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Looking Back: More myths of Phuket’s emerging Buddha

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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PHUKET: As I mentioned in my previous Looking Back column (story here), the Phra Phood, or the Emerging Buddha of Thalang, may have been discovered sometime in the mid 18th century by local villagers living near the town of Thalang, in the northern part of Phuket.

The large golden Buddha image got its name from the fact that when it was uncovered, the lower half of the statue was buried deep underground. When the governor of Thalang first heard of the discovery, he ordered the villagers to dig up the statue from the ground so that it may be taken to a temple to be properly worshiped. But when the villagers tried to dig up the statue, it is said that swarms of locusts and wasps began to emerge from the disturbed ground to attack the villagers that were trying to recover the statue.

For generations, the people of Thalang have believed in the divine powers of the Emerging Buddha. Many stories that have emerged about the Golden Buddha statue are shrouded in legend. In the year 1809, towards the end of King Rama I’s reign, the Burmese attacked the South of Thailand once again. They reached Thalang and sacked the town. When they conquered Thalang, the Burmese looted everything of significant value and burned the rest. They soon came across the revered Emerging Buddha outside of the town.

Seeing that it was made of gold, the Burmese were determined to take the statue back with them. But as the soldiers dug around the statue to uncover the lower half, again massive numbers of wasps, locusts and red ants began emerging from the disturbed ground and attacked the diggers. Many hundreds of Burmese soldiers were stung by the insects and were forced to abandon the digging. It is said that the soldiers that were stung later became critically ill and many died of fever.

Determined to take the statue home with them, the Burmese began using fire to smoke out the ants and wasps from around the statue. However they were not able to recover the Buddha statue since a few weeks later, a Thai army from Nakhon Sri Thammarat arrived in Phuket drove the invading Burmese out of the island.

Many years later, a monk from Sukhothai called Luang Por Singha travelled to Thalang and came across this peculiar half buried Buddha statue. Because it was made of gold, the monk was afraid that thieves might be able to saw off the Buddha’s head easily. He urged the locals to build a temple at the site where the Buddha was located.

The locals of Thalang heeded his advice and built the “Temple of the Golden Buddha” at the site. They built a chapel around the Emerging Buddha and declared it the principal Buddha image of the temple. Luang Por Singha was appointed the temple’s first abbot.

Many years later during his tenure as abbot, it is said that Luang Por Singha sculpted an eerie riddle on a scroll, which translates roughly as follows.

“Shrugging three or four times, bearers bring ghosts to burn. The ghosts that have not yet decomposed, their fragrance can be smelled from afar”.

When he died, he passed on the riddle scroll to his successor, with a condition that the new abbot must unlock the meaning of the riddle. If he cannot do so, he will not be able to stay at the Temple of the Emerging Buddha for long. As time went by, Luang Por Singha’s successor was not able to crack the riddle. True to his prophecy, he did not remain the abbot of the temple much longer. Each successive abbot that followed him was not able to crack the riddle either, and they too were not able to stay at the temple for long. In time the temple’s eerie reputation began to spread as a temple that “ate its abbots” and no monk was willing to take up residence there. The temple began to fall into disrepair and became abandoned.

In the year 1897, a monk named Phra Kru Jitthasomanwat of Phra Nang Sang Temple in Thalang was able to crack the infamous riddle. He then asked for the Temple of the Golden Buddha to be renovated and volunteered to become its 15th abbot. He remained the temple’s abbot for 61 years, proving that his solution to the riddle was indeed correct.

Phra Kru Jitthasomanwat explained that Luang Por Singha’s riddle was referring to the tradition of cremating deceased Chinese monks using scented wood, such as Sandalwood. The “shrugging bearers” referred to the bearers of a palanquin, as they moved a few steps forward and a few steps backwards. The “ghosts” in this case were the scented woods inside the palanquin that would have to be burned with the deceased. “The ghosts that have not yet decomposed” referred to the scented woods that were not yet burned. “Their fragrance can be smelled from afar”, referred to the fact that when such palanquins carrying scented woods passed by, the strong scent of the wood inside would diffuse across a great distance.

After the riddle of Luang Por Singha was solved, the Temple of the Emerging Buddha was restored and became a thriving center of worship for the people of Thalang once again. In the year 1909, King Rama VI, at that time still the Crown Prince of Siam came on a state visit to Phuket Island. During the trip, he visited the Emerging Buddha statue and royally bestowed the temple its existing name, “Temple of the Golden Buddha”.

