Bizzare Chiang Rai Temples

unconventional must see temples in northern Thailand

Exploring Northern Thailand?
You have already seen thousands of temples. Now you want to see something different?!
What about two temples more?
You are templed out?! Ok, ok, calm down.
These two Chiang Rai temples are so unique and unconventional as you have never seen something similar before and you shall never see it again.
These Chiang Rai temples were the art exhibitions at first, but over time they became places for meditation.
The first one is white, the second is black.
The first created a student, the second his master.
The first represents the Haven, the second represents Hell.
…. or…
Welcome to Chiang Rai temples!
Welcome to the two most unconventional must-see temples in Thailand: the White Temple and the Black Temple!

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO. 

CHIANG RAI TEMPLES: WHITE TEMPLE & BLACK TEMPLE

The most popular Chiang Rai temples are the White Temple or Wat Rong Khun, and the Black Temple or Baan Dam (called the Black House as well).

These two temples in Chiang Rai are one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Thailand as they are unique and bizarre. Therefore, visiting the White Temple and the Black Temple in Chiang Rai is on the list of the top Thailand things to do.

1. WHITE TEMPLE IN CHIANG RAI

top temples in Chiang Rai

Thai famous artist Chalermchai Kositpipat designed and built the White Temple as a representation of the Haven.

In its beginnings, White Temple in Chiang Rai was an art exhibit, but over time it became a religious monument. What makes Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai unique is the symbolism of its architecture.

The temple’s sparkling whiteness comes out of the building material – glass in plaster. The white color symbolizes Buddha‘s purity. And the glass symbolizes the Buddhists teachings.

The Suffering area, or Hell, is just in front of the temple, the Haven. Hell’s striving hands demonstrate human Desire, Greed, and Temptations.

To reach the Haven (the temple) a visitor should cross the Cycle of Rebirth bridge over a small lake. The bridge represents the path from Desires and Suffering (the Hell) to Freedom of Suffering (the Haven).

top temples in Chiang Rai

The main Haven’s meditation hall is mostly in white. Mostly, there are also some vivid quirky murals. The murals portray modern Western idols, movies’ heroes and comics villains. Characters like Spiderman, Batman, Neo, and Hello Kitty are there. They symbolize the foulness of contemporary men.

Is Chiang Rai White Temple an art exhibit or a temple with Elvis Presley and Micheal Jackon murals? Opinions of the visitors are divided, but they all should keep in mind that Wat Rong Khun in Chaing Rai is a Buddhist religious monument and the White Temple’s mandatory dress code is covering shoulders and knees. And, of course, taking photos in the Haven is not allowed!

1.1 WHERE IS THE WHITE TEMPLE IN CHIANG RAI

The White Temple is located about 13 km (8 miles) southeast from Chiang Rai. The entrance fee is 50 Baht/person (∼1,6 USD).

1.2 HOW TO GET TO THE WHITE TEMPLE IN CHIANG RAI

The cheapest way to get to the temple is by public bus from Chiang Rai bus station. The one-way ticket is 20 Baht (∼0,6 USD).

MAYBE YOU ALSO WOULD LIKE TO READ: Who is the Laughing Buddha

2. BLACK TEMPLE IN CHIANG RAI (Baan Dam or the Black House) 

top temples in Chiang Rai

In the Thai language, Baan means house and Dam means black.

Baan Dam in Chiang Rai, or widely known as the Black Temple in Chiang Rai, is a unique museum designed by world-renowned and controversial Thai artist Thawan Duchanee. The late Thawan Duchanee is presently celebrated as the National Thai Artist.

Although, Black House in Chiang Rai is a museum, there are rooms for meditation where nowadays even the Thai Royal family members come to meditate.

top temples in Chiang Rai

This bizarre but outstanding museum-temple is characterized by an unusual mix of traditional Northern Thai style and timeless eccentric design.

The temple compound is made of several buildings. A few of them are traditional teak wood Lanna style houses and a few are quirky modern structures.

The interiors and exteriors are decorated with animals’ skeletons, skulls, horns, skins and furs illustrating sickness, old age and death.

top temples in Chiang Rai

While the furniture is made of animal bones, phallic imageries shocking the visitors are everywhere.

top temples in Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai Black Temple is to some visitors odd, confusing, mysterious and dark. To others, it is morbid, sadistic, scary and disturbing.

No one stays indifferent to the Black Temple in Chiang Rai after visiting it. Everyone agrees, it is unique.

Confused a bit and amused a lot, I liked this surreal temple-museum. The work of Thawan Duchanee reminded me of Salvador Dalí. Thawan Duchanee is the Thai Salvador Dalí to me.

MAYBE YOU ALSO WOULD LIKE TO READ: 16 Buddhist Temples in Southeast Asia you Must Visit 

2.1 WHERE IS THE BLACK HOUSE IN CHIANG RAI

The Black Temple is located about 10 km (6 miles) northwest from Chiang Rai. The entrance fee is 80 Baht/person (∼2,6 USD).

2.2 HOW TO GET TO THE BLACK TEMPLE IN CHIANG RAI

The cheapest way to go to the temple is by public bus from Chiang Rai bus station. The one-way ticket is 20 Baht (∼0,6 USD).

WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG RAI IN THAILAND

Recommended accommodation in Chiang Rai:

BUDGET: Connect Hostel, Mercy Hostel, Stay In Chiangrai
MID-RANGE: Homestay Chiangrai, Baansuan Rimthan, Saikaew Resort, Maryo Resort
UPSCALE:  The Riverie by Katathani, The Imperial River House Resort,  Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort

MAP OF CHIANG RAI TEMPLES

Chiangrai White Temple and Black Temple map

MAYBE YOU ALSO WOULD LIKE TO READ: Borobudur and Prambanan temples in Indonesia

THE BEST TIME TO VISIT CHIANG RAI

The best time to travel to Northern Thailand and to visit Chiang Rai and Chaing Rai temples is from December to February when the average daily maximum goes around 79°F (26°C). You should avoid the Moonson season from May to October.

GETTING FROM BANGKOK TO CHIANG RAI 

The distance between Bangkok and Chiang Rai is about 510 miles (820 km).

The cheapest direct way to get from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is by bus. One-way bus ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Rai is about 600 Baht (20 USD). Check out timetables and prices here

STEPS AND TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR YOUR PERFECT TRIP

1. Find and book your flight: Skyscanner
2. Find and book your stay: Booking.comHotelsCombined.com
3. Get travel insurance (insure yourself against any accident, sickness, theft, and canceled flight): WorldNomads.com
4. Find and book great guided day tours: GetYourGuideViator

GETTING FROM CHIANG MAI TO CHIANG RAI 

The distance between Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai is about 125 miles (200 km).

One-way bus ticket from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is about 230 Baht (7 USD). Check out timetables and prices here

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY

10 Day Thailand Itinerary

Bangkok Things to do

 

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN COMPENSATED LINKS. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ MY DISCLAIMER FOR MORE INFO.

32 comments

  1. I would have to agree with you that these two temples certainly stand out in terms of their uniqueness! Wow. The Suffering Area at the white temple is really disturbing (which is probably the point). Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thailand is my dream destination! 🙂 I would like to go there one day. I’m impressed with a white temple – looks like you’re in the heaven! 🙂

  3. Ooh, I loved seeing those two temples up in Chiang Rai when I was there. There’s also the Blue Temple which I found really interesting. I’m thinking I must have missed some buildings at the Black House, as you have photos of things I don’t remember seeing.

  4. I was in Chiang Rai for a few days a few years ago and for some reason did not have a look at any of the temples. I’m not quite sure why. I sure am regretting now! 😉

  5. The White Temple is so funky and bizarre. Really freaking wacky. I felt it was ancient but learned the story a few years ago. Neat. Surprised I missed it with all the time I spend in Chiang Mai. Maybe next trip. I could probably write an entire eBook on the thing LOL.

    Rocking photos and rocking post 🙂

    Ryan

    1. Hi Ryan,

      Yes, Chiang Rai is just 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai. It should be on your itinerary for the next trip. Chiang Rai area has lots to offer to see and experience.
      Thanks for your lovely comment.

      You rock, Ryan!

      Milijana

  6. Love your photos of the White Temple – it looks like something out of a fairytale. The Black Temple looks pretty mysterious too. Chiang Rai is such a lovely spot.

  7. Both temples are really interesting. The intricate design and architecture are incredible. I would love to see it myself. Hopefully I can visit Thailand in the future.

  8. I do not know why I did not make it to Chiang Rai for the White Temple when I visited Thailand 5 years ago. It is absolutely incredible and I always visit temples with amazing architecture. I did the usual Bangkok, Krabi, Pattaya and Phuket visit in the one week that I had but I must go back to the White Temple. As for the Black Temple, I had no idea about it. I can see what you mean by ‘timeless eccentric design’ 🙂

  9. that’s so cool. I have been to Bangkok but could not visit north Thailand. I have been a big lover of the Thai temple architecture but these two temples look out of the world. Not only the temple, the entire surrounding and interior has been created in the same colour theme. SUperb

  10. This info on black temple is new to me. Of course the display of all those animal skulls and bones can be slightly disturbing. But I guess they do try to convey some meaning.

  11. I definitely prefer the white temple over the black. I found the black temple a bit confusing and dark vibe. The white temple has an interesting story to it starting with the depiction of hell.

  12. We recently visited the White Temple and the Black House and loved both, along with the much newer Blue Temple, and a large Chinese temple with giant statue of a Goddess on the hill nexr to it. Thanks for the info on the symbolism of the hands, they were kind of creepy looking but awesome! We didn’t have long at the Black House so didn’t get around all of the buildings, enjoying your photo of the dome and fish shaped ones.

  13. This is actually what I love about Thailand. They have an array of stunning temples. I actually wonder how talented all the workers behind these temples including the architect. I have just visited Thailand 2 weeks ago and I was supposed to visit White Temple, but I didn’t have a leisure time. Perhaps on my next visit. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  14. I have heard and seen a lot about the white temple. It is simply marvelous. But this is the first time i am hearing about the black temple. And while it is surely unusual, it seems to have its own charm. Great to see both of these together in one article.

  15. I knew about the white temple in Chiang Rai but the info on black Temple is absolutely new to us. It looks equally beautiful. So, I am going to add this to my list soon. Thanks for all the info.

  16. Wow, these temples are both unique! The White Temple is stunning, although the Cycle of Rebirth bridge would freak me out with all those hands reaching up! I love Salvador Dali so I’d have to check out the Black Temple too!

  17. Oh wow, the contrast of the white temple and the black temple is just incredible! (I also love the white temple wth the dark tree next to it, it looks like a painting!). I’m a huge fan of the architecure of both of these temples, but the black temple pips it for me. You are right, Thawan Duchanee is very stylistically similar to Salvador Dali!

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