Built beginning in the early 19th century, Wat Chai Thararam commonly called Wat Chalong, or Chalong Temple, is the largest, most famous and most visited Buddhist temple on Phuket. I paid a visit to this wat on the way to the Big Buddha.
Wat Chalong is located between Phuket Town and Chalong on Chao Fah Tawan Tok Road. There is no charhge to enter the site or the temples.
You can wander the grounds at any time. The temples are open from 07:00 to 17:00 daily.
Locals and many Thai tourists come to pray and pay respects to two revered monks who were the founders of Wat Chalong. Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang led the local citizens fighting against the Chinese rebellion in 1876.
The central temple is where most Thai people will make merit by offering lotus flowers and adding a small piece of gold paper to the monk’s statues inside. Making merit is as mysterious to outsiders as it is ubiquitous in the Thai lifestyle.
A note about merit and making merit. Making merit is a common religious practices among Thai Buddhists. Merit can be made is a variety of ways such as giving food to the monks in the morning, bringing offerings to the temple, or chanting in an ancient language. A Thai author provides a good summary of some (but not all) of the reasons behind making merit in Thailand:
1) The majority of Buddhists who make merit are hoping to gain happiness in the present life. Namely, they want to have happiness and prosperity, good luck, success in their job responsibilities, and people who are faithful to them.
2) Of secondary importance to the first reason is the benefits that merit making brings in creating a higher kind of happiness, a greater inner happiness in your spirit through doing things that are good, being a moral person, helping others. There is also the contented feeling that this merit will have good effects on your next life.
3) The last reason to make merit is to help you see the truth about life, namely life is always changing and never certain, there is birth and death, there is meeting and parting, material objects are impermanent, and to reduce desires and cease attachment to worldly things.
Wat Chalong is a peaceful site although occasionally the peace is broken by loud explosions of firecrackers at a large brick oven. Setting of firecrackers is another way to make merit by showing gratitude when one of your wishes comes true. One person stands by to light the firecrackers for you.
The tallest building and most recent addition to the grounds of Wat Chalong is a chedi that stands 60 m (196 ft) chedi.
Beautiful paintings retracing the most significant Buddha’s life steps decorate the walls and ceilings of the temple. Each floor is also full of large, donated golden statues and Buddhas.
The chedi (stupa) of Chalong Temple is built on three floors. The top floor terrace offers a beautiful bird view of the entire temple grounds.
Few steps up leads to a glass display containing a fragment of bone from Lord Buddha.
There are shops inside the complex selling souvenirs. Ironically, religious artifacts are sold outside the grounds.
Dress appropriately with covered shoulders and hems below the knee. Of course, shoes are removed before entering the temples.
I’d recommend including Wat Chalong on your list if you visit Phuket.