Blonde and Brunette were in Thailand recently and cashed in our last stash of beloved SPG points to stay at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort. In a rare case of us being sensible we had chosen not to rent a car for our time in Thailand. We had chosen our resort in part because it was an out of town, quiet destination. We didn’t want to stay in the crazy cacophony that is Phuket.
That meant that when we wanted to go anywhere we had to hire a driver. Easy enough – the resort had a small fleet of cars and drivers. And they, unlike other men in our lives, would take us where we asked and not complain about how long we spent there (or how much money). What was not to like?
Truthfully we don’t remember the driver’s name but we think it was Steve and that’s good enough for accuracy by our lax standards. We told him we wanted to see some pretty natural areas along the water. He mentioned an idyllic nearby town where we could stroll, take in some sights, see a few shops and have dinner along the water. Sounded lovely!
Then he went out the property gates, turned in the opposite direction to what he had described and took off. We assumed that the direction issue was language confusion until he pointed out a giant Buddha on a hill above us and asked if we wanted to go see it. We wanted to go see the idyllic town on the sea but stupidly mumbled polite “Oh, OK if it’s really nearby and will only take a minute” unenthusiastic comments.
In seconds we were roaring up the Nakkerd (no, not Naked, although that would have been a lot funnier) Hills between Chalong and Kata. The Big Buddha (BB for our purposes) sits at the top of one of the hills. There is a nice 360 degree view of the surrounding areas. It wasn’t the path to enlightenment, more like a rather awkward walk through a construction site as the Buddha is still being completed.
The BB is being built entirely by donations. The project has been underway for more than ten years due to bureaucratic red tape, raising the needed funds and getting the materials to the top of a hill in a virgin (self-described) forest. No effort is made to shame you into contributing – you have to look around to find somewhere to even leave a donation.
Although you probably assume we are very knowledgeable about the myriad belief systems and religions in the world, we aren’t. Not at all. Don’t really care. Blonde is faintly pro-Buddhism because Buddha didn’t think he was a god or that there necessarily ever was or is a god. He basically thought people should be decent and remember that their behavior has consequences. He didn’t get his knickers in a knot over details and wasn’t a vengeful chap. Seems reasonable.
However, he (or someone who spoke on his behalf) proclaimed the five commandments on the sign below to be important. OK, don’t kill people, don’t steal, don’t be “unchaste” (um, how are we supposed to get more Buddhists?), don’t lie and don’t use “intoxicants that cause heedlessness” (see prior comment as to how are we supposed to get more Buddhists?) At least he got the commandment count down to 5 from the 10 of Christianity so he deserves some credit for brevity.
There are officially two Buddhas at this site. The big dude and the mini-me version shown below. The “small” one is made of 22 tons of brass and cost 8 million Baht or 2.7M USD.
There are many other lesser Buddha statues on the premises including this one that we deduced to have been either Cleopatra during her Buddhist phase or Blonde waiting for a massage.
As by now it was nearly sunset we decided to wait another 15 minutes to get some awe-inspiring photos for you. However, those require an awe-inspiring sunset and we had a nice one but not one that is likely to haunt you for the rest of your life.
As soon as we’d snapped a couple sunset shots we scurried back down the path, through the little building that’s a sort of casually assembled museum and back to our car and driver. The driver then informed us that if we went where we planned to go in the beginning it would be in heavy traffic and we would have to pay for several more hours of his service.
We had him take us back to Le Meridien and had dinner there (again). We also put him on our Drivers To Not Use Again list.
Perhaps we would have had more enthusiasm for the BB if we’d gone there intentionally. After all, one of Buddhism’s major tenets is that a purpose of life is to end suffering – our own and others. And we “suffered” from being sidetracked by a driver who clearly wasn’t worried about karma.
In summary, if you have some free time around sunset, an interest in Buddha and aren’t hiring a private driver at a high hourly rate you may want to check this sucker out. Otherwise, maybe go to that mythical small town by the sea. Don’t hire “Steve” to take you there.