It has been almost a year since we stopped in Chalong, Phuket along our travels. And one of the first places that I visited (and met some of my now good friends) was the Wat Chalong Chinese New Years market/fair (you can read about that day here). Unfortunately on that day I did not take the time to walk around the actual temple buildings, I just went around the market and then went home.
At that time we were staying on a different area of the island, but now we are right around the corner from the most popular Wat (Thai for temple) in Phuket. Recently, Chad, Z, and I were at lunch at a restaurant directly across the street from the temple and we decided to finally check it out.
The temple was built in the early 19th century and the grounds and buildings are intricately and beautifully designed. The buildings adorned with statues of buddha in every crevice and window. Gold, white, and red-painted buildings paired with the exquisitely pruned shrubbery and fountains make this a place that you want to take your time and pay attention. Take a picnic lunch (or grab some food at one of the surrounding Thai restaurants) and spend the afternoon.
When you visit Wat Chalong, there are three things that are helpful to know ahead of time.
1. “Cover up your sexy.”
This term was borrowed from a lovely lady that kindly informed my sister that in order to enter a Wat, a lady must cover up her sexy… or in layman terms, a lady must cover up her shoulders, cleavage, and thighs. When we visited I was wearing a tank top and shorts and I was told to dress up a little more. At Wat Chalong there are volunteers that happily hand out sarongs for all your covering up needs at the front entrance.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, both men and women must take off shoes and hats before entering the wat.
2. Be respectful.
Remember that a Wat (Buddhist temple) is a place of worship for Buddhists. They are not simply pretty buildings for tourists to take pictures in. Here is a list of some guidelines to follow when you enter any Buddhist temple.
- Do not eat, chew gum, smoke, or spit
- Do not touch or turn your back to an image of the Buddha (not turning my back on the buddha was difficult as there were pictures and statues of the buddha on every wall and in between, but I guess just try your best). Along with this, back away from looking at a Buddha statue, do not turn your back to it.
- NEVER point your fingers or feet at a monk or statue of the Buddha.
- Don’t disturb the monks or others who are worshipping in the temple (this includes taking their picture… be discreet people!)
- Turn the sound off on your phone, lower your voice, just be all around quiet and respectful as much as possible. No one wants to hear all about your crazy night on Bangla Road, well, at least wait until we are outside.
- Keep your hands to yourself! Do not touch any of the relics or sacred objects.
- For all the Ladies— It is very important that you NEVER touch a monk or his robes. There is a lengthy and involved cleansing process if that happens.
- Overall, just don’t be an obnoxious tourist.
3. Go on a Weekday.
There are a LOT of tour busses going to every tourist destination in Phuket and Wat Chalong is one of them. We were there on a Monday and it was not too crowded, but I have driven past the Wat on the weekends and it is much busier. If you can possibly visit on a weekday you may have a less crowded time exploring the area.
These 3 tips can help you when you visit any Wat in Thailand, or a place of worship anywhere (the Catholic churches in Budapest had the same dress code and I am sure many others do as well). It always makes a place a little more relaxed and fun when I know what the rules are ahead of time (ever wear jeans to a black tie party… yeah me neither.)
Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been to Wat Chalong, or any Wat? What do you think of the tips I gave for visiting Wat Chalong? Are there any that you would have a hard time adhering to? Leave a comment and join in the conversation!