Quiz time! Where in the world can you find a large mural depicting Michael Jackson, the Terminator, a transformer, Freddy Kruger, Neo from the Matrix and my personal favorite, Harry Potter?
I bet your first guess wasn’t a temple in northern Thailand.
Of course, Wat Rong Khun isn’t like other temples in Thailand. To start, it wasn’t built hundreds of years ago to house monks or enshrine a relic from the Buddha. It isn’t bathed in red, blue and gold decorative elements, as most other wats in the country.
And I’m definitely sure you can’t find an image of Harry Potter in other temples. (Trust me, I would have noticed.)
Just 20 years ago, this site housed a wat was in a state of disrepair when a contemporary Thai artist named Chalermchai Kositpipat purchased it for restoration. He wanted to create his own version of a traditional Thai Buddhist temple, but infuse it with modern elements and pop culture symbols.
Best of all, he wanted to make it free to visit and study in. To date, he’s spent over $1 million of his own money on the project and it’s estimated that his designs will take another 50 years to complete. He’s not exactly a saint though – he believes by constructing such a magnificent wat, Buddha will reward him with immortal life.
The complex now is made up of several structures, including the sparkling white Ubosot, or main building, which represents heaven. To reach it, you most cross the bridge of the cycle of rebirth over a lake of thousands of outstretched hands symbolizing unrestrained desire (or Hell, according to my guide Ung) and then enter the gates of heaven, guarded by two figures from Buddhist mythology.
But enough with all the descriptions. No words from me will do Wat Rong Khun justice – it needs to be seen to be believed. It is the most photogenic place I’ve ever been, so I’m going to let my photos do the talking!
(And if you’re looking for those epic murals, click here to see photos. They don’t let you take photos inside. Also, did I mention Kung Fu Panda was in there too?)
Are you into modern takes on classic architecture?
Would you visit Wat Rong Khun?