to our disappointment it was closed for some reason and we could not sit upon own only chance at golden thrones. Bummer!
The artist is usually at the site working but we didn't see him (of course there's so much construction he could have been anywhere and he's usually dressed low profile and doesn't announce himself to the crowd as the artist). We settled
Wat Rong Khun
Tammy's favorite fountain
for buying a copy of one of his paintings. Unlike EVERYTHING in SE Asia, There was no entry fee or even toilet fee. I'm really liking this guy. Of course things in the gift shop are cash only. Got to keep the money flowing for construction somehow. No credit cards, no middle man to go through.
This same artist also designed the golden clock tower in Chiang Rai. He wanted to give the city something cultural to replace the old european style clock tower. At 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 pm it lights up in various colors and plays music to the delight of the crowds that gather to watch the show. It does this for about 10 minutes before returning to it's original golden color. We'll post a video of the show later.
And now for something new...another temple.
Wat Pra Kaew Temple. This is the temple where the Emerald Buddha was found in 1434. Lightning struck the chedi and during the repair a gold painted Buddha was found. The Abbot noticed that some of the gold painted plaster was flaking off and as he investigated further he saw the underlying green stone and declared it an Emerald Buddha
Wat Rong Khun
The White Temple
(jade really). It was moved to Bangkok and the Grand Palace and that is the Emerald Buddha we showed you at the Royal Palace. The one here in Chiang Rai is a copy to replace the one given to the King. This one is called the Jade Buddha of Chiang Rai to distinguish the two. This one also has only one gold outfit which isn't changed each season. Inside there are green tiles all lit up to give the place a very emerald feel. Around the walls are paintings depicting the history of Chiang Rai and the story of the Emerald Buddha. What's nice about this Temple is that you can take pictures inside. They also have several, various sized golden Buddhas around the grounds. The museum, which just opened two years ago and is entirely made of teak with floors so polished you can ice skate on them as we experienced when we stepped on them with ours socks still on (in case you didn't know you always take your shoes off when entering a temple, a shrine, a museum, someone's home, and sometimes the public toilet) is full of various religious artifacts and bits of Chiang Rai history.
Of course, there is the active main temple as well. Not quite the ostentatiousness of the Wat at the Royal Palace, this one somehow seems down to earth and serene.
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