HUNDREDS OF well-wishers flocked to Wat Koh Rang Samak Kee Tam on Sunday, stringing bank notes high in a curtain of cash.
The donations are intended to speed building work on the wat. While the Big Buddha at the south of the island probably ranks as Phuket's most notable religious construction project, it's far from being the only one.
The new mosque in Patong is becoming more of a landmark every day. The Patong mosque is especially attractive, incorporating brilliant hues and delighting motorists as they wind down the last stretch of the hill towards the beach.
Less conspicuous but equally impressive is Wat Koh Rang Samak Kee Tam, which occupies a hillside behind the Wachira General Hospital, off Yaowarat Road in Phuket City.
On Sunday, a white cord linked a curtain of cash high up to the roof of the temple as special prayers and ceremonies were held to mark the latest phase in construction.
A large golden sitting buddha is visible from the roadway.
Around sunset on Sunday, hundreds of Buddhists, many dressed in white, began heading up the hill in the hope of sharing the good luck associated with the new temple.
Most gave sizeable donations, with thousands of baht fluttering in the breeze.
They lit incense and prayed, then many family groups raised small red or white banners on white cord and waited patiently for the blessing ceremony.
Others held the white cord or wrapped it around their heads, connecting, for a good life and good luck.
It was the most spectacular celebration we have seen since the raising of the chaofa (the bird-like rooftop cornerpieces) earlier this year at a new temple in Chalong.
Hundreds also took part in that ceremony, at the wat that will eventually be named after Luangpoo Supa, the venerable abbot who has chosen it as his home.
Visitors are usually welcome at Buddhist religious ceremonies on Phuket.
Thursday, July 17, marks Asamha Bucha Day, when devout Buddhists present offerings to the monks, listen to sermons and perform ritual prayers.
Friday brings the beginning of Buddhist Lent, when monks go into seclusion inside the temples for the duration of the rainy season. Both days are public holidays.
The island has 37 temples, and there are 11 additional places where monks live, as well as one where Buddhist nuns live, at Koh Rang.
Add to those 16 Taoist Chinese temples, mostly around Phuket City.
Phuket also has 51 mosques, including the tall one now rising up over Patong.
Patong Honeymoon Sweet
PATONG continues to attract tourists all year long in ways that other parts of the island struggle to achieve.
American Victoria Samson chose Phuket for her honeymoon and wrote about it in the San Antonio Express News.
It helps to explain why so few tourists from the US make it this far . . . and why more should be encouraged to come.
''Getting to Phuket from San Antonio is not easy,'' wrote Victoria, who married a fellow teacher.
''We had to fly United to Los Angeles, sit through a seven-hour layover, get on a 14-hour Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong, undergo another seven-hour layover, then finally get on a four-hour flight to Phuket.
''Then we were picked up by a private van and driven about an hour through Phuket to Patong Beach.''
Despite a health scare that involved a precautionary trip to hospital, the couple had a great time. (Perhaps that's expected on a honeymoon.)
They enjoyed some eco-tourism, a Phang Nga Bay tour, a trip up to the Big Buddha, lots of good seafood and an elephant ride. And they even loved their tailor adventure.
''Our honeymoon got away from us and we ended up going to them when we had just about 36 hours left,'' Victoria wrote.
''They were able to turn around our order in just over 24 hours; plus, the clothes have held up beautifully.''
So somewhat unexpectedly, thanks for the good work on behalf of Phuket go to King's Fashion (www.kingsfashion-phuket.com, 146 Thaweewong Road).
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