Phuket is most famous for its remarkable beaches and landscape, vibrant nightlife and cuisine, but this tropical island has a lot more to discover, with a rich, historical and cultural heritage.

There are dozens of Buddhist temples in Phuket, the oldest dating back over 500 years. These temples, ‘Wats’ in Thai, have traditionally been at the centre of community life. The majority of Thai people are Buddhist and visit the Wat on special occasions, to make merit, to worship, and to pray for peace and prosperity.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to visit, tourists are welcome. Explore on your own, or take a day tour to see some of the finest, and learn more about their history.

The Big Buddha

In the south of Phuket, the famous seated Maravija Buddha statue can be seen for miles as he sits majestically atop the Nakkerd Hills between Kata and Chalong. The Big Buddha’s height is 45 meters and it glistens in the sunlight with white Burmese marble. Take a ride up to the top where the panoramic views look out to Phuket Town, Karon Beach, Kata, and Chalong Bay, it’s an incredible sight to see.

Wat Srisoonthorn

Over in Thalang, the 29-meter-high Sleeping Buddha is a must for culture lovers. Unique for its reclining position it signifies the Lord Buddha in the dreaming stage, the point at which he achieved enlightenment. Small Buddha statues welcome you inside, and standing guard are huge images of a Thai giant, lions, and phets – thin elongated ghosts. According to ancient Thai myths if a person committed a crime, they could look forward to being a phet in the afterlife, how scary is that!

Wat Phra Thong

At Wat Phra Thong you can see a golden Buddha statue half-buried in the ground. Why it is half-buried seems to be a mystery, but there are various folk tales of attempts made to liberate him. The most interesting story is that during the invasion of Thalang town by Burmese invaders in the 1700’s, they tried to dig the Buddha out of the ground but were attacked each time by swarms of hornets, eventually giving up.

Wat Chalong

Built in the 19th century, Wat Chalong is the largest temple of all, and most visited. Thai tourists come to pray, worship, learn about Buddhism, and pay respects to the monks who established the Wat, among them Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang.

There are lots of fascinating legends surrounding this temple, one tells of how, in 1876, Luang Phor Cham, the Abbott at the time, helped in the rebellion between Phuket locals and Chinese immigrant mine workers. If you want to know more about this and of the miracles performed there, you’ll have to visit.

Don’t miss the main attraction, the 60 meters tall ‘Chedi’, as it contains a splintered bone from Buddha. The walls are painted with murals depicting scenes from the Jataka, tales of Buddha’s previous lives. If you’re feeling energetic, climb to the top floor terrace of the Chedi, it gives the best views over the temple grounds.

It’s not always peaceful at the Wat, prepare to jump out of your skin as noisy firecrackers suddenly shatter the quiet atmosphere. Thai people love to set firecrackers off and they’ll use any excuse, an auspicious day, a win on the lottery, or a funeral. It’s believed the noise scares away evil spirits and indicates prosperity, the more firecrackers the better your life improves. Whatever the reason, they are very loud!

Rules for Temple Sightseeing

When visiting any of the Buddhist temples be aware there is a strict dress code. Shoes are never allowed inside; you will see a place to leave them outside along with everyone else’s.
Women must cover their shoulders and wear trousers or skirts that cover their knees. Always show respect, as if you were in a church, this means speak quietly and don’t touch the statues or other Buddhist relics.


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