The realities of visiting the White Temple Chiang Rai

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So you are thinking of visiting White Temple Chiang Rai? Also known as Wat Rong Khun. This beautiful building lays just outside of Chiang Rai, on the side of the city closest to Chiang Mai. You can travel from Chiang Mai to White Temple pretty easily, you simply book a bus to Chiang Rai with a travel agent or you can go on an organised White Temple tour.

The beauty and splendour of this magnificent building lure tourists and travellers from all around the globe who are dying to visit the beautiful white temple. But everything is not as it seems at the White Temple Chiang Rai…

Tip read: Review: Chiang Rai Condotel

A warning

While staying at The Holiday Inn Chiangmai we met a lovely Chinese businessman. He was interested in where we would be going next and we told him we were waiting on a mini-bus to take us to Chiang Rai to go from Chiang Mai to White Temple then into Chiang Rai to stay.

“White Temple?” he asked.

chiang mai to white temple

Of course our answer was yes. The mini-bus would from Chiang Mai to White Temple stop at the White Temple Chiang Rai briefly before taking us into the city centre of Chiang Rai where we could go find our hotel. He proceeded to explain to us that the place would be overrun with Chinese tourists who had flocked south from China into Northern Thailand after seeing the movie Lost In Thailand. He said it was almost impossible to enjoy it with the number of people being so extremely high there. When inside he told us we would be very disappointed as they had modernised the temple and there were digital clocks, posters of batman and other artefacts that took away from the beauty of the temple.

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Getting from Chiang Mai to White Temple

We arrived at the White Temple from Chiang Mai after a few hours of driving through national parks and mountains. The bus parked up not too far from the White Temple and we could already see the hoards of people pushing their way around the queues and into the building. The route to get inside was rather complex and meant you would be waiting  to pay in the beating sun for as long as it took. We were not keen after our conversation with the Chinese businessman.

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chiang mai to white temple
The bus did not park far from the temple

Tip read: From Chiang Rai to Koh Samui in 16 hours

Alternative things to do

Without going inside you can still get an amazing view of the White Temple Chiang Rai. You can walk all around the front and admire the skull bollards, statues and more while you wait for the bus to leave. I managed to pose with a giant statue during our wait for the bus. There are stores and ATMs nearby too which was really handy in the incredible heat.

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chiang mai to white temple
Me posing with a statue at the White Temple

We did not feel like we missed out. The people going inside looked sweaty and impatient by the time it was their turn – we were glad not to be in their position. This is especially true if it was like the Chinese businessman said… that inside was all modern and took away from the overall feel of the temple. If you are planning a trip to the Chiang Rai White Temple how to get there is pretty simple if you put the plans into the hands of a tour company.

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Have you been to the White Temple Chiang Rai? What did you think of it?

Tip read: Chiang Mai things to do: Grand Canyon

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27 Comments

  • White temple has nice architecture and unique design. Photo of you with that statue is fun. Also Chinese businessman has guided you so nicely.

  • I’ve seen this temple on a lot of travel videos lately. It does get a lot of buzz and seems like a mix between modern and traditional. I guess it must be a hassle to get into such a popular attraction which can outweigh the benefits of visiting it.

  • I think I did visit the white temple when I was last in Bangkok, but then it wasn’t so crowded, so a good place to visit. This ‘businessman’ sounded a bit shady to me. I had a similar experience with a Thai taxi driver who kept trying to tell us another temple wasn’t open till noon! He only lied to take us to the floating market and get commission!

  • You didn’t go inside and you were already there? Didn’t you wonder why there are still so many people visiting?

    • It would have taken hours to wait in the queue and we had a bus waiting for us. It was not worth the risk. I already knew the answer why they were going in

  • I drove to Wat Ron Khun and it’s conveniently located on the side of the 1 road. I arrived at around 5-6 pm and there were about 50 people there. I can imagine if the tour company takes you early afternoon how hot and busy it would be – a cold coke or an M150 would be required!
    James recently posted…Bucharest to Suceava by TrainMy Profile

  • I’ve been dying to go visit the White Temple! That sucks that it was overrun with tourists, but I guess it just comes with the experience. I might try to go earlier in the day and hopefully avoid as much of the crowd as possible. Glad to you you don’t necessarily have to go inside to enjoy the visit!

  • I have read or heard so much about the white temple. It looks so magnificent but it can be a turn-off when there are so many tourists. I’m still interested to go, but maybe not on a peak season especially in the summer! Lucky for you to get a heads up from the Chinese businessman!

  • This temple looks really beautiful! Even if it is overrun by tourists like the man said, it is still worth it to check out and decide for yourself if its worth it or not! I guess you have to plan the time right or enjoy it from the outside.

  • I have seen and read a lot about this temple, but it still seems worth the visit regardless. Is there perhaps a better time to visit it when it’s not so crowded? I think the summer period is always a difficult time to visit in Thailand i,e Dec – Feb.

  • Yes, that always happens when some places become too touristy and popular. Good that you managed to find other interesting things to do. I think that the key to enjoying any place is to avoid the guidebooks. What is that statue you are posing with though… legs look like those of Iron Man.
    jitaditya recently posted…Sivasagar: A Walk Through 600 yearsMy Profile

  • Its hard to know anymore who is really telling the truth and who isn’t, but regardless of that fact- I would have been extremely irritated if I found Modern posters and paraphernalia inside of the temple. I like it when the preserve the history of the places because its so rich and unique to anything I have seen. I’m really disappointed 🙁 I’m not one for tourist traps, I like off the beaten path places. I do really appreciate the honesty, it makes me second guess myself in wanting to visit the white temple now with the hoards of people. Maybe I will wait a few years when the buzz dies down a bit.

  • This is so refreshing. So many people think travel is always so glamorous and it isn’t. There are times like these where places are overcrowded or things don’t go according to plan. It’s important for people to see the nitty gritty side to travel. 😉

  • This is one of the places I wish I’d gone to when I was in Thailand but didn’t have time. I’ve definitely gone to popular sites like this and not gone inside as it was too crowded, so I can relate. I had a similar experience of everything being uncomfortably crowded when I visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok – it was so hot and crowded I just did a very quick walk through and left. Thanks for sharing about this!
    Diana Chen recently posted…Immerse in Roman Culture With The Roman Guy’s Local Foodie Tour in TrastevereMy Profile

  • Thailand’s tourist places are chaotic and super exhausting. I had the similar experience when I was in Bangkok and visited the Grand Palace. It’s too chaotic, crowded and full of Chinese tourists. I had really terrible time as you can’t spend the considerable amount of time to appreciate it.

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