Situated at the top of Pom Mountain in the interior of the island’s lush green tropical rainforest, there are not many places as far off the beaten path, on Koh Samui, than the Secret Buddha Garden.
The road to the garden, also known as Tarnim’s Magic Garden after its visionary creator Khun Tarnim Thongsuk, is steep and windy, and as it rises it offers up breathtaking views of the majestic forest, valleys and seascapes. You will also see local fruit farmers hard at work and traditional village life, just as it was lived when Khun Nim, as he is
affectionately known, lived in the area and began creating his vision; a vision that was born from his love of the land and his love of people, family and friends.
Back in 1976, at the spritely age of 77, Khun Nim, who had farmed durian fruit on Pom Mountain all his life decided it was time to give something back to the land, to nature and to humanity in return for the joy and happiness they had brought to his life. A deeply spiritual man, Khun Nim wanted to create a place where people could get away
from it all and be at one with nature, relax and be at peace.
On entering Khun Nim’s creation it is evident that he managed to achieve what he set out to do. The scenic charm and aesthetic wonder skilfully crafted into the natural landscape is magical. It is the work of a man who passionately dedicated the last 14 years of his life to craft a place that depicted the glory of nature and the story of Nim’s love for Buddhism and humanity.
The Secret Buddha Garden is cool, shaded by a canopy of thick jungle foliage; the peaceful setting has a fresh water stream set in motion by a series of small waterfalls running tranquilly through it. Beginning his ambitious project Khun Nim put together a team of workers to help him transform the land into his dream and sculpt the statues and figures that would make the garden come alive. Representing Buddhist philosophy, folklore and mythology the statues have many different meanings; however, there is no information available on the stories and symbolic meanings of the numerous statues.
The small houses you will see dotted around were built for travelling monks to rest or to stay and spend time in meditation. As well as the noticeable statues and carvings, look out for the concealed ones hidden around the grounds, and you might also notice a lot of places to sit down, crafted into the landscape.
Two hidden sculptures in the stream, the first ones you come to, if you notice them, are of Khun Nim’s grandparents, the flow of the water has eroded the sculptures but you can make them out if you look closely.
As well as statues that honour the memory of his grandparents you will notice two men dressed in white, sitting blissfully in humble shelters, these two sculptures are Nim and his father, observing the garden.
The path will guide you along the stream and you will notice turtles and other wildlife carved into the rocks before coming to the main event of the Garden, a spectacular formation of angels, musicians and dancers celebrate the joys and wonders of life, the majesty of nature and the beautiful setting.
Working on his creation until his death at the age of 91, Khun Nim and his wife decided their final resting place would be a tomb within the garden, rather than be cremated, as is Thai tradition.
There are several ways to visit the Secret Buddha Garden, although the road is steep and windy it is accessible, with due caution, by scooter or motorbike, however, a car is a better option. Making your own way will give you the opportunity to relax and in your own time, soak up the tranquil atmosphere and fully appreciate the magnificence of this magical work of art. You could also bring a picnic lunch and unwind in the shade just as Khun Nim had envisaged, the 80THB entry charge allows visitors to stay as long as they wish and the garden is generally quiet unless several tour companies arrive at the same
time for a twenty minute stop.
There are many tour operators where you can arrange a visit to the Secret Buddha Garden, the tours generally have a schedule of different stops and take in many sights and attractions in one day so it will be a whistle stop tour and you may not get to appreciate the true glory of the Secret Buddha Garden but it is better than not getting to see and appreciate Koh Samui’s best kept secret, that is well and truly off the beaten path.
The Secret Buddha Garden can be found at the top of Pom Mountain, from the 4169 ring road, between Lamai and heading towards Nathon, you will need to make a right turn directly opposite Wat Khunaram, the temple home of the Mummified Monk. From there you follow the signs that will take you up the mountain to the garden.
The Secret Buddha Garden is open daily from 9am – 5pm and admission is 80THB.