Wat Plai Laem is one of the two best temples to visit in Koh Samui. The other one, Wat Phra Yai, is less than 2 km away so you can easily visit both on the same day.
- Opening hours: 06:30 to 18:30
- Entrance fee: Free
About Wat Plai Laem
Wat Plai Laem is a modern temple, opened in 2004. Wat Plai Laem is unusual in several respects. One of those is that it is a temple contained largely within a large man made fish pond. This temple also has a range of statues depicting important deities and heroes from the Mahayana school of Buddhism and also from Hinduism. The state religion of Thailand is Theravada Buddhism, which originates from Sri Lanka. Mahayana Buddhism is more closely associated with China, and widely practised in other Asian countries such as Vietnam and Tibet. The Chinese influence is noticeable through this temple, which resonates with the strong cultural links between Koh Samui and China through early immigration from China to Koh Samui in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
As well as an ornate ordination hall and prayer hall, both located in the pond, Wat Plai Laem has two giant statues, and a series of smaller statues. It is these two giant statues which the temple is best known for:
- 18 Arm Statue: This is a 30 metre tall statue of Cundi. Cundi is commonly regarded as a manifestation of Guan Yin, who is the Goddess of Mercy in Mahayana Buddhism, although the origins of Cundi in Buddhist theological texts are much more complex than this routed in Hindu mythology. The 18 arms each hold an implement. One interpretation is that each implement is a tool to alleviate suffering. Another is that each symbolises a benefit of attaining enlightenment.
- Fat Buddha Statue: This statue, also 30 metres high, is of Budai who was a Chinese monk in the 10th Century. This character from Chinese folklore is revered for his good nature, humour and large girth which symbolises prosperity in Chinese culture. He is depicted in a simple cloth without possessions, but always very happy nonetheless, as per the folk tales about this legendary monk. Budai, according to the note he left before he died, considered himself to be an incarnation of Maitreya, who in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition is next Buddha who will come to earth after the teachings of the last Lord Buddha have been forgotten.
Location of Wat Plai Laem
- Wat Plai Laem is 5.1 km by road from Samui Airport.