When you’re ready to take a break from Koh Samui’s spectacular beaches, visit one of the island’s must-see temples. Thailand’s official religion is Buddhism, which is followed by Chinese folk faiths like Taoism. Buddhist temples are known in Thailand as “Wat”, and Chinese shrines are known as “San Jao”.
The most significant temples on Koh Samui feature stunning structures that are either related or in some way linked to Buddhism. Get a taste of authentic Thailand by visiting Koh Samui temples featured in this blog. (Updated Weekly)
Secret Buddha Garden ( a.k.a Namtok Tar Nim & Magic Garden)
An interesting collection of statues and spectacular vistas surrounded by dense jungle tucked away in the inland hills of Koh Samui is the Secret Buddha Garden. Nim Thongsuk, a local fruit farmer began creating sculptures and temples around his family’s lush land way back in 1976.
One of the statues shows Nim in a contented sitting position on a rock among other animals, gods, and people in various poses. Nim worked on expanding his garden up to his passing at age 91. The garden features a stream and waterfall each of which is shrouded in dense vegetation. The road leading to the garden however is a struggle given that it is steep and uneven. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is best suited for driving up the garden.
Khun Nim was an innovative Durian farmer throughout his working career. He helped the island become well known for this stenchy but prized healthy fruit. He assembled a team to develop the garden with sculptures that mostly depicted Buddhist folklore. The narrative and meaning of these moving works of art are generally known in Thailand, and each monument has a distinct history to share. After retiring, he opened the garden to the public.
Best bits of the Secret Buddha Garden
Every visit to the Secret Buddha Garden, also known as Namtok Tar Nim, Heaven’s Garden, or Magic Garden, yields a fresh discovery. The grounds are dotted with statues of diverse sizes and shapes, so taking the wrong track or halting to look closely behind a tree could reveal yet another hidden treasure.
The Tar Nim Waterfall summit is where the Secret Buddha Garden is located. There are numerous rest spots along the road where you can enjoy the island vistas. Both inside the gardens and from the road going up to them boasts breathtaking views.
Take the air force road in Baan Saket, which ascends to Ta Nim Waterfall. The remaining 400 meters will be a dirt track leading to the Secret Garden. The road should only be driven by experienced drivers, and it’s best to drive in a 4WD vehicle.
The gardens can be visited as a part of an adventure day excursion like an ATV ride or a jungle safari. The majority of travel operators on the island can simply arrange these. Getting through the gardens can be difficult for people with limited mobility due to the several steep slopes and numerous steps. The garden is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm.
Big Buddha Temple
On a tiny, rocky island off the northeastern coast of Koh Samui, stands the Big Buddha Temple. One of the island’s most visited sights is the golden, 12-meter-tall seated Buddha statue known locally as Wat Phra Yai. The temple is located on Koh Faan and is connected to the main island by a causeway. When traveling by plane to Koh Samui, the Big Buddha, which can be seen from a distance of several kilometers, is frequently the first landmark visitors notice.
The Big Buddha sculpture seated in the Mara position was built in 1972, with the right hand pointed downward and the left hand’s palm facing upward. It shows a period of time when Buddha was on his path to enlightenment. By thinking and maintaining his composure, he was able to overcome the perils and temptations that the devil-figure Mara put upon him. The position is a representation of constancy, chastity, and enlightenment.
Main attractions at the Big Buddha Temple
A plaza and vendor area are at the foot of the Big Buddha statue, where amulets, religious artifacts, garments, and souvenirs are offered for sale. Two other Buddha statues are housed in pavilions. The platform area where the Buddha is located is reached through a staircase embellished with a vibrant dragon motif.
Buddhist enthusiasts visit the statue’s base frequently to gift fruit, flowers, and incense. Visitors who are fascinated by witnessing these exquisite religious rites are invited to visit at any hour of the day. In addition to providing a glimpse into the community’s culture, the platform offers stunning views of the beach and the ocean. The Big Buddha is illuminated by bright spotlights at night.
The temple is a central location for festivities of many kinds throughout Thailand. In Koh Samui, the Big Buddha Temple is no different. The temple fills up with worshippers earning merit and taking advantage of the festivities setting up marketplaces, food, and entertainment during holidays like Loy Kratong and Songkran. Originally named Bang Rak, the nearby beach is now more generally referred to as Big Buddha Beach because of the significance of the temple at its eastern end. Along its sandy shoreline, there are numerous hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, and commercial shops.
The temple is located 7 to 8 kilometers from Chaweng Beach and approximately 3 kilometers from Samui International Airport and Bophut Beach.
Although the temple is open all day, it is preferable to visit in the morning if you want to get a full sense of the culture. Locals can be seen making contributions to the temple, and monks can be seen chanting in the morning.
Do wear modest clothing as this is a sacred location. Dress conservatively by covering your shoulders with a shirt, a scarf, or long shorts. It is not permissible to wear beachwear when visiting the Big Buddha Temple.