If you have the opportunity to leave Phuket Island and explore a little further afield (which I strongly recommend), then Phang Nga Province (the mainland area immediately north of Phuket) contains some interesting places well worth a visit. Cross to the mainland and head a little way north before picking up a fork in the road that bears east, and after roughly an hour of driving, some 10km short of Phang Nga Town (pronounced “Pang Naa”) you will find a majestic arch/gateway to the north side of the road, with little clue as to what lies beyond. ..
This temple is slightly different from those of Phuket, mainly by virtue of the fact that it is actually constructed within a limestone cave complex. Outside the entrance is a troupe of near-obligatory monkeys, but within, the temple itself is a calming, quiet and reflective place.
Canon EOS 7D with 16-35mm f2.8L and 24-70mm f2.8L Lenses
All underground shots taken in natural light with a tripod and long exposure.
In continuation of my earlier post, here is a second selection of images taken during my visit to Phuket Orchid Farm, a venue that has to be an orchid-lover’s paradise, not to mention a fantastic place for anyone with a camera… It’s so easy to lose yourself for a couple of hours as you wander the rows and rows of plants. Perhaps it’s the near-endless variety of the different species; maybe it’s the heady scents from these fragrant blooms – whatever the reason, you’ll struggle to make a short visit here. As I explored, I recall starting to sense patterns in the shape and colours of the orchids on display. I rather fancied the idea that I was picking up where certain species had been cross-pollinated with neighbours, to produce an all-new and even more exotic hybrid. Almost certainly complete bunkum on my part – I am quite certain that orchid breeding is far more complicated than that… but it was quite a fun thing to do.
Oh, and I appreciate that the last image – the flowerpots – isn’t strictly an orchid – but I just liked the shapes and textures in the shot…
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.
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…