Sunday, 26 February 2012

What Wat? Chiang Rai's Funky White Temple

Every traveller to Thailand has spent time in a temple complex (or wat); they're an essential element of this Buddhist country. But there's no temple quite like the one I visited today, Wat Rong Kun in northern Chiang Rai.

A modern temple still in the process of creation, its mastermind is the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, who has ingeniously pieced together a structure which is a meld of ancient tradition and quirky modern references.

The first of these I encountered was none other than Predator, the alien hunter from the movies. Chalermchai apparently likes to depict the battle between good and evil using pop culture characters, and here was a scary one:


The temple itself, standing nearby, is a marvellous confection in white. It put me in mind of a wedding cake:


The temple is approached via a bridge, beneath which is this sea of hands stretching desperately up from hell:


Beyond the hands are fearsome guardians such as this one:


And there are beautiful pieces of art along the way, glinting with strips of mirrored glass:


I couldn't take photos inside the temple itself, which contained both a traditional Buddha statue and a wall-sized painting including such modern-day heroes as Batman, a Na'vi from Avatar, and even an Angry Bird.

However, on the way out I spotted this - possibly the world's mot extravagant toilet block:


Disclosure time... on this trip I'm being hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.