Whereas most of Thailand’s Buddhist temples have centuries of history, Wat Rong Khun’s construction began in 1997 by noted Thai painter turned architect Chalermchai Kositpipat. Seen from a distance, the temple appears to be made of glittering porcelain; a closer look reveals that the appearance is due to a combination of whitewash and clear-mirrored chips.
It’s located about 13km south of Chiang Rai. To get here, hop on one of the regular buses that run from Chiang Rai to Wiang Pa Pao (20B, hourly from 6.15am to 6.10pm).
To enter the temple, you must walk over a bridge and pool of reaching arms (symbolising desire), where inside, instead of the traditional Buddha life depictions, the artist has painted contemporary scenes representing samsara (the realm of rebirth and delusion). Images such as a plane smashing into the Twin Towers and, oddly enough, Keanu Reeves as Neo from The Matrix (not to mention Elvis, Hello Kitty and Superman, among others), dominate the one finished wall of this work in progress.
The temple suffered minor damage in an earthquake in 2014.