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Chiang Rai and the beauty of Wat Rong Khun

Chiang Rai and the beauty of Wat Rong Khun

A Buddhist image for the year of the rabbit.

Preeyanoot Jittawong
Chiang Rai, the northernmost province of Siam or Thailand was established by King Meng Rai 743 years ago. It was the founding point of the Thai Lanna Kingdom and full of items of historical interest.
Chiang Rai provides many fascinating tourist destinations to attract visitors to the land of Lanna culture, temples and its outstanding areas of natural beauty in the province’s hills and waterfalls. There are also many different hill tribes living in the province and trips to experience their rural life style should be placed high on any visitor’s agenda. Local mountain streams provide the ideal opportunity to enjoy bamboo rafting and to see beautiful scenery along each riverbank; and there are many places for tourists to buy the mandatory souvenirs of their visit before going home.
When visiting Chiang Rai you should not miss the opportunity to go to the Mae Sai border trade area 62 kilometers away from Chiang Rai city. Here lies the northernmost point of Thailand, at the entrance to the Friendship Bridge over the Mae Sai River, which links Mae Sai with Tachilek, Burma. Citizens of both countries are able to travel freely in both directions, including tourists who are able to cross to Tachilek and enjoy shopping for the low priced local products on sale there. The most notable of these are CDs and DVD’s, electrical products, fashion handbags, jade and rubies. However, buyers should carefully check these products before deciding to purchase because much are fakes or pirated copies; nevertheless, tourists still like to shop there, convinced they are getting a bargain.
Crossing to Burma reveals the Burmese lifestyle to be much simpler than that of the Thai people. Burmese men like to wear a sarong while most women prefer to wear a long skirt and cover their faces with powder and chew betel nut.

A Burmese man wearing a sarong.
Another noteworthy place in Chiang Rai province is Wat Rong Khun located at Tambon Aw Don Chai in Muang, Chiang Rai. It is a temple created by a well known Thai artist, Ajarn Chalermchai Khositpipat. This temple is very beautiful with its many artistic decorations. Ajarn Chalermchai funded the construction of this temple by selling his paintings. Each stage of the construction was very delicate as he insisted on getting the most perfect and beautiful art on the temple which consequently took a long time in the creation. Ajarn Chalermchai said, “I will try to construct this temple with the intention of creating the world’s most beautiful temple. I never personally collect money from anyone and donations are limited to be a maximum of 10,000 baht, so if anyone receives an envelope asking for donations in excess of that figure they should decline to donate at all, as the person making the request is certainly not bona fide.” Wat Rong Khun will almost certainly be one of world most beautiful temples after completion.
Another beautiful temple that is certainly worth a visit can be found on the way to Chiang Mai when you pass into Phayao province; and is known as Wat Analayo Doi Busarakham. It is located in San Pa Bong Village, Tambon San Pa Muang in Muang Phayao and covers 2,800 rai of land. According to the history of this temple’s construction, Phra Ajarn Phaiboon Sumangkalo, while he was in Wat Rattana Wanaram had a vision of golden sand blowing into Wat Analayo Doi Busarakham and the whole temple almost became a golden temple. He then saw through the golden light and realized it was a hill. Residents often see a circle of light on that hill which makes it appear to be a golden. This phenomenon usually takes place on important Buddhist religious days, so this temple was constructed for practicing the dharma and took six years to finish. There is a circle at the head of the stairway to the temple, which is divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac. People like to set up a coin on their own birth-sign and pray for good luck and if anyone can set up the coin, his or her wish will come true. Around the temple, there is a beautiful Buddha image made during the Sukhothai period, as well as other Buddha images in various postures fashioned delicately in Thai artistic style.

Ajarn Chalermchai Khositpipat, well known Thai artist.

Wat Rong Khun and its beautiful art.

Pedicabs are the fun way to go sight seeing.

Customs house at Thai-Burmese border, Mae Sai.

The bridge across the Mae Sai River linking two countries.

This is Burma.

Music and movie CDs favored amongst tourists.

Lively trade on the Burmese side.