Wat Prathong’s main claim to fame is a golden Buddha that dates back centuries.
The golden image, Luang Pho Phra Phut, was buried in an area where villagers raised cows and buffaloes. One day, a kid tied his buffalo to what he thought was a stone covered in mud. He died later that morning. His father went to find the buffalo, which had died as well. In a dream that night, the father learned the reason for their deaths: he had tied the buffalo to the top of a Buddha image (even today, touching someone else’s head is a big no-no). The villagers returned the next day to pray and wash the finial, the cone-shaped piece at the very top of a Buddha image.
(Look at the very top of his head.)
The governor of the area was informed, and ordered the villagers to dig out the image. The ones who dug were stung or bitten by wasps, hornets, or bees, while those that prayed were kept safe. Eventually, the governor ordered a building be built around the image, still buried in the ground — ‘Phra Phut’ means the image is coming up from the ground. In 1785, the King of Burma invaded the area, and tried to dig out the image as the spoils of war. They, too, were stung by hornets, and were eventually beaten back. The villagers then placed gold leaves on the image (a common way to honor it), and at some point a new image was constructed over the top of the original one. Today, the image is fenced off and only visible down to the bottom of one’s ribs.
At perhaps 50cm high, this is likely the real size of the image underneath.
Also here, but not well-marked, is a quirky temple museum. Take off your shoes and put your camera away to enter — inside are glass cases with a little bit of everything on display from Phuket’s tin mining era over a century ago. Some items are newer, and the museum looks to be one of the newest buildings around. Don’t forget to sign the guestbook!
Name: Wat Prathong AKA Wat Phra Thong (วัดพระทอง)
Address: Wat Prathong Alley, Tambon Mai Khao, Amphoe Thalang, Chang Wat Phuket, 83110 (GPS: 8.033863, 98.337725)
Directions: Cross the bridge onto Phuket island, then continue heading south on this road (route 402) for about 23 kilometers. Take a left onto Wat Prathong road (a blue street sign marks the way), then go another 450 meters to see the temple straight ahead.
Admission: free (donations accepted)