Although much of Southern Thailand is predominantly Muslim, including Samui, Buddhism pervades all aspects of life in the Kingdom. With the arrival of many outsiders to support the growing tourism industry, Thailand’s main religion has also become a important part of Samui’s culture. This is most famously seen in the giant Buddha on the Northern shore.
Samui’s fame as the beach and coconut isle is widespread, but few visitors realize that it also has a wealth of Buddhist culture. From ancient Buddha images to modern colorful temples, there is a vast selection of interesting sites to visit and sights to see. Here are our suggestions. Please remember to dress politely (no beachwear or revealing clothing) and to behave with respect in temple grounds.
Wat Phra Yai and Big Buddha. This temple is the home of Koh Samui’s most famous landmark the Big Buddha. Most Visitors come to marvel at the sheer size and beauty of this remarkable statue at some point during their holiday. Visible from several kilometers away and even from the air when arriving on or leaving the island , the 12 meter tall golden image stands proud. At the base of the structure, several shops and restaurants cater to the needs of devotees and tourists alike. Wat Phra Yai is in the Northeast of Samui on route 4171 near the airport.
Kunaram Temple – Mummified Monk. The body of Samui’s most famous mummified monk, Loung Pordaeng, is on display here in a specially constructed building. When he died more than 20 years ago, he was sitting in a meditation position. He is still in that same position and his body shows few signs of any major decay. Wat Khunaram is on the 4169 ring-road between the Na Muang waterfalls and Hua Thanon.
Coral Buddha. Formerly one of Samui’s main attractions, this small, dilapidated statue is now only visited by Buddhist devotees. Although it is in a state of disrepair, the Coral Buddha is still revered and is a place of worship for the monks from nearby Wat Sumret. The only direction sign is a small tatty board parallel to the road which is easy to miss when driving past. It is on the 4169 ring-road approximately 800 meters West of Hua Thanon.
Sumret Temple. Part of Wat Sumret, this building contains many different Buddha images. One is in the reclining position and the tallest, which stands three meters, was transported all the way from India. Wat Sumret is down the second concrete road on the left, 800 meters West of Hua Thanon on the 4169 ring-road.
The Leam Sor Chedi. In the grounds of Wat Laem Sor, this ornately designed Chedi (Pagoda) sits at the rocky water’s edge. Covered in countless small yellow tiles, it appears golden when viewed from a short distance. It’s at the far South of the island off the 4170 road between Ban Tale and Ban Pang Ka. Follow the track with a sign that reads “Waikiki Bungalows”, and It’s at the end of that.
Buddha’s Footprint. There are actually four foot-prints here, superimposed one on another. Each one is artistically en-graved. They are housed in a modest shrine 150 steps up a steep hill, which also offers a great view across the plains to the mountains opposite, and to the sea over the tree tops. Buddha’s Footprint is not signposted but can be found by going up a concrete slope on the left, two kilometers West of the turnoff for the Butterfly Garden on the 4170 road.
Wat Khao Chedi. Also in the Wat Laem Sor grounds, but a fair distance away lies the Khao (mountain) Chedi. Until a few months ago, this ruined monument had been forgotten about for many years. Now, the overgrown path leading to the chedi has been cleared and there’s easy access. About 300 meters West of the Laem Sor Chedi there is a hill. At the base of the hill a small hut can be seen, and 100 meters to the right of this dwelling, the path is visible. It leads to a stairway which takes about 10 minutes to climb. At the top, the peaceful ruins of the Khao Chedi greet the intrepid explorer. The panorama of Laem Sor Bay and the nearby islands from here is breathtaking.
Wat Sila Ngu. Said to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha, the golden chedi facing the temple’s entrance is a popular place of worship. Many local travelling shows and even visiting TV stars sometimes use the temple grounds here for their performances. Wat Sila Ngu is on the 4169 ring-road, one kilometer South of Hin-Ta Hin-Yai on the beach side of the road.
Wat Kiri Wongkaram. The mummified body of the Buddhist monk Loung Por Ruam can be viewed here in a glass case. He was placed in it upon his death 25 years ago and his body is still in remarkably good condition. The temple can be located by following the 4170 road South from Ban Saket and then turning right between tow giant elephant statues. It is a further kilometer along this road on the right hand side.
Wat Plai Laem. Wat Plai Laem is located in the north of Samui on road 4171 from Big Buddha to Choeng Mon Beach. The temple is famous for the hundreds of big fish enjoying their live in the lake of the temple and waiting to be fed (Food for the fish is available at the temple for a small donation of 10 Baht per pack). Wat Plai Laem is one of the most colorful temple on Samui and features an 18 arms strong Buddha statue set in the middle of the lake.