Baan Taling Ngam and the South West Coast
Visitors to Koh Samui rarely venture far from the busy commercial areas of the island, yet only 30-40 minutes away, for those who wish to discover the 'real Samui' a visit to the unspoiled South- West Coast of the island is a delight.
The Taling Ngam area is known for its wide sweeps of coconut plantations and forests that cover hill slopes rendering the are extraordinarily green. Take the ring road and turn off at Route 4170 and follow the signs to Baan Taling Ngam, and eventually you arrive at two massive elephant statues guarding the road to this rustic little fishing village.
In 1979 the Head Monk, Pra-kru Pairoi Kiriwong of Baan Taling Ngam Temple (Wat Kiri Wongkaram) organized the building of the Elephant Gate to help to beautify the traditional village entranceway and invite all passersby to visit the temple.
Princess Galyani Vadhana (elder sister of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej) came to Taling Ngam to bless the gate and especially the elephants eyes of black gemstones that gaze down onto all passing through.
Taling Ngam has seen the least change of any area on Koh Samui island, as though time has stood still. Originally named Taling PunK or Damaged Shore, after a destructive storm in 1900 took the beauty of the shorelines away, it regained its splendour over time and was renamed Taling Ngam or Beautiful Shore in 1942.
Families go back many generations and are content with keeping their traditional lifestyle. They are descendants of mainland Thai's and Chinese migrants who made their living through fishing. One of the first seaports was situated here, and was used by merchant traders over 100 years ago. They came seeking water and provisions as they sailed throughout the waters of South East Asia.
The center of life at Baan Taling Ngam is the local temple, Wat KiriWongkaram. There is a special beauty about this place and real mystery as well. it is the mummified body of well-known monk, Luang Por Ruam, who continues to be very much of a presence at the temple today, even though he died in 1966; his body is on display in a glass case.
After his death it was found that decomposition simply wasn't taking place. His body has remained in its mummified condition for over 40 years. Given the fact that the air in Thailand is extremely humid all the time, and no chemicals have been used to preserve the monk, his earthly continuation as a corpse is seemingly miraculous.
Apparently, both his fingernails and hair still grow and nail clippings are made into protective charms. You can still see him today, sitting upright in his shrine, where with perfect equanimity he baffles modern science, as well as everyone who comes to see him.
Luang Por Ruam was born near the temple in 1879 and in the early years of the 20th Century made a journey to Burma where he was initiated into deeply mystical Buddhist practices. He returned to Koh Samui where he lived a life of purity and meditation.
The busy life of the temple continues. Village activities are held here, and there is also accommodation for novice monks, a funeral building, and large meeting hall - in every way the Wat remains at the centre of the community. It is a friendly place, not at all intimidating, and nor is it in any way eerie, despite the on-going presence of its most famous monk.
As the sun begins to set make haste for the beach for this is the very point of the western sunset. Regardless of the weather the sight is spectacular over the Five islands, the mainland in the backdrop - every day brings a new palette of unimaginable colour.
If you are near one of the beach establishments, this all goes down well with a coconut cocktail or a beer in hand to enhance the experience. Many traditional wooden Southern style houses are on view still standing in compounds with other out-buildings of the whole extended family.
The river and bays hold the long-tail boats that bring in a daily catch of fish, while shellfish are collected by hand along the shore. The marshes provide the mineral rich varieties of leafy herbs and green vegetables that grow much like watercress from the damp earth. These are the delicious greens served on the plate with steaming bowls of soup.
The life of hunter and gatherer is still the standard here, which may account for the numerous elderly citizens in good health and vigorous demeanor At Baan Taling Ngam village, turn left and walk along the beach until you've passed a small rocky outcrop and you'll come to two smallcoves, which are barely visited but are amongst some of Koh Samui's best beaches. With palms coming right down to the water's edge, dense greenery right up to the sands, swimming here is a far more idyllic experience than usual.
Out to sea you'll see a series of mountains distant and hazy, fading to purple as evening comes. This is the mainland.Truly a visit to the South West Coast of Koh Samui will be one of the most memorable experiences in Samui
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