The Big Buddha Temple sits on a small rocky island off Koh Samui’s northeastern corner. Known locally as Wat Phra Yai, its golden, 12-metre-tall seated Buddha statue is one of the island’s most popular attractions. Set on Koh Faan, the temple is reached by a causeway that connects it to the main island. The Big Buddha, which can be seen at a distance of several kilometres, is often the first landmark people see when arriving in Koh Samui by air.
Built in 1972, the Big Buddha sculpture sits in the Mara posture, with the upward-facing palm of the left hand resting on the lap and the right hand facing down. It depicts a time during Buddha’s journey to enlightenment. He successfully subdued the temptations and dangers thrust at him by the devil-figure Mara by meditating and remaining calm. The pose is a symbol of steadfastness, purity and enlightenment.
Highlights of Koh Samui’s Big Buddha Temple
The base of the Big Buddha statue is a courtyard and vendor area, where amulets, religious artefacts, clothing, and souvenirs are sold. There are 2 more Buddha images set in pavilions. A staircase with a colourful dragon design leads up to the platform area on which the Buddha sits.
Buddhist devotees come daily to make offerings of fruit and flowers and light incense at the base of the statue. Curious tourists are welcome to come and observe these graceful religious rituals any time of the day. Besides offering an insight into the local culture, the platform affords excellent beach and sea views. By night, the Big Buddha is bathed in the golden glow of spotlights.
All over Thailand, the wat (temple) serves as a major centre for cultural festivals. The Big Buddha Temple in Koh Samui is no exception. During festivals like Loy Kratong or Songkran, the temple becomes crowded with people making merit and enjoying entertainment, food, and markets set up in celebration. The nearby beach was originally called Bang Rak, but due to the prominence of the temple at its eastern end, it’s now commonly known as Big Buddha Beach. There are many hotels, guesthouses, places to eat and shop along its sandy shoreline.
Good to know
You can get to the Big Buddha Temple by taking the main Route 4169 up to the northeast region of Samui, before turning off onto Route 4171. The temple is about 3 km north of the Samui International Airport, 3 km east of Bophut Beach, and 7.5 km from Chaweng Beach.
The temple is open all day, 8am to 6pm, but for those hoping to catch a true cultural experience, it’s best to go in the early morning. You can see locals bringing offerings to the temple and monks do their morning chants.
Since Big Buddha Temple is a sacred place, do dress modestly. Wear shirts or scarves to cover the shoulders, trousers or long shorts. Beachwear isn’t allowed when visiting the Big Buddha Temple.
Photos by Guglielmo Zanchi – https://asianitinerary.com/author/asianitinerarygmail-com/