White Temple and Trekking: Student Version!

Hello fellow bloggers!

Students from our world cultures class have been writing travel journals about their excursions and experiences on Global High School this term. Mathilde took the time to provide you with an update on our visit to the White Temple. See below for what she had to share:

Our day began with a morning visit to Wat Rong Khun, better known to foreigners as the White Temple! This unique monument stands out with its blazing white coat embedded with glass fragments, making it sparkle in the bright Thai sunshine. Every year the temple attracts significant attention from global visitors because of its elaborate ornamentation, making it one of Chiang Rai’s most visited sites.

As we arrived, I realized my goal of taking photos without crowds of people in them was slowly slipping away. However, with Nic’s rapid and skillful photography, we were bound to get some good ones – hopefully, tourist-free.

Towards the end of the 20th century, the original Wat Rong Khun was in poor condition as it hadn’t been well-preserved and restoration works on the project was forced to come to a halt due to lack of funds. Yet, not everyone gave up on this site. Chalermchai Kositpipat, a renowned local artist, decided to rebuild the temple and fund the project out of his own pocket to bring his vision to life.

His vision? Initially, Kositpipat envisioned that the incredibly detailed all-white exterior of the temple would represent the Buddha’s purity and the tiny pieces of glass would signify the Buddha’s wisdom – symbols that are still meaningful today. Kositpipat has devoted his life to the construction of the temple and continues to do so today, though he will likely never see its completion (projected to be in 2070).

There are many components of the White Temple, all of which fit together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. The ubosot (main building) is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake. This bridge, named “the Cycle of Rebirth,” symbolizes the transition from misery into a state free from suffering. After crossing the bridge, the visitor arrives at the Gate of Heaven, guarded by two creatures who quietly decide over one’s fate according to legend.

Once inside the ubosot, we were greeted by intricate murals covering the inside walls. These murals depict modern representations of good and evil with many contemporary figures included, from Batman and Spider-Man to villains and superheroes from popular movies and comic books.

Interestingly, a few cracks on the plaster showed the effects of a strong earthquake that hit Chiang Rai in May 2014. At the back of the main wall, we discovered a golden mural of the Buddha. In front sat an older-looking monk, deep in meditation and sitting so still that students couldn’t determine whether he was real or made of wax!

After wandering around the temple for an hour or so, students hopped on tuk-tuks for a forty-minute ride to the small rural village of Akan. We would spend our afternoon gorging on stir-fried vegetables in a small, humble hut, and hiking to our final destination – a hidden waterfall in the middle of the jungle.

After a tricky hike with a few stumbles into the jungle, close calls with dropped cameras, and almost-lost shoes, students dived into the frigid waters to cool off before heading back to the hotel. We all had good intentions to finish up our school work, but most of us decided that a good nap was the top priority instead.

Yours on the trek,
Mathilde