The Phuket Buddha image and amulet market is a specialised market that attracts many local and overseas Buddhists. You can find the market in a tiny alley off Rassada Road in Phuket Town, not far from the Fountain Circle and just a few steps from Salvatore’s Italian restaurant.
In the alley is a long row of stands, each displaying hundreds of amulets. Behind these is a small row of shops, also selling amulets and Buddha images. The displays attract a variety of people, using magnifying glasses to check the wares.
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About the Thai Amulets Market
Most of the vendors at the Phuket Amulet Centre want to keep things low-key – they’re not keen about attracting attention from the tax man. Even so, they’re mostly quite open and won’t hesitate on answering your questions or giving opinions on the amulets on display as well as the images of famous Thai monks that you’d find sold extensively here.
The Phuket Amulet Centre itself was established several decades ago and now has well over a dozen small outlets.
In Thailand, amulets were first made in temples and handed out to followers of the Buddha’s teachings to provide them with a constant reminder of the Buddha’s values or to commemorate highly respected monks after their death.
These days, amulets blessed by well-regarded Buddhist monks still sell well and some types are hard to get, resulting in growing demand and a market based not only on Buddhist beliefs but also on potential profit.
Thais of all ages and in all levels of society believe that wearing a Buddha amulet around the neck can protect them from harm and, in some cases, will bring them good fortune. Some feel more at ease if they have their amulet with them, especially when on their motorbikes as they believe that the amulet protects them from accidents.
Some tuk-tuk drivers believe that their amulet is good for business. It is a personal belief and they’ve mostly been wearing them since they were young. Personal tales are common, such as having forgotten to put their amulet on again after taking a shower, only to have the rest of their day going on without attracting a single customer.
Many Thai police officers and soldiers wear amulets when on duty. They may wear bullet-proof jackets, but the amulet is probably more important in raising their spirits and their confidence when they have to go into harm’s way.
The value of Thai amulets
Amulets can be made from a variety of materials including gypsum, clay, various metals and even silver or gold. There are no standard market prices; the price paid will depend on negotiations between buyer and seller. Both parties will consider the age of the amulet, the fame of the monk who made it and, sometimes, who wore it in the past.
In the past, Jatukam Ramatep amulets, depicting 2 mythical princes of an ancient kingdom in what is now Thailand, have become extremely popular, with some versions in high demand. In April 2007, a woman was trampled to death in a rush to acquire a particularly desirable model, while other Jatukam issues have seen people queuing all night in hopes of being able to get their hands on one.
Amulets being sold at the market come from many places. Some are new. Some are old and command high prices. The hottest 3 items at one point were amulets depicting 2 famed monks, Luang Por Tuat and Luang Por Chem of Chalong Temple in Phuket as well as the Jatukam amulets. Prices of amulets can range from a couple of hundred baht to as much as 100,000 baht (and even more).
Customers at the amulet centre in Phuket come from all over the world – from neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, and from the USA and Australia.
According to one of the sellers, if you’re a collector, amulets aren’t something you’d buy in a rush. You need time to look and learn about each piece. Many of the Asian customers who come here bargain a lot, but they rarely buy. Those who do buy are usually traders who will resell the amulets in their home countries.
Some sellers also consider that Western buyers are different. They’re usually not window shopping. They actually buy amulets and then wear them or keep them in their homes as religious objects.
Good to know about Thai amulets
With antique Thai amulets in high demand – and commanding high prices – fakes do appear. The experts can spot them, either using their experience and their magnifying glasses or even using technology such as X-rays.
Phuket Amulet Market
- Opening Hours: Daily from 8am to 7pm
- Location: Ratsada Rd, Talat Yai, Muang, Phuket 83000, Thailand