Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 must visit Buddhist Wats in Phuket

Much is written about the beauty of the Buddhist Wats around Thailand, especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai; but did you know that there are a few that you must also experience in Phuket? From spectacular to relaxing to downright strange, here’s a list of the best to visit Buddhist Wats in Phuket.

Wat Thepkanjonjit

This Buddhist Wat is in the heart of Phuket Old Town and is on the side of Rang Hill. The temple is split into two sites.

The first site is the more traditional Buddhist temple where there are daily offerings made to a Buddhist monk. This temple has the traditional ‘Luk Si Mah’ (metal globes) hanging outside, a popular Ganesha statue and then there is an enormous Golden Buddhist statue on top. The Buddhist statue may not be as big as 'Big Buddha' in Chalong but this Buddha shines and you are able to walk beneath it!

Adjacent to this there is a traditional Wat which can be reached by climbing up a set of steep stairs which has a banister which is actually a colourfully painted nine headed snake. Adjacent to this staircase is another mythical creature - but this one is gold with four heads!

After climbing these steps you will reach the Wat on the top of the hill. This Wat is protected by the traditional colourful statues (but not just one) - but every corner of the escarpment and each corner has a different creature! The wall supporting these larger figures is made up of smaller 'Yuks' and these are all different colours as well.

Once you’re on the top of the hill, relax and look around yourself - you are more than likely the only person there!

Wat Koh Sirey

This is a Buddhist Wat that is actually not on many maps of Phuket so if you choose to visit there may be nobody there.

Koh Sirey is an island to the East of Phuket Town that is reached by driving over a short bridge and is more known as a Fishing Village and a place to feed the wild monkeys.

Here there is a Wat that is on the very top of the hill (approximately 200m).

To reach the top one must walk up a winding road until you find some stone steps where there is a circle of smaller Buddhist statues. The next set of steps will take you to the actual Wat.

Here is the Large Reclining Buddha that is a special experience because the temple is usually empty – but if you are looking for size then the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok is bigger.

After paying respects to the Buddha you are able to walk around the outside of the Wat – and the view is spectacular. Here you are able to see the Big Buddha, Sapan Hin and Cape Panwa. The best view is at sunset because it can be quite beautiful to watch the sunset over Big Buddha – but I prefer to be on the beach with a Singha at that time so I usually go in the morning.

Wat Phra Tong

This is a Wat that is more central in Phuket.

The attraction here is that the main Buddhist statue here is actually buried in the ground!

The head is the only part of the statue that is actually on display and the story of how the statue was discovered by a young boy with his cow is really quite interesting.

The boy tied his cow to an outcrop and returned home – and died of a mysterious illness. The father went to collect the cow and found that it had died while being tied to the rock.
The father returned home and spent a sleepless night. On the next day the father returned to the spot and cleared the area where the cow had been attached.

It was not a rock but an outcrop of a Buddhist statue! The Governor of Phuket ordered the immediate excavation of the statue but they were unable to do so because of ants, bees, a land slide and many other obstacles so it was decided that in the end, the statue should stay in the ground.
Wat Chalong

This is the most spectacular Buddhist Wat because there are so many well kept buildings and each is differently decorated in Phuket. Although spectacular, it also means that it is the busiest.

There is a number of Buddhist Wats within the grounds and they are all a little different, are really quite beautiful and are all clearly looked after.

The most interesting time to visit is during the Chalong Temple Fair is either in February or  May when there is a Temple Fair when the grounds are scattered with small stalls selling a great many number of different things – from candy-floss to Bugs to Buddhist statues to fighting fish and so much more.

Wat Phra Nang Sang

This is a temple that is the centre of Phuket and seems to be spread over an enormous site that seems to keep getting bigger.

At the front of the Wat there are two large ‘Yuks’ – which protect the temple from Demons and Evil and next to this is an enormous statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.

On wandering in towards the back you will also find a Golden Reclining Buddha much like the one at Wat Koh Sirey. But the difference here is that there is an actual mummified body of a monk beneath it!

I have endeavoured to find out more information about the monk but I am unable to find any explanation about why his body was preserved here, please leave a comment if you find out what it is!

On investigating further you will come upon another Wat with the Traditional paintings of the stories of the Buddha but this time the Wat is protected by two Yuks each carrying an AK47 – talk about strange!

Phuket certainly is an interesting place to investigate – request a car to take you on this trip when you choose to stay at Cape Panwa Hotel – a minibus can be hired for three hours for 1,500 Baht and a subsequent hour for 200 Baht an hour. Ask the staff at the Front Office to assist you or print off the Google map below.

Please remember to show respect in all of these temples by taking your shoes off, if you enter, and leaving a donation when you leave.