Already from the airplane it can be seen in the west, the 69 metres high, shining white statue of Wat Huay Pla Kang – called big Buddha Chiang Rai.
The statue was built only a few years ago and is already a very popular destination for tourists from Thailand, China and the western countries. The complex is still under construction, but in the meantime a white temple and the Chinese pagoda have been completed in addition to the large white statue. The abbot Phra Ajahn Phok Chokthisawaso started the construction of the temple in 2005, which was recognized by the Office of National Buddhism in 2009.
The white statue of Guanyin
Buddha statues in Thailand often have a gentle and almost androgynous face. Also here the face appears rather feminine. No wonder, because it is actually a statue of Guanyin, the Chinese goddess of mercy.
In Thai Buddhism, Guanyin (sometimes written Guan Yin) is a Bodhisattva, that is an enlightened person who has continued to help people on their path to Nirvana. The goddess is a compassionate being and responds to prayers that ask for help. Which explains why the statue attracts so many Thai people. For foreign tourists the widely visible location on the hill and the special design in Chinese Lanna style are the most significant factors.
From the parking lot you can either walk up the large staircase bordered by nagas or take a small shuttle bus to the entrance of the statue. Already from there one has a great view. With an elevator for 40 Baht one reaches the inside of the head. Unfortunately the staircase is closed, although it would be very attractive for me from a sportive point of view. Chinese dressed ladies and crazy stucco decorations welcome the visitors when leaving the elevator. The view through the narrow eyes or small windows at the back is impressive.
The Chinese pagoda Pokchokthama-Chedi
The 9-storey Chinese pagoda next to it is striking. The construction is said to have taken 999 days. You have to know that 9 is an important lucky number (number plates with 9999 were sold expensively or even auctioned in the past), which fits well to the story of the abbot’s dream. Phra Ajahn Pokchok dreamed of the building and a short time later a donation came from Taiwan for exactly this pagoda.
Inside there is a large wooden guanyin statue. I stood in front of it and tried to imagine how big the tree must have been from which this statue was carved. Or is it actually composed of several pieces?
There are more, but smaller wooden statues of the goddess in the galleries.
The most important questions and answers about the Big Buddha Chiang Rai
How do I get to Wat Huay Pla Kang in Chiang Rai?
There are very good flight and bus connections to Chiang Rai. Since it is a tourist traffic junction, there is a correspondingly large number of accommodations. I prefer Booking.com because of the very good filters and good prices.
There are no buses or Songthaews to the Huay Pla Kang complex. Therefore you have to rent a scooter or take a taxi or tuk-tuk. Bicycles are often rented in hotels, which is a reasonable alternative for the approx. 5 km from city center.
Taxis can be booked very well with the Grab App. It works like Uber and gives you the security not to be ripped off, because you can see the price in advance. Otherwise I recommend to always ask for the taxi meter to be switched on (in Thai “sai meeter khrap”).
For self-drivers from the region Wat Huay Pla Klang is easy to reach via the new Chiang Rai Bypass, which only passes a few hundred meters from the place. On GoogleMaps you can find the temple here.
When is Wat Huay Pla Kang open?
Opening hours are daily from 7 to 21.30 hours. The atmosphere is best enjoyed early in the morning, when there are no rice groups on the road yet. In the evening hours the buildings and the statue are illuminated.
Must tickets for the Big Buddha be booked in advance?
The entrance to the facility is free of charge. Only the lift into the head of the big white statue costs 40 Baht.
Wat Huay Pla Kang is wheelchair accessible.
What hotels are nearby?
My tip is the Baan JaoKorKluay very close to Wat Huay Pla Kang. Especially lovely decorated and equipped with best ratings.
At Booking.com I recommend to use the excellent filters to see the best selection. Nustay or Trip.com are alternatives that you should definitely give a try to get the best prices.
Which tourist attractions are there in the neighbourhood?
What restaurants are there in the neighbourhood?
My extra tip: There’s a great café nearby. The Akha-Cottage (on Google Maps) is situated on a hill and offers not only an unusual view of the white Buddha from the side, but also delicious coffee and cake. Here you can also hang out – in nets over the forest.
My tip for a trip to the temples in Chiang Rai
Get your Guide offers excursions with English speaking guides from Chiang Mai. The visit of the White Temple and Black House is combined with the Big Buddha in one day. So you can easily enjoy a tour to the best sights of Chiang Rai.
Suggestions for appropriate behaviour in temples:
- Adequate clothing is important, which means long trousers or a long skirt over the knees (a kind of sarong does the same) and a top that covers the shoulders.
- Shoes are taken off when entering homes in Thailand. So of course also when entering temples.
- Do not stretch out your feet towards a Buddha statue (not even towards a person). The soles of our feet are the “lowest and dirtiest” part of us humans. They are not used to point at others, and certainly not at an image of a saint.
- Keep calm and do not speak loudly.
- No hugs and kisses (which is frowned upon in Thai public anyway)
- Temples are smoke-free zones