Wat Plai Laem is a Buddhist temple compound on Samui's north-east coast of Samui, featuring a striking white 18-arm image of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion. Close to the Big Buddha temple, Wat Plai Laem offers visitors a view into Chinese-Thai beliefs as well as some elaborate Buddhist-themed art and architecture.
Wat Plai Laem is a living and active temple, where devotees come daily to pay homage to Guanyin and the Buddha, who is also depicted in a number of statues and murals around the temple. This is a relatively new temple but the art techniques used in its creation are centuries-old and based on ancient beliefs. Adding to its feel of tranquillity, the temple is surrounded by a lake, which is teeming with fish. Visitors who make a donation to the temple are given a bag of food to feed the fish.
At Wat Plai Laem the giant Guanyin statue, a towering white structure set in the centre of the temple grounds, forms an imposing and serene presence. The worship of Guanyin dates back to ancient China, but her influence has spread across East and Southeast Asia in the generations since. A showcase of Koh Samui's strong Chinese heritage, the temple's intricate designs were created by one of Thailand's foremost artists, Jarit Phumdonming. The Goddess is flanked by two long halls that feature colourful murals and frescoes depicting Buddhist mythological stories.
Guanyin is believed to be a source of unconditional love and a protector of all beings. Her multitude of arms is seen as an illustration of her ability to reach out and provide help across the world. She is also seen as a fertility goddess and many who come here pray for her help in bearing healthy children. As well, Guanyin is believed by some to help protect to sailors at sea.
Other standout features at Wat Plai Laem include a large white laughing Buddha statue, beautifully carved teak entry doors, and an elaborate ubosot (ceremonial hall) set on an island in the lake.