I was hungover bad. I didn’t want to go to a temple. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see the sights, I love to travel, but I was viciously hungover. I didn’t want to get out of bed at 8am to see another temple; once you see one…you’ve seen them all. Right?

It’s just another temple….that’s where I was very wrong.

I was up in Chiang Rai for Songkran (the Thai new year) and the night before was a blur. I remember getting to the bar. I remember my wife singing….I remember the fourth bottle of wine… I remember my friend falling into another table of patrons (hilarious because he’s fat)…but I don’t remember getting back to the hotel. Here I am now in a car going to some temple.

Then I see it; Wat Rong Khun.

Wow.

“Are we going there?” I ask. “Do you see another white temple?” my wife sarcastically comments. She gives me that look; the one where she thinks I’m a piece of shit, about to ruin her day due to my adolescent behavior the night before. Luckily, I soon forget the hangover due to the glorious structure in front of me.

The temple was gleaming. It looked like a fantasy house from Narnia or a Brothers Grimm novel. I could see the Thai influence, the sae ma on the roof trim, the chaw fah on the top of the structure; yet it still looked like nothing I have ever seen.  It was so bright. The sky was completely clear and it was a scorching Thai summer day. The temple was tough to look at without sunglasses.

As I walked around to the front I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. It was marvelous. This is the kind of architecture that makes anyone a good photographer. All pictures look good.

Once I got to the entrance I was blown away by the hands and skulls in a pool of death. Agony and sorrow are trying to emerge from hell and almost grab at your feet as you walk over a bridge to get to the main building. The attention to detail is amazing. Some hands were even holding a bowl with some coins in it; I guess money rules Hades as well.

The temple includes everything. There’s a demon king, monsters representing passion, 16 magic lotuses surrounding the building, the 4 elements of the earth, and even George W Bush; how else do you represent pure evil? Of course Buddhism is strong here; the temple has numerous references to the Buddhist Commandments, the followers of Buddha, and the 8 paths of Buddhism.

This is the best modern temple by far. Only beaten by the greatness that comes with years of being erect…..wait…what I mean is….temples that have been built years ago and are still standing may trump Wat Rong Khun due to the mystery of the times and how it was constructed. But the brashness of this temple, the blatant use of the underworld, the depiction of George W., the sheer balls of it is just so impressive. I was blown away once I saw it….from the car leading up to it. It grabs you.  Even after I got home I just stared at the photos. It may have references to modern times and faith, but the temple brought me back to an era when art and construction were one in the same. Fashion and function blend together beautifully.

A must see when traveling up north…..actually “up north” (Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai) are must sees anyways, so this temple should be on everyone’s to do list. This is not “just another temple”