See Big Buddha, Koh Samui's most famous landmark; a beautiful 12m gold buddha statue in the grounds of Wat Phra Yai temple. Situated on the small island of Koh Fan off the north east coast of Koh Samui, the statue is large enough that it is visible from several kilometers away and aby flights arriving to the island.
Wat Phra Yai on Koh Fan is accessible via the short connecting road built over to the island from Koh Samui. Inside Big Buddha's temple, there are many different shrines and other smaller ornate Buddhas. Surrounding the temple are various market stalls and shops selling a wide range of souvenirs and gifts, as well as several bars and restaurants.
The Big Buddha sits in the Mara posture, with the left hand’s palm up resting on the lap and the right hand facing down, the fingers hanging over the knee and grazing the ground. It depicts a time during Buddha’s journey to enlightenment where 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.
Around the base of the tall statue is a courtyard and vendor area where amulets, religious artifacts, clothing and souvenirs are sold, and there are two more Buddha images set in pavilions. There are also food stalls and small restaurants to enjoy a snack or a meal. A staircase with a colourful, striking 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, while curious tourists are welcome come and to observe these graceful religious rituals any time of day. In addition to 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, making for a holy and exotic sight.
All over Thailand the wat serves as a major centre for cultural festivals and Big Buddha temple in Koh Samui is no exception. During such festivals as Loy Kratong or Songkran the temple becomes crowded with people making merit and enjoying the entertainment, food and markets set up in celebration. The beach nearby was originally called Bang Rak, but due to the prominence of the temple at its eastern end it is now more commonly known as Big Buddha Beach. There are a number of hotels and guesthouses along its sandy shoreline, and plenty of places to eat and shop.
To get to the Big Buddha, Koh Samui's route 4169 up to the northeast region of the island and then turn off on route 4171 should be taken. The temple is about 3km directly north of Samui International Airport, 3km east of Bophut Beach and 7.5km away from Chaweng Beach. The temple is open to visitors all day, but for those hoping to catch a true cultural experience it’s best to go in the early morning hours, the time when local people bring their food and other offerings to the temple and the monks do their morning chanting.
Since this is a sacred place, visitors are advised to dress appropriately. Be sure to wear shirts or scarves that cover the shoulders, trousers or long shorts, and no beachwear when visiting the Big Buddha temple.