During our Thailand trip Matt and I visited one of Chiang Rai's most famous attractions, Wat Rong Khun, otherwise known as the White Temple. While most other buddhist temples are gold, seemingly Thailand's favorite color, this building is unique by being stark white. While Wat Rong Khun is a functioning prayer site, it is also a privately owned art exhibit. The views expressed by the artwork seemed to more from the artist's point of view than the Buddhist religion. Although Matt and I had previously visited Buddhist temples in Japan, we were left constantly confused about the rites and customs witnessed in this specific Thai temple.
Me in my church-appropriate dress thinking I was ready to go!
Our confusion began with simply attempting to enter the temple grounds. There were turnstiles, but no apparent ticket booth. There were people at the entrance who stopped us, indicating we needed something else. They spoke to us in English, so we nodded and walked away. Matt asked - "Did you catch what they said?" Me - "No, I hoped you did!" We were flummoxed, what were we missing? We tried entering again, only to met by yelling "Too short!" We figured out the problem- my dress was too short! In order to enter the temple grounds we first had to rent a scarf that would cover more of my legs. We were not the only ones with this problem- many foreign women also rocked the white skirts. We easily found the booming business of scarf rental across the street and were able to finally progress closer to the temple.
NOW I'm ready to go!
Not only were the buildings and sculptures bright white plaster, they were also inlaid with mirror pieces to produce a glimmering, mirage-like effect. The message seemed to be that that modern, pop culture led to hell, and that guardians protected heaven from their influence. I could be completely wrong - but we absolutely saw Batman's decapitated head and Wolverine's hand emerging from a pit of hell.
Although there were some creepy elements, the buildings were really a thing of beauty with insane amounts of detail. We admired as much as we could before the hazy heat got to us and we had to find our taxi again.