Despite its long history, no one knows for sure where the Emerging Buddha originated from or who sculpted it. But one of prevailing theories among many Chinese people is that the Emerging Buddha was actually sculpted in China many centuries ago. Known in Chinese as Kim-in-jor, it is said to have resided in a temple in Shanghai. During one of the wars between the Tibetan Empire and the Chinese Tang Empire in the 7th century AD, Shanghai was attacked and captured by the Tibetans. The Tibetans found the golden Buddha statue and decided to load it onto a ship and transport it elsewhere. During the journey, a storm broke out and sank the ship.

The golden Buddha image was never recovered, but many Phuket locals of Chinese origin believe it was washed ashore in Thalang and sank in mud, never to be found again until centuries later. Till today, many Chinese locals in Phuket highly revere the Emerging Buddha image and every year, during important Chinese festivals like Chinese New Year, Chinese locals of Phuket would flock to the Temple of the Golden Buddha to worship the sacred golden image.

Anand Singh is an avid Phuket Historian and can be contactedhere.

— Anand Singh

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list

Maya Taylor

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The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Young Sok Yun on Flickr

The humble massaman curry has topped a list of the World’s 50 Best Foods, compiled by CNN Travel. Thailand’s coconut milk and potato-based curry (add the meat, tofu or vegetables of your choice) comes in at number 1, with 2 other popular Thai dishes also featuring. The hot and spicy shrimp soup, Tom Yum Goong, comes in at number 8, with papaya salad, aka somtam, in 46th place (mai phet please!) Tell us your favourite Thai dish, and why, in the comments section (below).

CNN Travel says its staff conducted extensive research on global cuisine to find the 50 best dishes ever created. Nice work if you can get it…

Italian pizza, Mexican chocolate, Japanese sushi, Chinese Peking duck and German Hamburger also top the delicious list.

Here’s what the writers had to say about the 3 Thai dishes that made the top taste grade…

Massaman curry, 1st place: Emphatically the king of curries, and perhaps the king of all foods. Spicy, coconutty, sweet and savoury. Even the packet sauce you buy from the supermarket can make the most delinquent of cooks look like a Michelin potential. Thankfully, someone invented rice, with which diners can mop up the last drizzles of curry sauce. “The Land of Smiles” isn’t just a marketing catch-line. It’s a result of being born in a land where the world’s most delicious food is sold on nearly every street corner.

Tom Yum Kung, 8th place: This best food Thai masterpiece teems with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves. Usually loaded with coconut milk and cream, the hearty soup unifies a host of favourite Thai tastes: sour, salty, spicy and sweet. Best of all is the price: cheap.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: Richard Lee on Flickr

Som Tam/Papaya salad, 46th place: To prepare Thailand’s most famous salad, pound garlic and chilies with a mortar and pestle. Toss in tamarind juice, fish sauce, peanuts, dried shrimp, tomatoes, lime juice, sugar cane paste, string beans and a handful of grated green papaya. Grab a side of sticky rice. Variations include those made with crab (som tam pu) and fermented fish sauce (som tam pla ra), but none matches the flavour and simple beauty of the original.

The World’s 50 Best Foods: Thai massaman curry tops the list | News by The Thaiger

PHOTO: www.needpix.com

SOURCE: Thai Residents | CNN Travel

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Protests

K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht

The Thaiger

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K-Pop fans show their support for the young Thai protesters, donate 3 million+ baht | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Fan-funded 'happy birthday' signs around Thailand's BTS and MRT station

Art meets politics again, this time with hundreds of thousands of K-Pop fans raising funds in support of the growing student protest movement in Thailand. So far they’ve raised more than 3 million baht (as of 10am this morning) but the amount is rising quickly as Thai and overseas K-Pop fans respond. The most popular band in Thailand at the moment is BTS, the South Korean septet which is currently the most popular band in the world (as of today BTS commands the Number 1 and Number 2 positions on the US Billboard singles chart).

BTS fans have so far been the largest contributors donating funds to the protest cause.

The BTS Thailand page, not to be confused with the BTS Skytrain, is urging K-pop fans to stop the practice of paying for billboards in support of their favourite idols and to celebrate the birthdays of the 7 members. RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V and Jungkook issued a statement on their fanpage asking fans to stop funding the BTS and MRT “inconvenienced protesters and normal citizens from getting home and putting them in danger”.

