Wat is the Thai word for temple, and thanks to the continued strong influence of Buddhist culture these centres of spiritual contemplation are still regarded as sacred all over the country.

Young men are advised by their parents to serve a monk's apprenticeship in their local Wat, and many local festivals, as well as births deaths marriages and other important events for Thai people always include merit making at a temple.

Samui has auite a large number of these elegant buildings for such a small island, which gives foreign visitors ample opportunity to enjoy the flamboyant architecture and peaceful surroundings while they learn a little more about the culture in which they have cnosen to spend their valuable free time.

Please remember that the temples are places of worship and visitors are required to dress modestly when visiting them which means that thighs and shoulders should be covered while inside the temple grounds.

Wat Phra Yai

Wat Phra Yai

Wat Phra Yai

This much visited Wat is named after the famous golden Buddha statue that graces the headland separating Ban Plai Laem from Big Buddha beach. The twelve metre grinning deity dominates the temple complex and there are some wonderful photo opportunities.

For visitors, particularly at sunset. The upper platform is lined with huge prayer bells and at the entrance to the temple you can see the islands, and perhaps even Thailand's only fully automated begging machine.

There are some excellent souvenir and craft shops scattered around the car parking area, including a skilled silversmith and a Batik painter, as well as cafes and even a tattoo artist.

During big festivals like Songkran (Thai New Year in April) and Loi Kratong (The Festival of Light in November) the temple at Big Buddha comes alive with food stalls, beauty competitions and concerts but on a normal day there's an air of tranquillity that feels far more appropriate to such a picture perfect setting.

Wat Plai Laem

This is a newly constructed and very ornate temple just around the corner from the Big Buddha statue. The elaborate entry doors were made from two enormous slabs of Laotian hardwood and are intricately carved with images of the life of the Buddha.

Temple artist Jarit Phumdonming spent more than three years adding finer details to the temple's exteriors and it's certainly a kaleidoscope of colour and design. The tradition of temple art dates back centuries and Wat Plai Laem provides a good example of the influences and styles that are still important in modern Thai religious architecture.

Wat Sumret

This is a very interesting and ancient temple with an antique Chinese wooden meeting hall within its walls. It also houses the Secret Hall of the Buddhas, that once boasted a fine and valuable collection of Buddha images from around Thailand.

Sadly, thieves have slowly but surely made off with the more valuable statues from the collection and the door to the hall now remains permanently locked to protect what has survived their greed.

The caretaker will take you to see the Buddhas, and it's still possible to snap a few good photos of the statues which sit in eerie congregation wearing the trademark orange robes of Thai monks.

There is also a small cemetery with a number of stone Chedi marking the remains of ancestors passed, including a few foreign monks and practitioners who dedicated themselves to following a Buddhist path. Wat Sumret is located 200m down a concrete road on the left hand side as you leave Hua Thanon village.

Wat Laem Sor/Pagoda

A beautiful golden Chedi or pagoda sits on the rocks over looking the sea in the grounds of Wat Laem Sor. The golden effect is actually an optical illusion caused by hundreds of yellow tiles which have been combined to produce an attractive, ornate structure that is well worth a visit.

The Chedi is located in the more remote southern part of the island on the road to Wai Ki Ki bungalows between the villages of Baan Tale and Baan Pang Ka.

Wat Kiri Wongkaram

Another revered and mummified monk, this one twenty five years old, sits preserved for public viewing at this rural Wat, which is set amid a large area of coconut plantation, and therefore has a peaceful air of times past.

The road that leads to the temple, located near Baan Saket in the south, has two large Elephant statues marking the way, and it's a further kilometre under these impressive statues to the temple itself.

Wat Khunaram

The main tourist interest here is in a famous shrine to the mummified monk, known when alive as Loung Por Daeng. This highly respected monk was preserved for public viewing when he died around 20 years ago and today still sits in a glass case meditating.

There is a special gazebo housing the monk and next to his remains you can read your fortune using ancient numerology sticks. The temple itself is quite modern and located on the opposite side of the road from the Namuang waterfalls not far from Hua Thanon fishing village.

The Lord Buddha's Footprint

A few Kilometres from the Butterfly garden, a steep slope leads up to a small shrine which is dedicated to the lord Buddha's footprint. There are four intricately carved representations, each one within a larger version of the first and the location provides sweeping views across the nearby bays and plains to the mountains, mere is no signpost as yet, just look for the sloping road about 2 km west of the Butterfly garden.

Wat Sila Ngu

This Wat is also believed to house artefacts of the Lord Buddha and is popular as a location for festivals and performances that sometimes even include stars of television and film.

A golden Chedi faces the temple and attracts plenty of local people as a place of worship and meditation. The temple is situated on the beach side of the round island road about 1 km to the south of Grandmother and Grandfather Rocks.

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