Most popular tourist attraction in Koh Samui
The one tourist attraction that nearly every visitor goes to see when visiting Koh Samui is Wat Pra Yai. It is located in Bang Rak in the north of Koh Samui just a short distance from the airport, Big Buddha beach and Bophut.
What distinguishes Wat Pra Yai from the many other Wats on the island is that it is a 12 meter high golden Buddha built on a small island just off the coast. It is joined to the mainland by ascending steps that takes the visitor or devotee to the feet of the Buddha. Because the Buddha statue is at the top of a raised platform it makes the statue seem even bigger and more imposing. It can be seen from Big Buddha pier, as a shining gold monument off the headland.
History of the Big Buddha
Big Buddha was built in 1972. This is the year after the first backpackers arrived on Koh Samui. One wonders if the two events - the tourists arriving and a golden Buddha being erected - are in anyway related.
Between 2005 and 2006 the Big Buddha statue was extended to include a traditional Dharma wheel and Suphannahong boat. The Dharma wheel symbolizes the circle of life and the necessity of attuning one's life to the laws of the universe. The Suphannahong boat is a royal barge that represents the Thai royal family and reminds the viewer the traditional importance of the maritime arts in the Kingdom.
Getting to Big Buddha
Near Wat Pra Yai there are a few local restaurants and shops that cater for both Thai and foreign tourists visiting the famous statue.
To get to Big Buddha statue you can hop in a taxi or get a motorbike taxi. Alternatively you could hire motorbikes for the day to make the trip. It is important to show respect to Thai Buddhism by wearing respectful clothing to Wat Pra Yai. This means long pants and long sleeve shirts. It is no problem to photograph the golden statue.