When my husband and I spent six months travelling through Southeast Asia, we had the chance to see a lot of Buddhist temples (called a Wat in Thailand). After a while, they all started to look the same. Red, gold, Buddha, boring. We got Watted out pretty fast. But the White Temple in Chang Rai was something completely different, and completely magical.
The temple was designed by Thai artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. The outside of the temple is all white, and is covered in tiny mirrors that reflect the sunlight and make it sparkle all around.
To get into the main sanctuary, you must travel a path that first crosses over the pits of hell:
Once you cross the bridge over the pit of hell – the bridge from heaven to hell – you reach the interior sanctuary of the temple. The sanctuary, though beautiful, was similar to other temples we’d seen, all red, gold and colourful.
When we entered the temple, there was a monk seated at the front, in lotus posture, eyes closed, meditating. Well, there appeared to be a monk there. I think it was a wax statute. My husband insisted that he saw the monk’s chest moving with his breath, but it didn’t look to me like he was moving. And then we turned around and saw the real magic.
The entire back wall of the temple is adorned with a mural that is so full of colour, imagery and detail, it is almost indescribable. The Lonely Planet describes the mural as a contemporary scene representing samsara – the realm of rebirth and delusion. Images in the mural include a plane crashing into the Twin Towers, Keanu Reeves as Neo from The Matrix, Spiderman, Superman, a man and a woman in a position which seems highly compromising, particularly for the inside of a Wat, and many, many more.