The temple called Wat Phu Khao Noi is of historical significance for Koh Phangan because it is the oldest temple on the island. It marks an important part of the history of the island, indeed it marks the start of written history for Koh Phangan.
The name Wat Phu Khao Noi means ‘The Temple of the Small Mountain’. The temple was founded in 1400 by a band of intrepid monks who decided to make the first permanent settlement on the island. Until that point Koh Phangan had a semi-permanent population of sea gypsies, fishermen and pirates. It was a wild place with very little to do with the main land.
The story goes that the monks thought Koh Phangan a spiritual place and decided to settle at Wat Phu Khao Noi which is located in the jungle inland from Wok Tum, close to the government hospital.
The founding monk of the temple was called Luang Phor Phet. He choose the hill location as he considered it a good location for private meditation. The monk was believed to have had powers and is revered. The temple is important for Thais as Luang Phor Phet’s footprints are captured in stone.
No doubt the hill location helped with getting a cool breeze and also providing a bit of security for the first brave monks living on the island.
The temple consists of a central pagoda 10 metres high. It is surrounded by 8 smaller pagodas each in a different architectural style. All the pagodas are on a platform that is decorated with Chinese style bowls. These symbolise the Buddha’s begging bowl.
The temple is very much a working temple. It is well maintained and there is plenty to see. They take part in the nationwide scheme of taking young people who live as a monk for a short time. This is a tradition in Thailand to teach Buddhism to young people and garner good karma for parents.
The head monk is friendly and speaks a little bit of English. It is free to enter the temple. If you want to see the monks go in the morning. Be respectful and cover bear shoulders and don’t wear hotpants or a miniskirt. If you see a pile of shoes then add yours to it, as it is a sure sign that the pollution from outside is not welcome in the building.
Those wanting to learn more about the temple can check out their website – http://www.watumphawunkohphangan.com. It is in Thai but google translate can be used, even if it produces little sense. Those on a spiritual journey in Srithanu might find deeper significance in Thai Buddhism by visiting the temple.
The best article about the history of Koh Phangan is found at http://www.kohphanganhotelreviews.com/history-of-koh-phangan/