Koh Samui has an interesting history and is rich in historical and religious buildings, temples and shrines.
If you want to explore the island in order to experience first hand many of its incredible sights, historical attractions and then you may want to plan carefully since the island has all sorts of historical, natural and quirky attractions.
TEMPLES AND SHRINES
Thailand is famous for its vast array of beautiful temples, shrines and religious buildings that are present throughout the country.
If you do visit a temple or some other building of religious importance you need to make sure that you dress appropriately and be respectful at all times.
DOs and DON’Ts in a Buddhist temple:
- If you go inside any temple, DO take off your shoes.
- DO cover your knees and shoulders, this is particularly true for women.
- DON’T raise you voice.
- DON’T do anything that disrupts the quiet, calm and meditative atmosphere that is present inside the temple.
- DO ask permission to take pictures.
- When you visit a monument, DO know some things about them.
WAT PHRA YAI TEMPLE – BIG BUDDHA STATUE
Probably the number one tourist attraction on the island is the famous temple known as Wat Phra Yai. It is popular with tourists who come to marvel at this magnificent structure, standing a staggering 12 meters tall, the statue is visible from quite a distance and can even be spotted from the airplane.
During Songkran (Thai New Year) and Loi Kratong (The Festival of Light) the temple plays host food stalls, musical performances, concerts and even beauty competitions. It is during these large festivals that the temple and Big Buddha statue really come alive.
The Wat Phra Yai temple is located in the northeast of the island.
WAT PLAI LAEM
Located not far from the Big Buddha statue is another magnificent temple, known as Wat Plai Laem. Outside the temple there is an impressive statue of the 18-armed Goddess Shiva. This statue and the nearby temple were designed by one of Thailand’s most famous and well renowned artists called Jarit Phumdonming. It took him well over 3 years to complete the design in its entirety.
The outside walls of the temple are also beautifully decorated with a range of impressive designs and colors. The tradition of decorating temples in this way dates back centuries and it is interesting to see how this tradition has been maintained in the architecture of this particular religious building.
In the direction of Lamai, down the main coastal road you will come to what is arguably one of the prettiest sightseeing attractions on the island, The Khunaram Temple, or Wat Khunaram.
Decorated in gold, pink and blue it is here where you will find Koh Samui’s famous shrine a mummified monk, known as Loung Pordaeng. The monk, who died in 1973, has been well preserved and upon visiting the shrine you will be able to see him meditating behind a glass casing.
KIRI WONGKARAM TEMPLE
There is actually more than one well-preserved Buddhist Monk that is on Koh Samui Island.
The incredible mummification is meant to be due to the result of the monk’s fastidious diet. Even today, the temple authorities claim that the mummy’s hair and nails are continuing to grow all the time. It is also claimed that pieces of Luang Por Rerm Khun Wongkaram nails can be used as charms that will protect the person wearing them from evil spirits.
The vast majority of the Kiri Wongkaram Temple was constructed in 1968, although the mummy’s former resting place was actually constructed in 1957, with the main temple building being completed just over a decade later.
KAW LAE – BUDDHA’S FOOTPRINT
Another religious site that will certainly be of interest to sightseers is the Buddha’s Footprint that is located on the close to the Samui Butterfly Garden.
Here you will find four footprints of Buddha, each one a little bit smaller than the other, which are contained in one larger footprint. These footprints are said to be over 300 years old and are understood to symbolize the Lord Buddha’s Path to Liberation.
The only way to reach the footprints is to climb the 150 or so steep steps that lead up to the site, so it is advisable that you take some water, especially if you intend on visiting the site during the day.
THE SECRET BUDDHA GARDEN – OFF THE BEATEN PATH
This is not officially a temple, it is still one of the most astonishing and impressive religious and cultural sites that Koh Samui has to offer. Located in the southwest of the island, the secret garden is the entire work of a 77 year old Samui farmer and Buddhist devotee, Nim Thongsuk or Uncle Nim as he is known locally.
The landscaping of a waterfall that helps to make the Secret Buddha Garden seem even more magical. To say that it is hidden away is somewhat of an understatement, as it is actually only accessible by a four-wheel drive vehicle. Therefore, it is best to visit the gardens as part of an organised tour, so you can sit back and let the experts drive! Even though the gardens are well and truly off the beaten track they are still well worth visiting.
I mentioned at the beginning about the quirky attractions that Koh Samui has to offer, well this is more of a phallic nature and they call it the Grandfather and Grandmother rock since they resemble the male and female genitalia. To the mature, this is a fascinating geological structure, but let’s face it, people come here in giggly disbelief that this thing is actually a tourist spot.