The district of Phra Tang is located on the northern limits of Thalang, which is almost in the centre of Phuket and located just a little north of Phuket Town. Back in the day, when Phuket was a tin mining centre with a few gypsy villages (i.e. before the tourists), Thalang was the “main town” of the island and the largest developed area. Gradually the area now known as “Phuket Town” grew and usurped Thalang, but this is mostly a good thing, since Thalang still has some beautiful temples and a good selection of Sino-Portugese architecture (now sadly falling in to disrepair in many cases).
Wat Phra Tang is well known among the islanders for the image of the Buddha in the main temple building. It is “buried” from the abdomen down, with only the upper third of the body showing, although that portion alone stands more than two metres tall. This shrine carries the myth that anyone who attempts to uncover the rest of the Buddha by digging him out will die a painful death.
The first image in this set is to be found not in the main complex, but in the “museum”, set off to one side. I loved the combination of the underlying artistry and the dusky, scruffy appearance. It just seemed “right”. Also, the three images showing “speckled” images of the Buddha show the way that these statues are gilded. An underlying alabaster form is cast and positioned, then worshippers purchase tiny squares of gold leaf – each about 1cm square – and gently apply these to the statue. As you can see from these three images, it is not a good idea to let tourists partake of this tradition…
Chalong covers quite an expansive area of south central Phuket, essentially covering land from the southern perimeter of Phuket Town all the way south to the edge of Rawaii, as well as expanding inland to the ‘402 – the main road that runs essentially north-south down the island.
Wat Chalong (the main temple) is widely known and the most visited on the island. In fact, everything seems “bigger and better” at Wat Chalong, especially the fire-crackers, which are lit roughly every 15 minutes or so, to frighten away evil spirits (and scare the living daylights out of any tourist who has not visited before…). However, despite the commercialism and the occasionally disrespectful farang, Wat Chalong can also be a place of sublime peace.
If you ever get the chance to visit a Wat in Thailand, please remember to not wear shorts or shoes in any of the temple buildings. This is extremely disrespectful…
In Chalong, little more than half a kilometre or so from my friends at Sea Bees Diving, there is an absolutely amazing Orchid Farm, which is open to the public most days.
It’s a quite remarkable place to visit, with a seemingly endless variety of different orchid species on show. It is fascinating to see how they are grown, with many of them requiring neither soil nor water and instead they are grown in little more than a suspended mesh, with water being absorbed from the high moisture content of the atmosphere.
The lady I spoke with, Claudia, seems very knowledgeable of the many species being cultivated and her passion for these exquisite plants really shines through. Well worth an hour or two, if you ever visit the area.
(Please note: I apologise for the fact that the quality of both focus and composition of most of these images is lacking… I was a bit mesmerised and not paying enough attention… but I still think they are worth it…
I think the fact that this is the first post to this blog in a year – and one which carries on, in Phuket, Thailand, where the last left off – might be living proof of the truth in the saying, “Life is What Happens Whilst You’re Making Other Plans.”
Just a little west of Phuket Town Centre is a place known as Rang Hill, which is famous for a troop of (incredibly bold) wild monkeys. There are some spectacular views over Phuket Town, out to Au Chalong (Chalong Bay) and the inner islands.
There is also the fantastic Tunk Ka Cafe, perched on one corner of Rang hill and sharing the fabulous views.
And then there are the monkeys. Be warned: they are partial to pretty much any food or drink you might purchase – and they are both agile and bold enough to snatch it from your hand!