Phuket’s Buddhist temples, or Wats, are possibly the greatest tourist attractions in Phuket and if you’re here on holiday you really should not miss out on chance to visit to some whilst you’re here. There are around 30 Buddhist temples located around the island.
A visit to any one of Phuket’s temples is the best way to learn about the history of Phuket and also a great opportunity to experience the island’s everyday life.
We’re going to take you on a tour of 5 of the island’s oldest Buddhist temples.
When Khun Ying Jun and her younger sister Khun Ying Muk came to live with their uncle at Baan Don, Burmese troops were encamped. Khun Ying Jun and Khun Muk gathered some people to fight against the Burmese troops in the Thalang District. When 4 months had passed by, the Burmese realised that they did not have the ability to invade the Thalang District. They then moved back to Burma. When the great King Buddha Yod Fa heard about the bravery of Khun Ying Jun, Khun Ying Muk and the people at Thalang District, he kindly appointed a new Thalang governor, Khun Ying Jun Thao Thep Krasatree and Khun Ying Muk Thao Sri Soon Thorn.
At this time there was a monk who was named Pra Fa, or Photan Fa by the villagers of Thalang, it was said that he was someone who had magic powers and invulnerability. He was generally accepted and respected by the villagers. When Burma attempted to invade the camp at Baan Thaotepkrasatri they had to advance through the abbey. The Burmese had heard of Pra Faand’s legend so they decided to test it for themselves. It was agreed that if they lost they would retreat but if they won Pra Fa must allow them to advance. Finally, Pra Fa won and the Burmese, true to their word, gave in and moved their troops back.
When Thao Thepkrasattri had been cleared of the enemy, villagers had enough faith to build a temple to celebrate their victory. This temple was named “Wat Don.” Photan Fa was appointed as the temples first abbot. After Photan Fa’s death, his followers made a sculpture of him as a memorial. The temple was later renamed “Wat Thepkasattri.”
Wat Chai Tararam, also known as Wat Chalong, is the most spectacular temple on the whole island. Built in 1837 the Wat is dedicated to two highly venerable monks, Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang.
Luang Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang gave medical assistance to both sides during the tin miners’ rebellion of 1876 during the reign of King Rama V. They also mediated in the rebellion, bringing the warring parties together to resolve their dispute. Statues honoring Luang Por Chuang and Luang Por Gluam, who are the objects of respect by Phuket people generally, are situated in the Sermon (viharn) hall.
Many Thai people visit Wat Chai Tararam to be blessed by the monks and receive a good luck charm, a string tied around the wrist, which is said to protect them from injuries and illnesses. Lighting of fire crackers is a common sight and many visitors ask for lucky lottery numbers or have their fortune told in a unique way.
The most sacred artifact at Wat Chalong is the Phra Borom Sareerikatat relic, a piece of the Lord Buddha’s bones brought from Sri Lanka. It is in a chedi at the top of a three-storey 60-meter high pagoda. The pagoda is decorated with wall paintings depicting the Buddha’s life story and also features various Buddha images and other religious figures.
Wat Pra Thong is the oldest temple on the island and was created when Thalang was still Phuket’s capital. The Wat Pra Thong temple is located in Thalang and about 20 km from Phuket Town. Phra Thong Temple’s most notable artifact is the golden Buddha statue that is half buried in the temple floor.
Legend tells of a young boy who tied his buffalo to what he thought was a post. After doing so, he became ill and died. The father of the boy dreamt that the reason his son had died was for the sin of tying the buffalo to a sacred object, that what the boy thought was a post was in reality the golden peak of the Buddha’s conical cap. He told his neighbors the dream and they all went out to dig up the statue but had no success.
Later in the reign of King Rama 1 Burmese troops attacked Thalang and discovered Pra Thong and tried to dig it up and take it back to Burma. Whilst digging a swarm of hornets attacked them so they had to stop. Later, the visible part of the statue was covered with gold by the villagers and a bot (temple hall) was built to house the statue.
Wat Phra Nang Sang is the oldest temple in Phuket and dates back more than 200 years. Legend has it that this temple was built by Phranang Lueatkhao, wife of a ruler, who was accused of adultery with a royal page. She was sentenced to death despite the fact that she was innocent. As a consistent patron of Buddhism, her last request was to be given the chance to pay respect to a relic of the Buddha located in Sri Lanka. On her way back, she stopped at Thalang and built a temple, grew plants, and had precious items buried there. She was executed once she returned to the town of the ruler and bled white blood as a sign of her good deeds and innocence. She became known as Phranang Lueatkhao, or Queen White Blood, and the temple she built in Thalang was called Wat Phranang Sang. ‘Sang’ is a Thai word for ‘to build’.
According to history, there was a battle in Thalang in 1785 (B.E. 2328). Wat Phranang Sang was used as a stronghold for Thai soldiers in the fighting with the invading Burmese troops. Also, the temple’s Phra Ubosot houses the world’s largest tin Buddha image which contains 3 smaller Buddha images known as “Phra Nai Phung”, (Buddha in the Belly) or “Phra Sam Krasat”.
Wat Suwan Khiri Wong has built in the Sukhothai period of 2312 BE. Unusually for a temple the name does not reflect the person for whom the temple was built. This temple was originally called “Wat Patong” due to the fact that it is located in Patong village. Here there are statues to worship six of the temples previous abbots who were Abbot Sin, Abbot Kong, Luang Por Nai Heep, Provost Chuay Rong Khwaen Baen and Provost Pisitkoranee.
Provost Pisitkoranee is known to have been the temple’s developer. He had great expertise in construction and was a preacher and teacher of Dhamma Studies. He was also innovative in the building of “Wat Suwan Khiri Wong School” which was built to bring prosperity to the people of Patong and to support high level education for underprivileged children. However, Provost Pisitkoranee’s best memorial is development of the main road into Patong.