A century ago, at the end of the 1800's Chalong got a bad reputation
that was hard to shake. At that time, Phuket was rich in tin ore and both
Chinese miners and Malay pirates had their eye on the port. Many times the
miners battled the marauding pirates for control of the area.
Chalong, six km south of Phuket Town on Vichit Road, history was made when
local people fought against gangs of Chinese who came from Malaysia to
seize the area with its high-yielding tin mines. King Chulalongkorn, Rama
V, sent an
army south to expel the
encroachers. Meeting in an open field where Wat Chalong stands today, it
was here where the plunderers were driven back to the sea. In fact, the
locals didn't stop there, as they dislodged the entire island of the
Historically, Wat Chalong, the
site of the battle, is the biggest, most ornate and important temple in
Phuket today. It is associated with the revered monks, Luang Pho
Chaem and Luang Pho Chuang, both of whom were famous for their work in
herbal medicine and tending to the injured. During the tin miners’
rebellion of 1876 they mobilized aid for the injured on both sides.
Tattered gold leaf covers the statue of Luang Pho Chaem, abbot of Wat
Chalong during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. The monk was noted for his
ability to set broken bones, as he attended to the wounded during this
foreign intrusion. He also mediated in the rebellion, bringing the
warring parties together to resolve their dispute.
War II when bombs were dropped in the Andaman region, Phuket was spared
and the locals attribute Wat Chalong with having the power to deflect even
these bombs. Luang Pho Chaem has been worshipped ever since for bringing
prosperity to those who pray to him, and you can see Thais and visitors
from other Asian countries, apply thin sheets of gold to his image out of
respect for his powers.
As in many other wats in Thailand, Thais
come here to be blessed by the monks and receive a good luck charm in the
form of a string tied around the wrist. This is a holy string,
embedded with the monks' prayers and chants, and Thais believe it protects
them from injury and illness. Although it is meant to be worn until
it falls apart, after a couple of weeks of daily wear, I cut mine.
Many local Thais and Asian tourists will
set off fire crackers and ask for the lucky lottery numbers. When we were
there, it was the
beginning of the Iraqi War,
and the unexpected blasts sent us looking for cover!
Also popular is having one's
fortune told either by shaking a can of bamboo chopsticks until one stick
works its way to the top and falls to the floor, or by utilizing a pair of
blocks made from bamboo roots that are tossed into the air. The bamboo
chopsticks have a number on them, corresponding to the numbers on the drawer
in a wooden cabinet.
Just take one of
the slips of paper inside, corresponding to your number on the chopstick,
and have a local Thai translate it for you. The bamboo root blocks
correspond only to yes and no answers. With either divination you
choose, a donation is expected to be made into the safe at the altar.
This helps with the upkeep and maintenance of the temple.
Open daily, visiting this fabulous and
opulent wat is well worth the time.
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