Friday, October 19, 2012

Wat Chalong – The Most Important Buddhist Temple in Phuket

The Temple located in Chalong ranks as the most important of the 29 Wats in Phuket and is dedicated to two highly venerable monks, Luang Pho Chaem (หลวงพ่อแช่ม) and Luang Pho Chuang (หลวงพ่อช่วง), who with their knowledge of herbal medicine helped the injured of a tin miners rebellion in 1876.  The Wat was built over a century ago and sees local coming everyday to pray and ask for Buddha’s help and guidance in their lives.  In addition, because of its beauty and serenity, many foreigners flock to the picturesque Temple and hopefully take away a better understanding of Buddhism.
Wat Chalong

As you can see the temple grounds consist of many halls that contain a variety of statues from the past.  Among them are Poh Than Jao Wat; Ta Khee-lek (grandpa Khee-lek), a famous local who won many lotteries after consulting the Poh Than Jao Wat statue; Luang Poh Cham, Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex-abbots of the temple.  It is traditional to paste small gold leaf squares on the statues of the three abbots in tribute or offering for good luck.

Dominating the temple is the Grand Pagoda, officially named Phramahathatchedi-Jomthaibarameepragat, contains a splinter of Lord Buddha’s bone and many pictures depicting scenes of his life, along with a vast variety of statues of Buddha many poses.  You will want to take your time exploring this cool, airy pagoda that seems to always be blessed with a cooling breeze.   The following pictures give you a small sense of the magnificence of this Pagoda and its interior.  There are even some shots taken from the upper balcony of the grounds below.

There an 'exhibition home' of Luang Poh Cham which features lifelike human-sized wax models of Luang Poh Cham, Luang Poh Chuang, Luang Poh Gleum, and Luang Pu Thuad along with antique Thai furniture, and Benjarong (Thai porcelain designed in five colours), while the famous 'magic' walking-stick of Luang Poh Cham is kept at the current Abbot's dwelling.  This is another building worth an extended visit to enjoy some quite mediation in cooling air-conditioning.

When first you visit Wat Chalong you maybe started by the sound of firecrackers, but do not be alarmed, this is a thanks from a local that has had their prayers answered.  And the sound is muted because the firecrackers are set off inside a large domed enclosure expressly built for this purpose.   An example maybe a man who is suffering from a incapacitating illness will go to the wat to pray for a return to good condition. Once he recovers, he will give thanks by lighting firecrackersat the Wat.

As I mentioned above there are many buildings within the growns of the wat and it is recommended that you explore each for its unique qualities.  The hall containing the statues of the three abbots is very interesting and you will see many Thai’s inside and outside making offerings and praying.  One practice is to shake a vase filled with numbered sticks until one of the sticks falls out, this is then your fortune.  Once the stick has fallen to the floor, you go to a cabinet around the corner to retrieve your fortune from the appropriate numbered bin.  You will need a Thai who can interpret your fortune since each is written in Thai.  Having done this in many Buddist temples I have visited both here and in Japan I know that you sometimes get fortunes that you would rather not see come true, but there is a solution for this, you will need to carefully fold the fortune into a strip and tie it to the appropriate tree outside.

Just outside this hall in front is a great photo spot with a large Elephant staute that seems very popular with tourists.

Of course before going to this hall you will want to stop at the store to purchase the proper offerings, usually flowers, incense and perhaps even the gold leaf to stick on the statues.  Fear not if you forgot to get cash, this is always the convenient ATM machine available. 

Although Wat Chalong is one of Phuket’s many tourist attractions and can get very busy during the middle of the day it is also a place of peace and serenity to be enjoyed by all who visit.  An important point to remember is that it is a very religious site in Buddhism and visit should dress appropriately, no bear shoulders or midriffs or short-shorts.  If you are looking for a beautiful site where you can find a place to reflect on the day, then Wat Chalong as with other Wats on the island may be just what the doctor ordered.

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