The largest and most important temple in Phuket is the Chalong Temple or Wat Chalong. Local devotees come here to pray and pay their respects to the two monks who founded Wat Chalong. The two highly venerable monks are Luan Pho Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang. They are remembered for their knowledge of herbal medicine, and more importantly for helping settle a rebellion staged by Chinese miners in 1876 and caring for injured villagers. Statues were built and kept at the Sermon Hall (viharn) to honor the two.
Other than its historical significance and the honor of its two founding monks, there are many other reasons why people come to Wat Chalong.
First, tourists flock here to be awed by its beauty and splendor. There are 29 Buddhist monasteries in Phuket but Wat Chalong is the most ornate of them all. Wat Chalong is not just one building but a huge complex of several sacred structures. The place represents the beauty of “wat” architecture that is typical to Thailand. One of the buildings has a tall tower with painted walls showing the life story of Buddha. It is believed that actual bone fragments of Buddha are kept at the top of the tower. Another building holds waxworks done by Chalong monks.
Another reason why people come here is simply to have peace and quiet away from the typical hustle and bustle of the island. Phuket is one of those popular, super-crowded beach resorts where there are singing, partying, and drinking until the wee hours of the morning. Only a few beaches offer serenity but true tranquility can be experienced only in the temples. Visitors respect the sacredness of Wat Chalong and so they come dressed and behaving properly. The main temple is the most sacred place, with several statues of Buddha. Devotees come here to pray, place golden leaves on the statues, and light incense and candles. Although this area could be crowded with curious tourists at one time, silence and reverence are maintained. You could hear the buzz of curious foreigners when the temple is full-packed from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. It is most quiet here early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Locals come here definitely not for sightseeing but to be blessed by the monks and receive good luck. Some will set off firecrackers to receive lucky lottery numbers, tie a string around their wrist for good luck, or have their fortunes told. One of the rituals involves the rhythmic shaking of a can until one of the sticks inside falls to the floor revealing a number, which corresponds to a wooden cabinet drawer nearby. The devotee would then take a slip of paper from the cabinet, and whatever is written on that paper is the devotee’s fortune.
There are also red wooden blocks on the floor that are tossed to help one make an important decision in life. One would ask a “yes-no” question before tossing a pair of wooden blocks to the air. If both blocks landed on the same side up, that is a “no,” and if one is facing up while the other down, that is a “yes.”
Fortune seekers must not forget to leave a donation at the altar afterwards.
It has been said that one has not truly experienced Phuket without visiting Wat Chalong. That is so true because the place speaks so much of the province’s history, tradition and beliefs. The temple is not hard to miss, located between Phuket Town and Chalong, not far from Central Festival.