In my last post, I wrote about a review of South tip of Phuket including The Evason & Bon Island Hotel and The Green Man in Ruwai. If you are staying in the southern coastal areas of Phuket, like Ruwai, Chalong, Kata or Karon, you will not be able to miss The Big Buddha, even if you don’t actually make the short trek up to see it close up! It is absolutely enormous standing 148 feet (45 metres) tall and is set upon the top of the tallest hill in Sakayamuni overlooking Phang Nga Bay in the east and backs towards the Andaman Sea in the west and visible from the whole of the South area of Phuket.
Known to locals as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha (you can see why ‘Big Buddha caught on really can’t you?), this cross-legged colossus is sitting on a marble podium crafted as a giant lotus flower. The Buddha’s white body may look like concrete in pictures but it is actually white Burmese marble, which makes the image seem to glow as sunlight is reflected. There is perfect peace and tranquility near the image as the only sound you can hear is the tinkling of small bells and the blowing of the wind.
This is eventually to be what it looks like (though I imagine it will be a work in progress for some time:
This was one of the Must See Items on the tourist destinations for anyone’s Phuket Bucket List according to my Uncle who lives not far from it, along with the John Gray’s Sea Canoe excursion (which I will blog about soon)… So I called his driver to come and take me up there. Taxis are the only rip off in Phuket, and my uncle uses a lovely honest chap who doesn’t charge you over the odds. On that day he sent his brother who turned up with his cute young son… This was quite nice for my daughter, and the language barrier didn’t appear to matter since iPad and Ice Lolly are apparently universally fun in any language and it made the time in the taxi pass a lot more quickly for her.
It was not too far from Ruwai, and even with the bendy roads up to the Big Buddha, and our stop off for snacks and drinks from a shop on the way, I think it only took about 30 minutes.
When I got out, the taxi driver told me I would not be able to take the buggy because you had to walk up a huge number of steps (usually my daughter wouldn’t need it, but she had hurt her foot and had it all bandaged up). Determined to see the Big Buddha up close though, I ended up carrying her most of the way, which wasn’t particularly easy, as she weighs about 19 Kgs… Still, a great way to exercise in 30 degree heat if you didn’t already manage to work up a sweat!
I’m not sure if being overheated and on holiday fried my brain cells, but I had a bit of a blond moment and neglected to remember that the ‘tourist attraction’ I was about to visit is actually a sacred Buddhist shrine and that I was not dressed appropriately (wearing shorts and a streapless bandeau top) and had not thought about the fact that this was probably not exactly appropriate attire, but thankfully there were ladies handing out large decorative Sarongs so that any careless tourists could still make the visit whilst being respectfully covered enough. They didn’t make me feel guilty for forgetting either… You have to love the Buddhist attitude to the acceptance of others who are unfamiliar with their customs.
Initially when you enter, you walk through an undercover area that tells you about the construction that is ongoing and why the site is being built (in dedication to the King and Queen of Thailand)… I had been under the misapprehension that it was in tribute to all those who lost their lives in the Tsunami back in 2001, but apparently not…
That said, there were retailers selling pieces of marble tiles that you could write messages on with indelible ink, and little bells that you could hang from the frame for the tarpaulin covering shading the many steps up to the Big Buddha or from the trees around the area at the top… I am uncertain as to the exact meaning of these, I believe that they are offerings and wishes, but some tiles contained messages in memory of those lost loved ones from the Tsunami or simply names. I am told that these tiles will be used to cover the base surrounding the Big Buddha which is being entirely funded by visitor donations.
Once you reach the top you really get a better perspective of just how enormous the Buddha is, and none of the photos do it any justice… Trying to get a picture of my daughter and I that included our feet and the whole of the Buddha proved to be challenging, even from the farthest point you could stand n the surrounding area… When I asked the tourist who had watched me take it if he would take one of the two of us, he was not quite so bothered… Never mind!
