Phuket Big Buddha
About 10 years ago a group of friends were walking through the forest in the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata when they stumbled upon a place with stunning vistas of both sides of the island – Chalong Bay lay in one direction while on the other they looked down over Kata and the Andaman Sea. It would, they thought, make a perfect place for a viewpoint – something that could become as well known as Phuket’s favourite sunset viewpoint, at Laem Phromthep.
As time went on, and as the friends discussed it again and again, the idea evolved. The place in the hills, they soon agreed, would be perfect not just as a viewpoint, but as the site for something much more ambitious and, to Buddhists at least, much more significant: a giant image of the Lord Buddha.
The project had its hiccups, not least of which was battling through a mountain of red tape required to get permits to build in virgin forest at a height above the usual building limit.
Funds for the massive structure came and still come entirely from donations. “This project is huge and requires a lot of money. But so far we are managing just fine. I’m amazed at the amount of help we have received from everyone who knows about this project. It seems they all want to be a part of it,” explained Suporn Wanichkul, president of the Mingmongkol Faith 45 foundation, which was formed to build the Giant Buddha.
There are, in fact, two Buddha images. A smaller one, 12 metres high, is made of 22 tons of brass and cost eight million baht.
It is dwarfed by the giant Buddha image facing eastward toward Chalong Bay and Phang Nga Bay beyond. The Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha – to give it its official name – is 45 metres high and 25 metres across at the base.
It cost about 30 million baht to complete the giant image. Khun Suporn says “The money has come from everywhere, from locals, from Thais in other provinces and from foreign tourists. With our website and the help we have had from the press, we have even received donations from overseas.”
This is Phuket's most important Buddhist temple. The temple is revered among Thais for its healing powers. The prayer hall contains the statues of three of the temples most venerated monks: Luang Por Chaem, Luang Por Chuang and Luang Por Gluam. However, it is Luang Por Chaem who is best known and who has given Wat Chalong its fame as a place of healing.
In 1876, during the reign of King Rama V, there was a rebellion by the Chinese tin miners, or “Angyee”. Luang Por Chaem (Lord Abbott Chaem), the abbott of the monastery at the time, helped to stop the rebellion and acted as a mediator in the peace. The abbott was also a herbal doctor and setter of bones, and his skills were called upon to heal those wounded during the fighting.
When visiting the temple people usually go to pay respect to the statues of the venerable monks, make offerings and ask for their blessing.
To get to Wat Chalong from Phuket City, take the Bypass Road heading south towards Chalong for about 8kms. The temple will be on your left.