The Wat Phra Yai or the Big Buddha Temple as it is knows has a 39 ft golden Buddha statue which was erected in 1792. The temple is flocked by meditation practioners 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.
Big Buddha Statue at Wat Phra Yai
Like the name of the temple suggests, the Golden Buddha at Wat Phra Yai is truly big. In fact, it's so big it is visible from kilometres away and even from the sky if you are arriving or departing in a plane. However, it is only from close range, while standing under it and looking up at the Golden Buddha, that you can appreciate the sheer size and volume of the sculpture.
Drenched in enchanting gold, Buddha sits atop the Pratumnak hill in the Mara pose. The left hand rests on his lap with the palm facing up, while the right hand rests on the right knee, palm facing down and fingers towards the ground. The pose 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.
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 large wheel and dragon on the statue's back, behind Buddha's head. Both these structures are painted in the same gold colour. The wheel is the Buddhist wheel of life.
Once inside the temple pavilion, one has to walk up a wide, regal-looking staircase with two colourful dragons intricately carved on the side rails. Admiring the dragons running down the rails in a snake-like fashion and looking up at big Buddha sitting in all his glory makes the climb a fun task rather than a tiring one. The view from the top does not disappoint either. At the right time of the day - evening or early morning - the view of the island and the surrounding sea is nothing less than spectacular. The gentle ocean breeze and the serene face of Buddha etched with a sweet smile towering over you will certainly make you feel at peace.
Wat Phra Yai - The Big Buddha Temple
It might look like an ancient monument at first glance but being built in 1972, the big buddha statue can hardly be called as such. The temple complex of Wat Phra Yai, however, is said to be older. While the Golden Buddha may be the major driving force for the crowds of tourists, the temple has a lot to offer as well. Not only is the artwork inside the temple marvellous, with a lot of attention to detail and a choice palette of colours, the temple complex also houses paintings, shrines and other smaller Buddhas. As for activities, people can walk around, make donations and offerings, watch the devotees as they worship, and listen to monks chant. There is even 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 local cuisines.
Wat Phra Yai Dress Code
Like most Thai temples, at Wat Phra Yai too, one must adhere to the basic dress code. Make sure to dress appropriately. If in doubt pick modest clothing, preferably something covering shoulders and knees. Also, if you are out on a temple spree, you do not want to waste time tying and untying your shoes so go for slip-on shoes. However, if you do somehow forget the dress code, fret not for at the entrance of the temple, robes and scarves are loaned to tourists free of cost.
How to Reach Wat Phra Yai
Wat Phra Yai, situated on the north-eastern part of Koh Samui island, is easy to access. Fairly close to the Samui international airport it can be reached through a 3 km causeway connecting Koh Faan to Koh Samui. One can take the bus called songtaew there, or a taxi and head north on route 4171 from the airport.
Best Time to Visit Wat Phra Yai
As a temple, Wat Phra Yai becomes a prime location on days of religious festivities. If you want to soak in the local religious customs and revelry, you might want to visit around the time of festivals such as Loy Kratong or Songkran where the temple lights up in celebration. Or you can avoid these days altogether if you simply want to see the statue.
If you are not too fond of crowds, avoid a visit on Sunday. 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 sun but also leave you with the best view and ample picture time.
Tips on Visiting Wat Phra Yai
There is no entrance fee or parking fee but if you wish to put money in the donation boxes, be sure to carry changed money.
Be respectful of the locals and the devotees as it is a place of worship.
If you visit in the afternoon, do carry a pair of socks as the floor tends to get really hot, and the stairs might get slippery.
Wat Phra Yai promises health and happiness to the locals, to the Buddhists and to all who come from far away to pray and pay their respects. For the sightseers, the temple promises a peaceful and serene experience. On a tour of the gorgeous island of Koh Samui in Thailand, a trip to the Golden Buddha is a must.