Buddhist Temples (locally know as “wat”) and Chinese shrines abound in Koh Samui. Like in the rest of Thailand, Buddhism is the religion followed by the majority of Thais (over 90% of people are Buddhist). Koh Samui is home to many historic Buddhist temples and Chinese shrines, including two impressive religious landmarks not far from each other: Samui Big Buddha and Wat Plai Laem.
The Big Buddha temple sits majestically on a small rocky island off Koh Samui’s north-eastern corner. Known locally as Wat Phra Yai, its golden, 12-metre seated Buddha statue was built in 1972 and remains one of the island’s most popular attractions. Set on Koh Faan, Big Buddha temple is reached by a causeway that connects it to the main island. The Big Buddha can be seen at a distance of several kilometres and is often the first landmark people see when arriving to Koh Samui by air.
Just down the road is Wat Plai Laem, featuring a striking white 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. This temple offers visitors a view into Chinese-Thai beliefs as well as some elaborate Buddhist-themed art and architecture. This is an active temple, with devotees coming daily to pay homage to Guanyin and the Buddha. Adding to its feel of tranquillity, the temple is surrounded by a lake that’s teeming with fish. Visitors who make a donation to the temple are given a bag of food to feed the fish.
As a bonus, you might also want to check out Wat Namtok Hin Lad, Hin Lad Waterfall Temple (or Saunthamma Pala Nikrotharam Temple in full) is set in evergreen tropical jungle just before the trail up to the famous Hin Lad Waterfall, a few kilometres south of Nathon Town, Samui. This forest monastery is usually busy only on the weekends when the locals come to ‘tam boon’ (make merit) and to picnic at the nearby waterfall. The temple is well shaded and calm, making it a perfect place to unwind and relax. It features a lovely garden, walking path, various Buddha images, religious sculptures and a meditation area. So a stroll around the place can be very enjoyable and it’s a great place for practicing your photographic skills.