You could easily spend a week in Phuket laying on the beach or simply sipping cocktails by the pool. In other words, you don’t need to actually do much to enjoy your time on this Thai island.
And while there is much to be said for chilling by the pool, getting to know the local culture and exploring your surroundings is a worthy cause to say the least. During our team’s trip to Phuket, we wanted to not only stay in some of the best villas in Thailand – we wanted to see and experience the island beyond the villas. Besides visiting the Phi Phi Islands and exploring the local night markets, paying a visit to the Big Buddha was high up on our list of Phuket must-dos.
Located in Karon, the Big Buddha is arguably the most iconic landmark in Phuket. Towering at 45 metres high, it’s impossible to miss the Big Buddha as we make the winding drive up the hill. On our way up, we pass by elephant rides and signs advertising bizarre animal shows – the kind that make you feel like you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.
That’s the things about Phuket – you really need wheels to get around. Staying in Villa Viman, getting a ride was super easy as the villa’s staff arranged the car for us. If you really want to go local, you could also hitch a colourful tuk-tuk to take you to the hilltop.
The Big Buddha sits at the top of a large staircase, offering spectacular views of the island and the ocean. The site is particularly popular during sunset, but don’t let that scare you. We visited the statue right before sundown and the place was busy, but not crowded in the least.
The Big Buddha itself is built from white marble tiles using nothing but donated funds. In fact, you can still contribute to the project by purchasing a tile at the foot of the statue.
This being a religious site, visitors are required to dress modestly. If you’re dressed in short shorts or a mini skirt, you can borrow a sarong at the entrance free of charge. Visiting the Buddha is free as well, but donations are appreciated and there are donation boxes across the estate.
Despite the fact that this is one of the most famous spots in Phuket, the Big Buddha does not feel like a tourist trap. Yes, you can buy trinkets and keepsakes. Yes, the views are beautiful and the location is ideal for taking photos. But what this place feels like first and foremost is spiritual.
At the foot of the Big Buddha, there are Buddhist chants floating in the air and gilded prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Inside the temple, locals are praying and the air is fragrant with incense.
Next to the massive white Buddha is a smaller Buddha made from brass which shimmers softly in the sun. Both statues are adorned with burning incense and small mementos. You can’t help but pause and just take it all in.
After the sun begins to set over the horizon, we make our way down the stairs from the foot of the Buddha. On your way out, don’t forget to pause to receive blessings from the monks. We take off our shoes and kneel down to receive the blessing and a sprinkling of holy water. We leave with colourful bracelets tied around our wrists, countless photos on our cameras – and filled with an incredible sense of peace.
The perfect way to wrap up a day in Phuket.