Enlightened Times at The Temples of Koh Phangan
From meditation to massage, the temples of Koh Phangan are a real hit.
Koh Phangan is famous for beaches and sunshine but it also has a deeper, more spiritual side. This small island is home to more than 20 Buddhist temples and they’re all unique and worth a visit in their own right. Take some time to explore these beautiful buildings and you’ll leave with a much better understanding of the island and its people.
Planning Your Visit
While all of the temples on the island welcome interested visitors, there are a few basic rules you should follow if you’re planning a visit. Sticking to these will help you show respect to the Buddhist religion and the monks who live in the temples.
Firstly, wear clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Shorts are OK for guys if they’re relatively long, and a sarong wrapped around the waist is fine for ladies if you have shorts or a skirt on underneath. Secondly, never point the soles of your feet at anyone, especially a monk. This isn’t just true in the temples but all over Thailand. Keep them tucked underneath when you sit down or sit cross-legged. Finally, women aren’t permitted to make physical contact with a monk so take care to avoid this if possible.
Wat Phu Khao Noi, Peace and Meditation
This is beautiful temple was originally founded to serve as a place for peaceful solo meditation, and today that feeling of tranquility still pervades. The buildings are diverse in style as the temple has been added to over the years and there are stunning views over the island from its hilltop location. Come in the morning to chat to the head monk who has great English. Entry is free.
Location: 3km north of Thong Sala pier on Hin Kong Rd, next to the Koh Phangan mini-golf complex
Open to Visitors: 06:00am to 18:00pm
Wat Pho, Herbal Steam Detox
Not to be confused with the temple in Bangkok of the same name, Wat Pho is a temple with a difference. Yes, you have your standard ubosot prayer hall here and there are some small gilded pagodas to explore. The added bonus that you won’t get elsewhere however is an herbal steam sauna with massage center attached! The monks use a special blend of herbs to scent the steam which is then funneled into separate male and female sauna rooms, and locals and tourists alike take the opportunity to inhale and detox. Entry to the temple is free, the sauna is 100 baht per person and an hours oil massage starts at 150 baht.
Location: Baan Tai Village, southern Koh Phangan
Open to Visitors: Temple 06:00am to 19:00pm, Sauna 13:00pm to 19:00pm
Chinese Temple, Oriental Glory
This temple sits apart from others on the island as it’s built in a Chinese, not Thai, Buddhist style. The story behind its construction is a fascinating one. A visitor to the island in the early 1990’s had a dream about the Chinese Buddha while sleeping on the site of the temple and made it her mission to build a shrine in honor of the vision. The temple you see today wouldn’t seem out of place in Beijing or Shanghai and is well worth a visit. Entry is free.
Location: near Chaloklum village, northern Koh Phangan
Open to Visitors: 08:00am to 17:00pm
Wat Samai Kongka
This is the Thai temple of your imagination. Colorful prayer halls sit alongside ornate mosaic-covered stupas, and the main temple building is covered with thousands of mirrored tiles that twinkle in the sunlight. A painting exhibition tells the story of Buddha’s life and the grounds are scattered with unusual sculptures making it feel more like a park than a temple. The peaceful atmosphere and friendly monks make this place well worth a visit and entry is free.
Location: Thong Sala north, near the Government hospital, southern Koh Phangan
Open to Visitors: Temple 06:00am to 18:00pm
Koh Phangan’s Beautiful Heritage
These are just a handful of the amazing temples dotted around Koh Phangan. A day spent wandering round their stupas and halls is a day spent in quiet contemplation of the beauty of the island, so mix in some culture with your beach days and enjoy the sights.