The views were absolutely breathtaking panoramas of the whole of the south tip of Phuket, and well worth the trek up to enjoy these views alone even without seeing the beautiful meditating Buddha.
There are donation boxes and bowls everywhere, and to be honest, and entrance is free (of course) so I think it’s only fair to contribute a donation towards the creation of such a stunning tribute, regardless of your faith or belief if you have chosen to make the trip up there.
Here are some of the stunning views that you will get to see if you do go:
As a tip, it’s worth walking up to the steps to take in the view over Kata and Karon in the distance which are off immediately to the left of the steps up to the Buddha at the top… You pass through a shrine on your way (seen just above)
When when we returned to the shop and dedication area below, we were amused to see wild monkeys (long tailed Macaques) sitting on the chairs. My daughter wanted to get closer, but a friend of mine had been bitten by one just a month previously in East Asia, and was still having to have Rabies shots! It’s worth remembering that although it’s tempting to feed or get close to these amazing and clever animals-they are still wild animals, and some do carry rabies which is lethal. The Rabies shots are also not a guarantee that you will not contract rabies. I took this picture with my zoom, but explained that we could not go and say hello to the monkeys.
Well, apparently that didn’t matter-these amazingly clever monkeys have worked out that tourism equals easy junk food-something they appear to love as much as we humans do. The monkey on the left spotted that I was carrying a thin plastic carrier bag that contained a packet of prawn crackers and he ran towards us! Thinking he was going to bite one of us, I instinctively pushed my daughter behind me and told her to stay back-not realising that he was only after the food, and started swinging the bag in an attempt to fend him off.
He used his claws to quickly and efficiently slice through the bag and retrieve the packet before retreating again. My relief, and his satisfaction was only momentary though, as he had only succeeded in retrieving the empty packet, and once he realised, he headed back for another go! I was shouting, and thankfully some Thais rushed over and pushed the monkey away with a long broom-shouting at it, and telling it off in Thai-which the monkeys appeared to understand! PHEW!
…With my heart pounding, I thanked the lady (who was about half my size) and we left. My daughter seemed a bit shaken, but I explained that it was only after the food, but that we still needed to be careful because wild animals are not predictable and can hurt you. We bought coconut ice cream and walked back to our taxi driver who had waited for us before heading off again. On the way back to our hotel, we went on a jungle elephant trek (next post to come) and visited the monkey school, which I had mixed feelings about (post also in the pipeline).
Useful Tips when Visiting Big Buddha:
- Respect that it is a sacred Buddhist site and shrine and dress appropriately (cover bare shoulders and legs). Or accept that you will be wrapped in sarongs that they offer you.
- There are a lot of steps leading up-so it is not wheelchair or push-chair accessible
- Take money to donate, it’s free to visit and is being entirely funded on visitor donations
- Take a decent Camera, and if possible a wide-angle lens as the panoramic views are stunning
- Do not carry snack type food that is openly visible through flimsy carrier bags like I did-or you may get attacked by monkeys
- If a monkey does run to you-drop whatever food you have as that is probably all the monkey is after-and not worth risking being bitten for (monkeys can be especially aggressive towards young children apparently, so keep your children close by too and I would advise against letting them wander around with food packets of any kind-like crisps for example)
- There is a giant bell at the top which I saw, but didn’t realise that there is a trick that you can try of running your finger around it’s circumference and making it resonate like a crystal wine glass when you run your finger around the rim in just the right way. Not many people can do it, but I wish I had known about it before hand-I would like to have known if I was one of them!
- Walk up the steps to the left of the main platform (next to the steps up to the Big Buddha) and past the shrine, you will be treated to some spectacular views over the South West coast of the Island (particularly Kata)
Incidentally… If you are going to visit Big Buddha, then the road that leads there is very near to the Green Man Pub, which is excellent (read about it at the bottom of this post). It’s near the Go-kart track and worth visiting for lunch or supper, except on Mondays (when it’s closed).
Other posts you might Like: