Away from the beaches and the crowds lies one of Koh Samui’s most remarkable temples, the Wat Khunaram. This temple has become famous for the mummified monk that is kept on display here.
Mummified monk Loung Pordaeng
On display in an upright glass casket and surrounded by flowers, candles, incense sticks and fruit offerings is the body of Koh Samui’s most famous monk, Loung Pordaeng. For many Westerners this might be an uncomfortable or even disturbing sight, for Thai people the body of the monk is there to be worshipped and death is seen as an opportunity to be reborn in a next and better life.
The mummified body of Loung Pordaeng is kept in a glass casket in a temple building in Wat Khunaram temple, which was specially built for this purpose.
Loung Pordaeng was born in 1894 in Koh Samui. When he as around 20 years old, he ordained as a monk, like it is customary for young boys in Thailand. After spending a period of time as a monk he disrobed, got married and started a family.
Upon reaching the age of 50 when his children had grown up, Loung Pordaeng decided to return to the temple and dedicate the rest of his life to Buddhism. He was given the name Phra Kru Samathakittikhun upon returning to the temple. After spending some time in Bangkok where he studied meditation techniques and Buddhist scriptures, he returned to Koh Samui and spend some time in a cave meditating. After that, he returned to Wat Khunaram temple, where he became the abbot.
Loung Pordaeng’s meditation skills
It is believed that Loung Pordaeng excelled in meditation skills, was an excellent teacher and that he had many followers. When he reached the age of 79, Loung Pordaeng is said to have predicted his own death.
He instructed his followers that if his body would decay, he wanted to be cremated. If the body would not decompose however, he wanted his body to be kept in a glass casket in the temple to serve as an inspiration for future generations to follow the teachings of the Buddha. It is believed that the last week of Loung Pordaeng’s life, he did not eat, drink or speak to anyone while meditating. Finally, he died in 1973 at the age of 79 while meditating.
Usually, a body would decompose very quickly in a hot and humid climate, such as that of Koh Samui. Today however, almost 40 years after his death, the body of the famous monk is remarkably well kept.
A miracle to some, others believe that small intake of food and low metabolism caused by reduced need for oxygen because of Loung Pordaeng’s meditation technique might be the explanation for the body staying so well preserved.
Because the eyeballs have dried out which is an unpretty sight, the mummified body is now wearing sunglasses.
Although the Wat Khunaram is not one of Thailand’s most beautiful or impressive temples, it is well worth a visit because of the remarkable mummified monk. This is an active temple, local Buddhist people come here to make merit and prey. Several items, like Buddhist amulets can be bought here.
How to get to the Wat Khunaram
The Wat Khunaram is located West of Hua Thanon and South West of Lamai beach on Route 4169 on Koh Samui island. You can get there by chartering a songthaew public bus from one of the beach resorts.
Admission & opening hours
Wat Khunaram is open daily during daylight hours. Admission is free, donations for the upkeep of the temple are appreciated. As in every temple in Thailand, please dress appropriately, meaning long pants or sarong like dress, covered shoulders and long sleeved shirts.