Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wat Chalong - Phuket

In Phuket, there are 29 Buddhist temples spread around the island. In fact, this small island is also home to many other religions. There are Hindu and Sikh temples, Christian churches, mosques and Chinese shrines. Outside the wats there are also many more Buddhist shrines.
The most important of the 29 buddhist temples of Phuket is Wat Chalong (Thai: วัดฉลอง or วัดไชยธาราราม), located in the tambon Chalong, Mueang Phuket district. It is dedicated to two highly venerable monks, Luang Poh Chaem (หลวงพ่อแช่ม) and Luang Poh Chuang (หลวงพ่อช่วง), who with their knowledge of herbal medicine helped the injured of a tin miners rebellion in 1876.
Wat Chalong is about 8 km south of Phuket City. Travel along Chao Fah Nok Road (Chao Fa West Rd) from the Central Festival mall, and you will see the temple on the left side of the road. If you are coming from Chalong Circle, take the same road heading towards town, and you will see the temple on your right.
Wat Chalong has been extending a warm welcome to visitors for over a century. Locals come to pray and Westerners come to learn something about Buddhism. The temple is open from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon.
Poh Than Jao Wat is one of the more important Buddhist statues in Wat Chalong. It is located in the westerly old hall of the temple, with two statues of an elderly gentleman called Ta Khee-lek (grandpa Khee-lek), a famous local who won many lotteries after consulting the Poh Than Jao Wat statue. Another statue in this hall is called Nonsi.
One of the temple's halls features a gilt-covered statue of Luang Poh Chaem and this busy hall also contains statues of Luang Poh Chuang and Luang Poh Gleum, all ex-abbots of the temple. 
The Grand Pagoda dominating the temple contains a splinter of Lord Buddha's bone and is officially named Phramahathatchedi-Jomthaibarameepragat. The pagoda is decorated with wall paintings depicting the Buddha's life story and also features various Buddha images. Take your time in the pagoda; it is a breezy, cool location and one which is very popular with visitors to the temple.
There is also an air-conditioned 'exhibition home' of Luang Poh Chaem which features lifelike human-sized wax models of Luang Poh Chaem, Luang Poh Chuang, Luang Poh Gleum, and Luang Pu Thuad along with antique Thai furniture, and Benjarong (เบญจรงค์, Thai porcelain designed in five colours), while the famous 'magic' walking-stick of Luang Poh Chaem is kept at the current Abbot's dwelling.      
Do's and Don'ts
Wats in general are sacred places for local people, so it is wise for the visitor to watch and emulate the way Thais behave inside temples. For example, you will see that people are careful not to stand over, or otherwise position themselves higher than any Buddha images except when pasting gold leaf to them - which in any case happens only in some wats, not in most.
Even through Thailand can sometimes be very warm, it is inappropriate to go into a wat - a place of worship - wearing clothes that reveal one's shoulders, chest, belly or legs.
You will be asked to take your shoes off when entering some of the buildings, including the sermon hall and the chedi. It's best not to wear your most expensive shoes when visiting wats in case someone else mistaken walks away with them - literally! If that happens, and they are not your favorite shoes, then you won't be too upset.

Sources, Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wat_Chalong,


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