The Big Buddha at Phuket’s Wat Chalong Temple

a person praying at Buddha for good luck

The first time I caught sight of the Big Buddha through one of the marbled windows at Wat Chalong Temple, its sheer enormity left me in awe. Its imposing presence dominated the landscape, living up to its name in every aspect. Set against the serene backdrop of the temple, the Big Buddha seemed to exude a profound sense of spirituality, its grandeur magnified by the intricate details of its surroundings. Standing before it, I felt a deep sense of reverence and humility, reminded of the enduring power of faith and devotion. In that moment, amidst the tranquil ambiance of the temple, the Big Buddha stands as a timeless symbol of enlightenment in Phuket.

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Phuket’s Wat Chalong Temple

I didn’t schedule any tours the morning after we arrived because Steven had just returned from the US two days ago. He then hopped on another plane from South Korea to Thailand, and I wasn’t sure how tired he was. So we slept in.

May

May is a tiny Thai young woman, probably in her mid-twenties, but it’s hard to tell. She greeted me as I stepped into the open-air lobby of the hotel—doors on three sides, one that stretched the length of the room.

“Kap-kun-ka”, she said with a slight bow. Palms pressed tightly together. I tried to repeat what she said, and she smiled and repeated it. kap-kun-ka. I did mimic both her hands, the words the deepness of her bow. Kapunka is hello in Thai. And the whole greeting is called the Wai.

After I told her we’d like to see the Big Buddha, Chalong Temple, have some lunch (with sticky rice and mango), and maybe walk along Karon Beach, she suggested we hire a taxi for 4 hours. She was waiting at the front desk every morning to ask me about our adventures the day before. She taught me a few words and suggested what we should do, go, and eat. But we talked about lots of things besides Phuket, too. She was curious, one of my favorite characteristics. May and I became fast friends!!

Taxis generally run about 800 Baht for two people, so 2,000 Baht for 4 hours is a steal. Virgil, I’m sure I am not spelling that right. They showed up, and we were on our way. We passed by a couple of temples, and I asked what temple it was each time. He’d tell me, wave his hand, and say, “No good.” Virgil dropped us off and pointed to where he would wait for us. Chalong Temple did not disappoint. It’s a temple complex with several buildings on it.

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Dress Code & Behavior

As with all Buddhist temples, a strict dress code must always be followed.

  1. Shoes are never allowed inside a temple, so be sure to leave yours outside with all the others.
  2. Women are required to cover their shoulders and wear pants or skirts that extend down to their knees.
  3. A certain level of respect is expected, Speak in a quiet tone within the temple and don’t touch the statues or other Buddhist relics.
  4. Sari-like scarfs are available for free at the entrance.

Wat Chalong or Chalong Temple was built at the beginning of the 19th century.  Its real name is Wat Chaiyathararam, but you won’t see that on any road signs.

Chalong Temple is the largest temple in Phuket and the most visited. We witnessed just as many locals praying as tourists. The only difference was that the locals were doing it correctly.

savior The Big Buddha at Phuket's Wat Chalong Temple

Monks are Highly Regarded in Thailand

Many people come to pay their respects to the founding Monks of Wat Chalong. Two names show up several times: Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang. They both led the fighting against the Chinese rebellion in 1876. Kinda changes your outlook on that whole “non-violent” monk stereotype doesn’t it.

You can make a flower offering (donations accepted) or light candles or incense. You can also purchase firecrackers, which will be placed inside a large kiln and fired off with a thunderous boom or jingle sticks in a cup until the first one falls out. Then you take the corresponding number from the cabinet on the wall for your fortune.

But the ritual of gold leafing the statues of the monks mesmerized me. I hadn’t seen that before. It was quite beautiful watching the care people took in placing their little strips of gold. A slight breeze came in through the open doors that blew the thin strips back and forth.

The most recent building on the grounds of Wat Chalong is a 200-foot tall “Chedi,” which houses a splintered bone from Buddha on the top floor. I didn’t know what a Chedi was, so I looked it up. Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa, mainly used in Thailand. So I looked up “stupa” too.

A stupa (Sanskrit: stūpa “heap”) is a mound-like or hemispherical structure containing relics (śarīra – typically the remains of Buddhist monks or nuns) and used as a place of meditation.

The walls and ceilings are decorated with beautiful paintings illustrating the life of Buddha, as well as tons of donated golden statues. The view from the third floor of Wat Chalong Chedi terrace gives you a great panorama of the entire complex and the mountains in the distance.

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Wat-Chalong-Temple-Phuket-Thailand-519x778 The Big Buddha at Phuket's Wat Chalong Temple

Comments

  1. Tracsena Grant

    I love your blogs. They are always very informative. Kai’re was studying Buddhism in World History so these pictures were great to go along with the unit. The temples are so elaborate. You are blessed to be able to see and share your travels with the world.

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