Boasting a sizable Buddhist population, Phuket is home to an array of mystical wats and elaborate shrines. Set upon sprawling grounds, the temples are a captivating sight to behold; take a tour within its compounds, and you will chance upon towering statues, vibrantly coloured buildings and ornate interiors. It presents a sight not to be missed – particularly for travellers with a thirst for discovering the intriguing religion and culture of the Thais.
PHUKET BIG BUDDHA
Behold the magnificent Big Buddha of Phuket! The impressive statue is easily sighted from afar – bedecked in white Burmese jade marble, it stands at a height of forty-five metres upon the peak of Mount Nagakerd. Venture up a road measuring about six kilometres from Chaofa Road West, and it will lead you towards the site. Once you have arrived at the summit, take a moment to rest in the peaceful setting. Located away from the busy city areas of Phuket, you will be surrounded by soothing dharma music, chiming bells, Buddhist flags flapping in the wind and some of the best views over the island.
The rich colours, beautiful roof structure and well-manicured lawns of Wat Chalong present an impressive sight. An exploratory tour of the grounds will lead you to the main temple, several buildings and a towering chedi. A must-see site within Wat Chalong is the Grand Pagoda, a stunning structure decorated with wall paintings depicting the life story of Buddha. Take your time to explore this site at a leisurely pace; its cool and breezy interiors makes it a popular spot among visitors at the temple. Make your way to the top of the tower of the chedi, for it offers sweeping vistas of rolling green hills, Radar Hill and the renowned Big Buddha.
This popular cultural attraction draws a sizable crowd made up of travellers and locals, so avoid the crowds by scheduling a visit in the early morning or late afternoon.
WAT PHRANANG SANG
Believed to have been constructed more than 500 years ago, Wat Phranang Sang is said to be the oldest temple on the island. The origins of this temple is shrouded in myths and tales; some claim that a Thai ruler built it for his wife. Others state that it was constructed in honour of a princess who was wrongly framed and executed, and shed white blood at her death, giving rise to an alternative name of the temple: Wat Luad Khao (White Blood Temple).
Ornate and coloured in rich hues, the sprawling compounds of the temple are a joy to explore. Take your time to explore the grounds, keeping your eyes peeled for statues of a reclining Buddha, revered monks and Phuket’s celebrated heroines, Lady Chan and Lady Mook.
Step into the grounds of Wat Srisoonthorn, and your eyes will be drawn towards the striking sight of a large, golden Buddha statue in a reclining position. Nine smaller Buddha images sit nearby, all positioned differently to face the entrance of the temple.
It is interesting to explore the significance of the reclining position of the Buddha statue. This pose is of immense importance to Buddhists as it represents Lord Buddha in a stage of dreaming, which occured after he stopped a six-year long duration of self-mortification. At this point, he had a dream which made him realise that he was enlightened and ready to offer help to ease the sufferings of others.
WAT THAM TA PAN
Embark on an eye-opening journey through heaven and hell at the unique Wat Tham Ta Pan. There is an air of spookiness to the temple, heightening its fear factor. The temple offers representations of heaven and hell in two settings. A Chinese dragon guards the entrance of a cave that signifies heaven. Emerge from this cave, and you will find yourself in “hell” – a garden filled with statues depicting gory scenes of torture and suffering. The images are impressionable, and the atmosphere eerie, so this attraction may not be suitable for families travelling with young children.
WAT BIANG RANG
A cultural exploration of Phuket does not have to be limited to the grounds of the island. Venture offshore towards Phang Nga for a worthwhile visit to discover Wat Biang Rang. Don a pair of comfy shoes, for a fair amount of walking awaits. Phang Nga’s vast, emerald landscape lends an air of tranquility to the temple. Make your way up to a towering Guan Yin statue, with steps leading uphill to reach a large Buddha statue. The intricate designs of the massive statues does not fail to impress, and the views over picturesque Phang Nga town are sure to take your breath away.
Note: You will be asked to remove your shoes when entering certain areas within the compounds of the shrines and temples. Avoid donning revealing clothing. Ladies in shorts may be asked to put on a wrap or scarf over their legs.
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