Wat Plai Laem
If you end up visiting Koh Samui, I definitely recommend going to the Wat Plai Laem Buddhist temple. With its giant statues and intricate designs, its a great place to go.
Wat Plai Laem was constructed in the early 2000s with modern flair and traditional Thai Buddhist temple designs in mind. This location boasts even more massive iconic structures built to highlight the wealth and prominence of the island.
As you enter the premises you will be greeted by a 15 meter tall statue with 18 arms known as the Guanyin, the Chinese Goddess of Mercy and Compassion.
There is no clear gender discernable by Kuan Yin’s facial features, and the head is crowned by a golden Chinese-style Buddha image. Each of the 18 arms hold “tools” which are said to be employed by Kuan Yin to ease the suffering of sentient beings.
One leg lies on a seat of lotuses while the other steps on to the back of a dragon, which sometimes carries Kuan Yin across the ocean.
The entire image towers over the fishpond which we took a nice boatride around to explore the perimiter. If you prefer to stay on land, then it can be reached by a long tile walkway.
An impressive and humongous “laughing Buddha” statue is on the opposite side of the water and past the ordination hall. This Buddha is said to be so chubby because he has “swallowed up” all the pain and suffering of sentient beings. He can be seen holding giant prayer beads with a big smile on his face.
At the centre of the pond stands a large ordination hall built in the traditional Central Thai style atop a “raft” of pink lotuses. The structure looks quite stunning as it rises above its own reflection shimmering on the calm water, especially in the late-afternoon light. Inside it features a naga-hooded seated Buddha image that appears to reflect the Sukhothai style of art. Colourful Thai-style murals adorn the walls, displaying key scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Several smaller statues grace the grounds, including images of powerful Hindu gods: a four-faced Brahma; a four-armed Siva with a cobra around its neck; a blue-skinned Vishnu and green-skinned Indra; and a Ganesha, the elephant god. Another statue of laypeople donning white clothes and pushing a Dharma wheel behind a monk symbolises the interconnection between the laity and monastic community in Theravada Buddhism. Also check out the gorgeous nagas sparkling gold and emerald as finials on a nearby wihaan.
Wat Plai Laem is a fairly large and active temple with a residence for monks and an attached school. Most Thais who visit buy a packet of fish food for 10 baht to nourish the fat catfish that thrive in the pond. Unlike at the Big Buddha Temple, you won’t find many vendors selling trinkets here, though there is a coffee shop.
Do be respectful of Thai culture by dressing appropriately: shorts should reach the knees and any sort of shirt that exposes the shoulders or belly will offend the Thais.
How to get there
Wat Plai Laem is located a few hundred metres inland from Bang Rak Beach, just northwest of the Big Buddha Temple off Route 4171 – look for a temple gate marking a lane that shoots north off the main road. Open 08:00-17:00. Admission is free.