Chalong Temple (Wat Chalong)
Chalong Temple (or Wat Chalong in the Thai language) is located in the heart of Chalong and is considered to be the most important temple in all of Phuket. Despite it being such an important temple, the atmosphere of the place doesn’t feel very religious. This is due mainly to the hundreds of tourists that flock to the temple every single day. Regardless of the crowds, it really is one of the top attractions on the island and a definite must for any first time visitors to Phuket.
For a more quiet experience, try going in the morning or late afternoon. Most tour groups arrive midday between 10am and 2pm. Of course this is just an estimate and tour groups can arrive at any time during the day.
The centerpiece of the temple is the 60 meter tall Chedi which is said to hold an actual bone splinter of the Buddha. The tower consists of three levels, the first two house statues of the Buddha as well as intricately detailed murals along all the walls, depicting the life and teachings of Buddha. At the top of the tower is a large viewing deck in which the Big Buddha of Phuket can be spotted in the distance. From the great height, it is an excellent photo opportunity to capture the entire temple grounds. At the very pinnacle of the Chedi is an enclosure that houses the bone splinter. This is a very sacred part of the temple and should be shown great respect regardless of your religious affiliation.
In addition to the Chedi, there are a number of lesser buildings as well as the main temple. Within, you will statues of revered Buddhist monks. This is where the majority of the Thai Buddhists come to pray, so be respectful. If you would like to participate in the customs, you can light incense and candles and even apply gold leaf to the statues.
At times you will hear a series of small bangs in quick succession with a final loud bang coming from outside the temple, do not be alarmed. Thai’s can make merit to Buddha by lighting off firecrackers inside what looks like a large brick oven.
Around the back side of the temple, you can find a few souvenir shops if you want to purchase a memento of your visit. They also sell non-alcoholic drinks and fresh coconut.
As with all Buddhist temples, there is a strict dress code that must always be followed. Shoes are never allowed inside a temple, so be sure to leave yours outside with all the others. You’ll know the place when you see it. Although men can get away with wearing practically anything, so long as it is somewhat respectable, women are required to cover their shoulders and wear pants or skirts that extend down to their knees.
As I already said, Wat Chalong is the most revered temple in Phuket and a certain level of respect is expected. Despite it being a tourist destination, remember that it is also a religious temple where Buddhists come to worship. Speak in a hushed tone within the temple and don’t touch the statues or other Buddhist relics.
If you are ever in doubt, just do as the Thai’s do and you will get along fine.
Since Wat Chalong is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the island, it should come as no surprise that it is extremely easy to find. It is located about half way between Chalong Circle and Phuket Town on the West road. There are plenty of signs pointing the way in both English and Thai, so when in doubt, just look for the signs.
The Chalong Temple is a must see attraction on Phuket and will likely be one of your stops during any visit to the island. It offers great photo opportunities as well as a small peek into the Buddhist Thai culture.