Thailand 2011 (IV)

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…