Phuket beautifully blends tradition and development, rural life and urbanity, sinners and saints. Construction of Phuket’s Big Buddha is proof that, as the island-province steadily develops into a global tourist destination, its religious traditions remain to be what’s most important. Now easily becoming Phuket’s most iconic symbol, the marble Buddha towers over all other man-made icons in the island. This highly-revered symbol is simply a must-see for all tourists whether Buddhists, Christians or what-have-you.
Here are amazing facts you need to know about the Big Buddha.
1. You can see the giant image from almost everywhere you are standing in Phuket. It strategically sits on top of the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata, looking over several communities, the turquoise sea, luscious green islands, blinding silver beaches and rocky promontories. The image is 45 meters tall, 25 meters in diameter, and 400 meters above sea level.
2. Costing about 130 million baht or $4 million, construction of Big Buddha was completely paid for by donation money. Devotees and tourists helped raise that much money even before construction began in 2005. The faithful did not need any incentives; tourists and other locals, on the other hand, needed a little push, and so as an incentive, anyone who donated 100 baht was given a marble tablet on which that person could inscribe his name and thoughts. The marble tablets were then used in constructing the sacred structure. One could also choose to write on an artificial Bodhi leaf instead, and attach it to a golden bell to attract good luck.
3. The image is spectacular when seen up close. Known to locals as the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha, 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.
4. Bells play an important role. A row of 100 bells lead up to the image. These bells are for sale and hung so that they ring as the wind blows. The magical pealing of tiny bells adds to the sacredness of the area. Hanging below the image is the mother of all bells – a huge one-ton bell that devotees strike as part of a ritual.
5. Behind the Big Buddha is a smaller 12-meter golden Buddha. The smaller Buddha is spectacular in itself, but is simply dwarfed by the imposing Big Buddha before it.
6. Phuket’s Big Buddha is now the second-largest Buddha in the world. For now, the biggest is the 120-meter standing Buddha in Japan, but this will soon be dwarfed by the reclining Buddha now in construction in China’s Guifeng National Park. It is said to be about 400 meters long when completed, which could make it not only the biggest Buddha but also the largest statue in the world.
7. Wear something decent when visiting the Buddha. Put on a sarong if you feel you are revealing too much skin. Visiting hours are from 8:00 AM to 7:30 PM, for free, but be ready to make a donation.