It was incredibly important to me that, during our time in Thailand, we experienced some temples. I have seen a good amount of the world, but haven’t been able to experience anything related to Buddhism, or its culture, so I desperately wanted to soak that in.
We took a private van tour – that could literally have been whatever we wanted – to Big Buddha and Wat Chalong in Phuket. Both were incredibly beautiful, in very different ways.
Atop a huge hill, Big Buddha sits high above the neighboring town, so everyone looking up can see its beauty. It is huge, made of marble, and relatively new, which honestly I wasn’t expecting. Despite this, it was absolutely stunning.
You walk onto the… property? That doesn’t feel like the right word but.. property. And I was given a scarf to wrap around myself. I had on a dress that made my shoulders visible, and this was against the rules, so they were kind enough to have scarves available (for free, which also sort of shocked me because that would be a way to make a ton of money from the tourists like me, but I guess Buddhists are better than me in that way, ha). Now, the western feminist in me has feelings about my clavicles being considered indecent, but the world traveler in me is respectful of culture, so I gladly took the scarf and we walked toward the stairs.
We spent a decent amount of time there, looking out toward the ocean from the beautiful watchpoints, walking around the incredible marble structure and seeing the smaller Bronze Buddha and other beautiful statues on the hilltop, and listening to the monks recite their mantras over and over in a hypnotizing, and absolutely beautiful manner. It was overall, very lovely. We felt absolutely welcome, and in awe.
Our second, and final, temple stop for the day was Wat Chalong. Wat Chalong had many different buildings, each with a unique story (which I would encourage you to read about here), and all were incredibly beautiful. It was expected that you remove your shoes entering any of the buildings, and once again, I was provided with a scarf to cover my shoulders with.
The vibe here was slightly different than at Big Buddha, which I felt consisted of people admiring architecture vs. religion. Wat Chalong truly was a beacon of Buddhism for the people there, who were praying in each of the buildings and, seemingly (but I could be wrong) making offerings.
There was also a small structure that was consistently lighting some sort of explosion every few minutes that was, to be honest, startling to me. It was really cool, but kept making me jump.
And finally, in a cool reminder of where we were earlier in the day, we could see Big Buddha from almost every window of Wat Chalong.