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Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha)
Truly a sight to behold, the 40 foot statue was built in 1972 at the Wat Phra Yai temple, on a small island connected by a bridge to the main island at Big Buddha Beach, about 10 minutes from Chaweng.
For many visiting Thais this is their first port of call, lighting incense candles and laying gifts of food and beverages at the temple, while praying for a safe and happy visit to the island.
As far as Buddha statues go this is the one to see while visiting Koh Samui. Protected by 2 seven headed Naga (serpents) running the length of the steps, the statue stands magnificently on a platform overseeing all around. From here you'll see fantastic views of the Bo Phut bay area and across to the neighbouring island of Koh Phangan.
Early morning is the best time to visit, when fewer tourists are around and the sun is pouring over the famous Buddha.
Either side of Big Buddha you'll find 2 smaller ornate temples, with the Reclining and Happy Buddha.
Elsewhere you can make a small donation and sign your name on one of the tiles used by the monks to repair the roofs of the temple. You may also notice the pots with days of the week that depict 8 of the 100 poses of Buddha representing each day. You can make a donation in the pot on the day of the week you were born, to bring you luck on your visit. Don't worry, if you don't know the day you were born just drop in to the 'Holy Material' shop and the staff will find it for you.
Around the temple are many stalls selling souvenirs and typical tourist wares you can find elsewhere on the island. There are restaurants and cafes to enjoy a meal or drink overlooking Big Buddha Beach. There's also fresh fruit available from the street vendors at the temple entrance.
Please be reminded this temple is a spiritual place, you might forget this when you see the markets and stalls below, but Buddhism is intertwined with everyday life in Thailand. Please dress respectfully and ensure you remove your footwear before climbing the stairs to Big Buddha. As the sign says 'no man bikini', and we're pretty sure no one really wants to see that anywhere in Thailand, let alone at a temple.
Big Buddha is easy to find, just check a free local map.