Wat Phra Yai (Big Buddha Temple) is one of Koh Samui’s most famous landmarks. Located near the airport, the site boasts an immense 12 meter tall golden Buddha image that can actually be seen from the plane as visitors fly into the island. Construction of the temple was commenced in 1972 and since then, it has gained in popularity, now experiencing a healthy number of locals and tourists who come to pay their respects and take some amazing photographs.
The Buddha itself is found on the nearby island of Koh Fam which can be reached by a causeway from the mainland. The base of the statue is surrounded by several restaurants and shops selling snacks, jewelry, clothing and other souvenirs. When there, don’t forget to climb up to the viewing platform where you can experience breathtaking views that stretch around the north coast of Samui all the way to Koh Phangan.
Other attractions at the temple include a fat and very happy Phra Maitreya (Buddha of the Future) and a set of dragon-like naga that flank the stairs leading up to the Big Buddha itself. With the amount of tourists coming in, the temple is constantly getting upgraded too, thanks to the large number of donations. If you wish to give money, there are plenty of ways to do it from buying floral garlands to getting your fortune read.
The temple is found on the northeastern tip of Koh Samui on Route 4171. For convenient access, you can find nearby accommodation and Koh Samui villas on Big Buddha and Cheong Mon Beach as well as the Plai Laem area. This spot is especially accessible as it is so close to the island’s international airport. Just make sure that you book early around major festivals such as Loy Krathong and Songkran as the area becomes quite crowded during these occasions. This can be a great time to visit the temple though as celebrations are quite merry, and include beauty pageants, live music and standup comedy.