Venerating the founder of Buddhism plays a key role in the spiritual life of many Thais, and as such monuments are found throughout the country. However, due to the key role the religion plays these are not the size of a crucifix in a Catholic church or many other statues in America. Rather, some of these can range in size to more than 100 feet. No matter where you plan on vacationing when you visit Thailand, there are likely to be giant Buddhas worth visiting.
Wat Pho and the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho was the sight of the first university in Thailand and the entire site in Bangkok is worth checking out, being that the statute of the Reclining Buddha is one of the largest in the capital, as is the entire temple complex itself. It measures more than 150 feet long, all of it with gold leaf. However, while many visitors who plan travel to Thailand just take pictures of the statue itself, the temple is also a great place to check out.
Since there are a large number of tourists that head to Wat Pho, there are inexpensive tour guides who can outline the history of the statute, temple and some four different chapels. This is almost like a trip to a museum and since few other vacationers will get the full experience it is also a great way to avoid the crush of tourists that will quickly line up and survey the area.
The Giant Buddha in Ang Thong
Similar to the statues that dominate the landscape around Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the Giant Buddha towers over the rest of the area, standing roughly 300 feet high. As the pose is of a seated lotus, it also spans roughly 180 feet and is an imposing figure for those willing to make the trip about 85 miles north of the capital city.
Locatedin the Wat Muang Monastery, part of the appeal of visiting the ninth highest statue or sculpture in the world are the terraced walkways around the statute. There is also an area for smaller images, in this case of the sinners who did not follow the precepts of the Buddha.
Expect a fair bit of a hike to make it up to the monastery, but the payoff are staggering views of the countryside overseen by the Giant Buddha. It’s also close enough to Phuket, which has its own sites discussed below, to fit into a day trip for those heading to the beaches.
Phuket’s Two Buddhas
This might seem like a bit of a misnomer, but while many travelers are likely aware of the giant, roughly 150-foot-tall Buddha that towers above the hills on Phuket, there is another smaller monument nearby that is worth a day trip.
In terms of the marble-covered Big Buddha itself, vacationers should know that the base remains under construction more than 1,000 feet above the beaches. Still trekking up to see it or at least nearby is a great way to take some time off from enjoying the resort life below. While honoring the religious teacher, it’s also a massive example of what a few men can do with 10 years of work without the aid of level ground or much in the way of government assistance.
The other Buddha is also in a commanding position, but it is surrounded by a fully-built temple including a Dharma wheel and a royal boat. You’ll need to hire a boat to get to the Samui Big Buddha on Wat Phra Yai. Thanks in part to the extra effort necessary, though, vacationers will be able to enjoy some solace on the nearby beaches.
Wat Phanan Choeng in Ayutthaya
In the 14th century, what is now believed to be the oldest monument to Buddha began to take shape in Ayutthaya. The temple is unique not just for its age, but the fact that culturally it intertwines Chinese and Thai heritage at a site at the intersection of two rivers. While the main statute is a major historical and religious marvel, the site itself is much more egalitarian that. Dotting the halls around the main Buddha are numerous smaller versions have been donated from around the country.
Surrounding the statue, there are two viharas which contain most of the site including Chinese wall art as well as the shrine of Lady Soi Dok Mak. As noted above, there is a significant Chinese influence, which means that the homage is two buildings surrounding a courtyard with the shrine itself in the back.