The vast majority of the population of Thailand is Buddhist (around 95%), and as such the lifeblood of the Thai community often revolves around temples, spirit houses, and other totems of respect. Most temples are open – or at least partly open – for tourists to view. However, all temples in Thailand are places of peace and respect, and there are some simple rules to follow in terms of etiquette, should you decide to visit one:
- Wear appropriate clothing. The shoulders and knees must be covered. That means no sleeveless tops, shorts, or short skirts.
- Women are not permitted to touch monks under any circumstance, although refraining from physical contact is always advised, even for men.
- Under no circumstances should a monk ever be touched on the head.
- If a monk enters the room you should stand up if you are sitting.
- Remove your shoes before entering.
- Never point your feet at a monk or Buddha statue.
Wat Koh Tao
Wat Koh Tao is the main temple on Koh Tao and is located on the main road just a couple of hundred metres out of Mae Haad on the way to Sairee Beach. Having only been built in 2018, it is a stunningly beautiful temple built in a classical Thai design with white walls and a bright red roof gilded with gold. Visitors are welcome to walk around the perimeter without following any particular protocols for dress. However, if you were to go inside, the rules above would apply.
Wat Koh Tao is where all of the local Thais go to give offerings, listen to sermons, and attend funerals. The temple buildings are also a hub for the local community and are often used as the location for island meetings and gatherings.
King Rama V Rock
The visit to Koh Tao by His Majesty King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in June of 1899 plays an important role in Koh Tao history. As a country with such a strong sense of pride in its heads of state, Jor Por Ror rock at the southern end of Sairee Beach plays an important role in the local Thai community to this day and is an important site of worship.
Did you know that the Burmese population accounts for a significant percentage of Koh Tao residents? Although the underlying Buddhist premise is the same, the main temple visited by the Burmese community is located high up on the mountain above Sairee. It has Burmese, Chinese and Thai statues and buddhas, and is most visited on big buddha days like Visakha Bucha. The Burmese temple also caters for more intrinsic worship, and there are different days where you light your candle respective of your birthdate to pray for good luck.
Other Holy Sites
There is a small white temple at Sai Daeng, and a large dragon structure on the road over to Sai Nuan Beach, which we understand is mainly symbolic in the Chinese calendar.
As making offerings to Buddha is such an integral part of Buddhist culture, you’ll see sprit houses in most Thai residences, and outside many resorts and restaurants. In some of the more remote areas of the island, these can be quite grand. Examples include the large displays at June Juea Beach and Sun Suwan Viewpoint.