Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha)

Lindz Graham

If you're starting to get a little bored from lounging about on one of the island's beautiful beaches, why not make a trip to Wat Phra Yai, (or Big Buddha) in the far north-eastern corner of the island? It is one of the most popular attractions on the island and is well worth an hour or so of your time. This huge, golden 12-metre image is on the separately named islet of Koh Fan, joined to the mainland by a causeway in the far north-eastern corner of Bang Rak beach. The image is set on a colourful platform, which raises its height from the ground to about 15-metres and can be seen from several kilometres away. For numerous numbers of visitors who arrive by air, it is the first landmark they see when they fly into Koh Samui Airport, which is just 3km away. The statue was built in 1972 and depicts the Buddha in a state of calm, purity and resolve during Buddha’s journey to enlightenment. Sat in the "Mara Posture", the left hand rests palm open and up in the Buddha's lap, and the right hand faces down over the right knee, almost to the ground. The pose is a symbol of steadfastness, purity and enlightenment, as Buddha successfully subdues the temptations and dangers thrust at him by Mara, Lord of Illusion. As with so many Buddhist temples in Thailand, the temple design has elements of Animism, Brahmanism as well as Buddhism in its architecture. There are naga statues (Hindu serpents), on each side of the staircase leading up to a platform where you can see the statue from close up. You will also be rewarded for your efforts by enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding beaches and the island of Koh Phangan, way out in the distance. The views at sunset are breathtaking, and after dark, the image is lit with spotlights creating a mighty silhouette in the night sky. To the rear of the Buddha statue is a second, smaller Buddha statue, a collection of bells and a pavilion which houses smaller Buddha images. In the temple grounds are a number of shops and stalls selling souvenirs, Buddha amulets, food and drink, although they tend to be touristy and also a little pricey. Wat Phra Yai is located on Big Buddha beach, on the north-eastern tip of the island. It is not far from Chaweng beach and very close to the airport on road 4171. From Chaweng or Lamai beach you can take a red songthaew. It is open daily, including evenings, but can get very crowded, especially on Sundays or during Thai holidays and festivals.

Map of Lower Gulf of Thailand

Lower Gulf of Thailand-Map