Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui Overview

Located on the rocky island of Koh Phan, north of the main island of Ko Samui, The Wat Phra Yai or the Big Buddha Temple as it is known has a 39 ft golden Buddha statue which was erected sometime in the 1940s. The temple is flocked by meditation practitioners and people looking to offer religious offerings.

Built in 1972, Wat Phra Yai or the Big Buddha temple is a major landmark and tourist attraction on the gorgeous island of Koh Samui. On top of Pratumnak hill sits the Big Buddha, surrounded by the serene blue sea and under the red fiery sun, glittering in gold as he watches over the small island of Koh Faan.

Every year, tourists from all over the world horde the beautiful Wat Phra Yai to marvel upon this magnificent 12-metre high statue and the temple that houses it. For those in search of some peace, calm, an amazing view and a decent dose of culture, this Buddhist temple must be top on their to-visit list.

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Wat Phra Yai - The Big Buddha Temple

Temple Complex of Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui
The Temple Complex of Wat Phra Yai is Older Than the Big Buddha Statue
Built in 1972, the big buddha statue is not an ancient monument, although it seems so at first glance. The Wat Phra Yai complex is however said to be older. While the Golden Buddha may be the major tourist attraction, the temple has a lot more to offer as well.

Not only does the temple artwork attract attention to its intricate detailing and choice of colours, but it also houses paintings, shrines and other smaller Buddhas. There is also a meditation centre within the structure. At the base of the temple are plenty of stalls where one can buy souvenirs, local fruits and flowers, as well as relish in regional cuisines.

Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai

Golden Buddha at Wat Phra Yai
Like the temple name, the Golden Buddha at Wat Phra Yai is a vast structure. The icon is so vast that it is visible from kilometres away on the ground and from the sky as well. However, you can appreciate the sheer size and sculpture of the structure from a close range.

Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui
The Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai Sits in the Mara Pose
Postural Symbols of the Statue
Drenched in enchanting gold, Buddha sits atop the Pratumnak hill in the Mara pose. With the left hand resting palm-up on his lap and the right hand resting palm-down on the right knee, the posture denotes a state of calm, purity and enlightenment. Legend has it that during Buddha's journey to enlightenment, he defeated the evil Mara by meditating in this pose, hence quelling all temptations thrown at him.

Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui
There are Bronze Prayer Bells Under the Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai, Koh Samui
Beliefs and Structures
Encircling the big Buddha at the bottom are bronze prayer bells that tourists can ring with a wooden stick for good luck. There is also a giant wheel and dragon on the statue's back, behind Buddha's head. Both these structures are painted in the same gold colour. The wheel denotes the Buddhist wheel of life.  

Stairs Leading to the Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai
The Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai is on Top of a Wide Staircase
With Dragons as Siderails
Dragon Railings
Once inside the temple pavilion, there is a spacious walk-up the regal-looking staircase with two intricately colourful dragons on the side rails. Admiring these rail-dragons while looking up at glorious Buddha makes the climb a fun task rather than a tiring one. The top view is not a disappointment either. The island-view is spectacular during either early morning or evening.

Wat Phra Yai Dress Code

Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui Thailand
You Must Dress Conservatively When Visiting Wat Phra
Yai in Koh Samui
Like most Thai temples, one must adhere to the basic dress code at Wat Phra Yai too. Make sure to dress appropriately. If in doubt, preferably pick something that covers your shoulders and knees. If you are out on a temple spree and you do not want to waste time on your shoes, wear slip-on shoes or flip-flops. However, if you do somehow forget the dress code, fret not, for, at the temple entrance, robes and scarves are freely rented to the tourists

How to Reach Wat Phra Yai

Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui Thailand
Wat Phra Yai is Located in the North-Eastern Part of Koh Samui
Situated on the north-eastern part of Koh Samui island, Wat Phra Yai, is easy to access. Reasonably close to the Samui international airport it can be reached through a 3-km causeway connecting Koh Faan to Koh Samui. One can also take the bus (songthaew) there, or a taxi and head north on route 4171 from the airport.


  • There is no entrance fee or parking fee. But if you wish to donate some in the donation box, ensure to carry hard cash.
  • Be respectful of the locals and the devotees as it is a place of worship.
  • Carry a pair of socks if you're visiting in the afternoon, as the floor tends to get scorching hot and the stairs might get slippery.
Wat Phra Yai in Koh Samui Seen From a Distance
The Big Buddha Statue of Wat Phra Yai From a Large Distance

Best Time to Visit 

Wat Phra Yai Koh Samui Thailand
The Best Time to Visit Wat Phra Yai is Early Morning
or Late Afternoon

As a temple, Wat Phra Yai becomes a prime location on days of religious festivities. If you wish to soak in the local religious customs and celebration, you might want to visit around the festive time such as Loy Kratong or Songkran, when the temple lights up. You could also avoid these days altogether if you simply want to see the statue.  

Avoid visiting on a Sunday if you want to stay away from the crowd. As for the other days of the week, the best time to visit would be early morning or late in the afternoon. An early morning trip would not only save you from Thailand’s scorching heat but also leave you with the best view and ample picture time.

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