Everyone who heard we were travelling north to the Laos boarder told us to stop in Chiang Rai for one specific reason: to visit the White Temple, or to call it the proper name "Wat Rong Khun". Boy, were they right - talk about an amazing, if not rather sinister, sight.
This is actually a combined Buddhist and Hindu temple and designed by Chalermchai Kositpipat. Construction began in 1997 and continues to have new sections added with a view that it may never be finished (rumour suggests a completion date of 2070).
Comprising stone and brick painted white and millions of pieces of mirror affixed on top to offer an otherworldly shine against the beating of the sun.
Almost as soon as you walk towards the temple, you are struck by just how Gothic it is, with sinister heads hanging from tress, and carved into road bollards. It also feels strangely daunting to cross the bridge - especially when you realise that below the bridge is full of hands reaching out begging to escape hell, as well as many ghoulish creatures and skulls hiding within the hands too!
It feels strangely daunting to cross the bridge - especially when you realise that below the bridge is full of hands reaching out begging to escape hell, as well as many ghoulish creatures hiding within the hands too! The temple is surrounded by a large lake guarded by water demons, which further reflects the magnificence of the temple.
Once across the bridge you meet with Death himself before the entrance to Temple (from which point we were sadly unable to take photos).
And once you walk towards the exit, you see a wishing well and some the world's most ornate toilets:
Entry to the temple is free, although you are encouraged to leave a donation, or to buy something at the gift shop.
The White Temple is a striking contrast to the Chiang Rai's lesser well-known sight, the Black House