This is the Giant Buddha, as it is known locally, which is destined to become a local landmark and a place for both tourists and devout Buddhists to visit.
About 10 years ago a group of friends were walking through the forest in the Nakkerd Hills between Chalong and Kata when they stumbled upon a place with stunning vistas of both sides of the island – Chalong Bay lay in one direction while on the other they looked down over Kata and the Andaman Sea. It would, they thought, make a perfect place for a viewpoint – something that could become as well known as Phuket’s favourite sunset viewpoint, at Laem Phromthep.
As time went on, and as the friends discussed it again and again, the idea evolved. The place in the hills, they soon agreed, would be perfect not just as a viewpoint, but as the site for something much more ambitious and, to Buddhists at least, much more significant: a giant image of the Lord Buddha.
The project had its hiccups, not least of which was battling through a mountain of red tape required to get permits to build in virgin forest at a height above the usual building limit. But the paperwork was finally completed and construction began in February last year.
Funds for the massive structure are coming entirely from donations. “This project is huge and requires a lot of money. But so far we are managing just fine. I’m amazed at the amount of help we have received from everyone who knows about this project. It seems they all want to be a part of it,” explained Suporn Wanichkul, president of the Mingmongkol Faith 45 foundation, which was formed to build the Giant Buddha.
When the project is complete, there will in fact be two Buddha images. A smaller one, 12 metres high, made of 22 tons of brass and costing 8 million baht, was completed a while ago. This will be dwarfed by the giant Buddha image, which will face eastward toward Chalong Bay and Phang Nga Bay beyond. When finished, the Phra Puttamingmongkol Akenakkiri Buddha – to give it its official name – will be 45 meters high and 25 meters across at the base. It is expected to cost about 30 million baht to complete the giant image. “So far we have received donations of more than 20 million baht,” said Khun Suporn. “The money has come from everywhere, from locals, from Thais in other provinces and from foreign tourists. With our website and the help we have had from the press, we have even received donations from overseas.”
The work is going well. When Phuket.com visited the site, construction had begun on the head of the image and planning was well advanced in preparation for the next step – covering the entire structure with 135 tons of Burmese white marble, another donation from devout Buddhists.
The smaller Buddha image, Khun Suporn explained, will be devoted to HM Queen Sirikit, while the big one will be devoted to HM King Bhumibol to celebrate his 80th birthday. Even though the completion date is still a year off, the site is already attracting the devout and the curious, with sometimes as many as 1,000 people a day visiting it. Its most celebrated visitor so far was HRH Princess Ubol Ratana Rajakanya, who attended a prayer ceremony at the site early last year.
The 49-rai (7.8-hectare) site is already surrounded by beautiful tropical rain forest, so there is no hurry to landscape the site, said K. Suporn. “We want to get the big Buddha image done first, then we will deal with the landscaping later. “When it is complete, this place will be one of the most celebrated landmarks of Phuket. It offers everyone some of the most stunning views, all set in peaceful forest,”
Click here for Photo Album photos of the Structure taken November 2008
Pictured left: Auswathai 2010 Songkran Tour team to PhuketWe visited the awesome Buddha We stopped half way up the hill at a restaurant for delicious Thai food and tasty fruit shake drinks that were so good we re ordered until they sold out!We visited Buddha around lunchtime and that means it's very hot during April so be warned, don't carry a hangover!oh and remember you should be aware of a minimum dress standard however they are forgiving.You can see all about the 2010 auswathai Songkran tour - at this link