Thailand 2011 (V)

Atop a crest in the rocky spine of Phuket island, overlooking Au Chalong (Chalong Bay) to the east and Au Karon to the west, work has commenced on the construction of a truly fantastic “Big Buddha” that will rival some of the greatest in Asia. Work started to commemorate the 80th Birthday of His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej and continues daily. The actual Buddha  itself is comprised of a steel frame over which are placed formed sheets of metal that in turn carry small marble tiles (now numbered in their tens of thousands). This is an interesting place to visit, and on a clear day the views of the south of the island are truly spectacular.

The first two images are largely self-explanatory; the third – a view of a shady tree just to the right of the main dias. – shows how it is adorned with a huge number of small brass bells – purchased from the temple shop and left there by worshippers. In even the slightest breeze this tree sings melodies all it’s own. The fourth is a statue representing Ganesh, one of many names given to the “Elephant God”. So revered is the elephant to Thai culture that entire temples have been built to honour them. An ‘elephant keeper’ will work with a single elephant and they become a partnership for life, such is the trust between them. When the elephant passes away, the keeper will honour the elephant with a full funeral service, as though the creature were a respected member of the keeper’s family. Finally, the last image is that of a goddess or priestess, and can be found on the stairway that leads to the main dias. This particular image is fashioned sitting on the back of a crocodile or alligator. This particular shrine seems to serve as a wishing well – the figure is positioned in a pool of water that has been liberally sprinkled with coins from all over the world.