Big Buddha
Big Buddha

So you have arrived in Phuket after what may have seemed like an endless journey.   Flying on multiple airplanes through at least two airports.  You are not even sure what day it is or what time, but you have found the van to your hotel, thanks to the placard the Easy Day Thailand van driver was holding.  As you relax in the back of the van from Phuket airport to your hotel and the much needed couple of hours sleep.  You are excited to finally  be in Phuket Island and are busy watching the scenery around you as the driver skillfully negotiates the traffic.  As you head further south, depending on which lovely resort you have chosen, you will notice or the driver will point out the head of the Phuket Big Buddha high on the hill off to your right.   This is just one of the many sights apart from Wat Chalong, you will want to be sure to visit while enjoying your stay, The Phuket Big Buddha.

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The huge statue of the sitting Buddha, dedicated to HM King Bhumibol, is over 45 meters tall and located on one of the highest hills on the southern part of the island.  It does dominate the skyline.  It is not necessarily  the easiest spot to reach and can be challenging depending on your  preferred mode of transportation.  The statue sits atop the Nakkerd Hills  and was the idea of several friends as they wondered about the scenic hills  around the turn of the century (2000), the statue is not an old monument,  but a testament to these forward thinking gentlemen.  It was first point out to  me back in 2008 when I first relocated to Phuket after living in Tokyo, Japan.   I have made many trips up the ‘mountain’ to watch the progress of  construction.  The multi-year project has faced many challenges, not the least  of which was funding with cost estimates for the project at over 30 million baht.   The proper site had to be identified, purchased and the permits had to be  obtained, never an easy task anywhere in the world, but having unique challenges here in Phuket.  When I first visited the Phuket Big Buddha, the road to reach the site was nothing more than packed dirt and the statute itself was, while impressive, only a concrete edifice.   One thing I noticed immediately was the peace and tranquility that seemed to pervade the site and continues through each visit.

Big Buddha in 2010
Big Buddha in 2010

Today, the road(6 km road off Chao Fa Road East near Chalong Circle) to the top has improved, but is still a bit of a steep climb through the jungle area surrounding the construction site.  On my first visit, there was nothing located along the dirt road once I had left the relative civilization at the turn off, but today, many extra tourist attractions have begun to spring up, restaurants(serving outstanding food) and jungle treks  (featuring Elephant rides and ATV Trips), so you can really make a full day of it.  Be sure to bring your camera, the availability of incredible pictures will test even the most avid camera buff.

Today, the site is nearing completion, with a proper parking area at the base, a unique building documenting the construction and offering food including a Buddhist worship area.  The steps up to the base of the statue are challenging for people that have difficulty walking, so please plan accordingly.   But once you reach the actual base of the massive statue it will be well  worth the effort.  It is very quiet and peaceful, with the background sounds of the dharma music playing and bells hung in the trees jingling in the soft breeze.

The base is over 25 meters wide and the inside of the statue itself is now open to the public and serves many uses for locals, from worship to weddings to funerals.   You will quickly  become aware of the glow coming from the statue, now fully covered in white Burmese Marble tiles.  Note that as a way of raising funds all of the tiles represent small donations and were on all my visits available for ‘purchase’.   So, my name and family all have places on the statue as I did ‘purchase’ tiles on each visit, inscribing my name and the names of family and  friends.

Big Buddha Views
Big Buddha Views

If you are fortunate, as I was on one visit, you may get to witness a Buddhist wedding at the site.  It was very interesting, it occurred on one of my earlier visits and at first I had no idea what was going on, but my friend who was accompanying me explained.  There was no marching down the aisle, the newlyweds and family sat on couches in front of 5 monks seated on a table.  Not being able to speak Thai, I cannot tell you what was said.  An interesting facet was the string that flowed down from the Head of the Phuket Big Buddha to the monks and then the newlyweds and their family and then back to each of the visitors and guests seated in attendance.   I did not understand the significance of the string and of course asked, it was explained to me that the string represented the oneness of all of us with the Lord Buddha.

Please keep in mind that while this may only be a unique tourist attraction for you, it is a religious site for the Buddhist faithful, so please dress in proper respectful attire, i.e., no bare  shoulders or midriffs or short-shorts, there are sarongs that you can borrow free of charge if you are wearing something inappropriate.

The statue site is open from 8 am until 7:30 pm, so given good weather you can catch a fantastic sunset and some incredible panoramic shots of the south end of Phuket.

While the huge white marble statue in the center of the hill top does dominate, there is also a smaller one, 12 meters high, made of 22 tons of brass costing eight million baht.  This smaller statue is dedicated to HM Queen Sirikit.   While most impressive the larger statue does not lend itself to those candid family pictures every one takes to document their adventures, however this smaller statue of Buddha is almost ideal for these shots.  So don’t be shy ask another visitor to take a couple of pictures of your entire party posed in front of the beautiful bronze Buddha.

Know Before you go! Read our guide on How to Dress in a Thai Temple.

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