Bangkok’s two main rail systems were closed down over the weekend as police and protesters played a cat and mouse game. The protesters were withholding the announcement of protest locations to the last minute whilst police second-guessed their moves, ending up in mass inconvenience for the wider public in shutting down the entire network, including the Airport link.

“We’re calling Armys and other fans to stop buying ad projects with the BTS and MRT.” (“Army” is the name of BTS fans.

Fans of K-pop groups as well as other “idol” groups often pool their resources to purchase display ads in the MRT and BTS stations wishing their stars happy birthday or on other significant anniversaries.

It’s thought that many more millions of baht will be raised by the K-Pop fans in the next few days.

The young Thai protesters are tapping into a strong social media network, and have “weaponised” the social media and messaging platforms. The main App they are now using, to communicate their intentions, is “Telegram”, developed by a young Russian couple but now operating out of Germany. The App features encypted messages, impossible to track, and has 400 million monthly active users.

Telegram is a cloud-based instant messaging, video telephony and voice over IP service with end-to-end encryption for secret chat only, whereas Cloud chat uses client-server/server-client encryption and its messages are stored encrypted in the Telegram Cloud – Wikipedia

Meanwhile, other K-Pop acts that have mobilised their fans win support include Girls’ Generation, GOT7, NCT, WannaOne, Nu’est, X1, Day 6, Red Velvet, MonstaC, Woodz, Shinee, Super Junior and R1se. We’re sure the fans of Black Pink are also contributing but didn’t have their figures available at the time of publishing. Fans of popular Thai actors and celebrities are also donating to the pool.

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Property

Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19

The Thaiger

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Thailand’s property market waits for an end to Covid-19 | The Thaiger

The Coronavirus outbreak poses challenges for Thailand’s property market as potential Chinese condominium buyers remain stranded in China. Meanwhile, some believe that the outbreak may bring opportunities for non-Chinese buyers and in the long-run, the Chinese may be looking for an overseas refuge in the event of these types of emergencies popping up again

Through all this, there will be a certain level of pent up demand for Thai real estate.

Of course, it’s not just the Chinese unable to come and inspect potential buys, the rest of the world is also mostly shut out of Thailand.

Market remains weak

The pandemic is hurting the condominium market as Chinese nationals were accounting for half of the international buyers in Thailand, or 57.6% of the total foreign condo owners in 2018.

Vichai Viratkapan, acting director-general of the Real Estate Information Centre says that 50% of Chinese condo transfers are expected to disappear in the first 2 quarters of this year and the total transfer value by the Chinese will miss the mark of the usual 29 billion baht by about 25% (around 7 billion).

However, since Chinese property buyers only make up 6% of the total international and domestic housing transfers in Thailand, the proportion of total housing transfers in the country is likely to be similar to last year.

Developers looking to sell current stock whilst shelving new projects

CBRE reports that most Thai developers are postponing the launch of new condo projects to focus on clearing existing stock.

“Discounting completed projects to generate quick revenue as a financial lifeboat is the best solution for many of the country’s larger developers whilst the market is in limbo.”

Rathawat Kuvijitrsuwan, head of CBRE Research and Consulting in Thailand believes that, now business is gradually recovering, a few developers have started to launch new condominium projects.

“In the first half of 2020, the Bangkok condominium landscape was gloomy with fewer than 10,000 condominium units launched, which was much lower than the total number of new launches in the past three years of more than 60,000 condominium units per year.”

The Chinese are reluctant to complete transfers

The virus has continued to affect hospitality operators, including hotels and condominiums that service tourists, nationwide. Since China has suspended tours, put restrictions on movement, and locked down cities, home to over millions of people, it also poses a threat to real estate developers as their clients are unable or unwilling to fly.

“Currently multiple off-plan condominium developments are approaching completion, and Chinese clients are unable or unwilling to transfer. Chinese clients who made a reservation in Q4 2019 are requesting a refund and withholding their investment,” said Marciano Bijmohun, Business Development Director at FazWaz Property Group.

He believes every condominium that is in transfer status will see the percentage of non-transfer units rise in the coming months.

“These non-transfer units will cause a big financial hit to developers.”

If a client refuses to transfer, does not comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in the sales and purchase agreement, and decides to release the property, their deposits will be forfeited.

“However, there is some good news, these non-transferred units can be offered with a discount to new clients.”

Also, as China has been susceptible to a few disease outbreaks – from bird flu to the current coronavirus – it may prompt Chinese buyers to look for second homes outside of China.

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