With Phuket home to more than 40 Buddhist wats (temples), you might want to set aside some time to take in their striking architecture, gold-leaf covered Buddha statutes and green-gold serpents and dragons.
The oldest, biggest and most visited is the ornate Wat Chalong. Built during the 19th century, the complex includes several multi-tiered buildings dominated by the Grand Pagoda with its 60-metre glittering chedi. It houses a bone fragment of the Buddha and the interior walls and ceilings are decorated with intricate paintings that depict the life of Buddha. Visitors also make merit by fastening small pieces of gold foil to the life-like bronze statues of former abbots in the temple. The annual temple fair coincides with Chinese New Year.
The island’s second most important temple is Wat Phrathong, located just north of Phuket Town. The main attraction here is a half-buried golden statue of the Buddha named Luang Poh Phra Thong. Legend has it that anyone attempting to unearth the icon will be cursed.
Further south is Wat Suwan Khiri Khet, also called Wat Karon on account of its location in the northern part of the beach. You can’t miss the fantastical emerald-green and gold nagas (mythical serpent beings) that encircle the main temple buildings, keeping watch over the sacred grounds. Inside, two yaks (mythical giants from the Ramayana) guard the entrance to one of the smaller buildings that host a Kali statue and an attractive black Buddha image.
Just outside the party vibe of Patong, Wat Kathu is a tiny oasis of calm and peace. The red windows of the lavishly decorated buildings are covered with gilded reliefs of scenes from the lives of the Buddha.