It is normal to think that a tropical vacation haven such as Koh Samui is just all about the beaches. That’s not true at all. The island has an abundance of religious, cultural, and natural landmarks that have shaped and defined its image as a holiday destination. These landmarks are not merely objects for sightseeing. The also impart learning and a glimpse to the kind of life the locals have.
Hin Ta Hin Yai
In case you are wondering if Mother Nature has a sense of humor, you should stop by Lamai and see the island’s most talked about rock formations. Hin Ta Hin Yai or grandma and grandpa rocks are natural attractions that funnily enough look like male and female reproductive organs. While they are just rocks, they still make people wonder. If you need a pick me up or just plain curious if they are worth the hype, come and visit. This is a slippery area though so if you are planning to come by, make sure you wear footwear with enough traction. Also, there’s a fee of 5 Baht per person.
Also referred to as Wat Khunaram, this temple holds the remains of Koh Samui’s notable monk, Loung Pordaeng. It is kept in a glass casket and is continually worshipped by the believers who regularly bring flowers, food, and fragrant incenses. The monk was known for his meditation techniques and was able to foresee his own death. Being a hallmark in the locals’ religion, this temple is a tribute to him.
Big Buddha Temple
On your vacation in Koh Samui, don’t miss the chance to see the legendary Big Buddha Temple. This is the island’s most popular sight. Its golden color and enormous size make the statue hard to ignore. The view from the top is amazing, making it worth the visit.
The temple is intricately designed and is very colorful. Since this landmark is a house of worship, visitors should observe the proper dress code. Shoulders have to be covered so it is recommended that you bring a shawl or a shrug to wear while inside. After basking in the views, you may check out some of the merchandise being sold at the stalls or perhaps stop by the nearby coffee shop for a cupful of hot brew. To avoid the thick crowd, make sure to come early. There is no entrance fee but a few donations will be appreciated.
Plai Laem Temple
A Buddhist temple dedicated to Guanyin, the beloved goddess of mercy and compassion, Wat Plai Laem is another important religious and cultural stop in Koh Samui. This features an 18-arm statue of the goddess as well as intricate architecture influenced by Buddhism.
The temple is a visual marvel with beautiful bright colors working in amazing contrast with the white statue. The stunning complex is surrounded by a lake that is rich in aquatic life. A donation to the temple will be rewarded with food that you can feed to the fishes.
Wat Plai Laem is more than just a landmark, it is a mirror to the Thai customs and beliefs. Being at the temple is an amazing experience. Once you are here, you will suddenly be enveloped with the feeling of awe and quiet peace.
Na Muang Waterfall
A perfect place for a nature trip, the Na Muang Waterfall is a popular natural landmark that showcases the island’s tropical vegetation and beautiful cascading waters. The falls can be accessed by a 4×4 vehicle or you can do it the way locals do, by walking. You need to walk about 1 kilometer to get to it but if the weather is pleasant, it can be done.
People come here to swim, meditate, and simply enjoy the soothing sounds of nature. The entrance fee is cheap and you can stay here all day if you want. There are elephants and other animals in the area as well as mini temples where you can make contributions. Overall this is a good stop if you love the outdoors and you’d want to unplug and have a quiet break.
Secret Buddha Garden
Often referred to as Magic Garden, this was built in 1976 and boasts beautifully made statues and relics built in a fertile garden. This landmark is tucked away in the hills and is a good place to get to know some of the relevant characters in traditional Thai mythology. The garden has the most romantic location as it sits on top of a gorgeous waterfall. Tall trees are scattered in the property so there’s plenty of shade. People come here to take pictures and to enjoy the stunning vistas offered by the elevated setting.
Your sightseeing itinerary should definitely include the Fisherman’s Village. This is worth exploring because it is a busy commercial area where you can get a strong feel of the locals’ way of life. It is hard to get bored here since there is plenty to see, especially at night when all the stores come alive, luring passers-by to stop and take a look at their goods.
If you want to discover great food at really good prices, the Fisherman’s Village is sure is the place to do it. Here you can choose from a wide array of street food, local delicacies, and endless seafood offerings.
The Orthodox Church
Aside from the Buddhist temples, there are also some other interesting religious stops you can check out such as the Orthodox Church in Lamai. The church offers gorgeous views of Lamai and is a nice place of solace if you need a place to pray, ask for guidance, and have a feeling of familiarity in case you are a Christian.
The island’s port is situated on the north west portion of Samui. This is the gateway to and from Samui and its surrounding islands. Obviously it is a busy area and an established commercial district. You can come here early for quiet walks or you can stop by the food stalls and buy fresh fruits, fish, and local vegetables. The pier is also a place to watch the sunset and do some errands like banking, pharmacy stops, and currency exchange. Of course you can also head for a cruise and ride one of the boats awaiting in the water.