Found in the Surat Thani Province in Thailand, on a little island called Ko Samui, you’ll come across Koh Samui's mummified monk at Wat Khunaram. A Buddhist temple that has withstood the tests of time and torment, and to this day remains one of the country’s finer attractions.
Koh Samui’s mummified monk is a highly unusual yet popular attraction that offers insight into Thailand’s history and culture in a highly unique manner. The mummified monk itself refers to the body of Luong Pordaeng, who died in the seated meditation position all the way back in 1973. Of his own volition of course, as it was said that before his death, the monk had asked his followers to leave his body on display if it does not decompose.
Remarkably enough, to this day, the body shows very little sign of decay behind its glass encasement. To tourists, the sight may come off as macabre, but he is only one among several other mummified monks in the country. To the Thai people, he and the others serve as a memory of death – which in their highly Buddhist culture is viewed as nothing more than a necessary step in the cycle of life, and a stopping point in the long road towards the achievement of nirvana.
The Wat Khunaram temple is found between the Na Muang waterfalls and Hua Thanon, on the island’s Route 4169. Free entry is provided, and it’s mostly open throughout the daylight hours. If not for the mummified remains of the monk, it’s worth visiting for the wonderful architecture and culturally significant Buddhist structures. This is, of course, a place of worship. As such, it’s important to remember that it ought to be treated with respect of a quiet church.
Skirts and trousers that cover the knees are recommended when visiting the temple, purely for the sake of the aforementioned respect. It’s essentially like a visit to an open tomb – it’s largely believed that it was Luong Pordaeng’s long hours of meditation and healthy diet that contributed to his exceptionally long life and excellent preservation. He was, after all, born in 1894.
He was born in Dang Piyasilo, and lived the majority of his life as a Buddhist monk, having been ordained whilst in his early 20s. He’d disrobed for a brief time, in order to commit to a marriage with a woman in whom he’d fallen in love, later to have six children with her. He re-joined the monkhood later in his life, having immersed himself entirely with the religious texts and meditation.
The monk slipped into a deep meditative state towards the end of his life, having given up on eating and speaking entirely. His story is an easy enough one to learn, but another entirely to experience. Seeing the mummified monk at Wat Khunaram is a trip that stays with you, both for its spiritual and symbolic meaning, as well as for the physical beauty of the island of Ko Samui and the temple that houses the significant dead.
Directions: Ring Road 4169. Between Lamai and Nathon
Entrance fee: Free
Opening hours: Open during the day
Address: Na Mueang, Ko Samui District, Surat Thani 84140, Thailand.
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