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Finding Christina Helene

Chiang Rai White Temple Thailand

The White Temple (Wat Tong Khun)

Chiang Rai is popular in the backpacking world for being the home of the White Temple. The White Temple (or Wat Rong Khun) was created by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat and opened to the public in 1997. The temple grounds are in constant construction and the whole area will finish in 2070. Videos of the artist himself make him appear slightly crazy, in my opinion. In other words, the guy is an artistic genius.

The actual temple is much smaller in real life than it appears in photos. (Isn’t this the case with most famous photos? Was anyone else surprised by how small the Sphinx is in Cairo?) The bridge in front of the temple is meant to represent us rising above our vices and desires (the reaching hands) as we shake off our worldly connections to greed and temptation on the way to happiness.

Most photos from this temple are the impossible shot of a beautiful girl walking on a white bridge over a lake of hands outstrecthing toward the sun. In reality, the bridge is packed with tourists holding umbrellas to protect them from the sun. There was an employee standing on the temple side of the bridge with a megaphone ushering the tourists along and not letting anyone stop to take pictures. A picture on your own on the bridge? Forget about it.

Inside the temple are paintings of the artist’s idea of the wickedness of humans. Celebrities both fictional and real are painted deviously and selfishly destroying the world. No photographs are allowed inside – saving something for those who travel to the temple to reflect on in a sacred space.