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The Hidden Treasures in KoYo Island

For many of us we may have overlooked KoYo Island - a paradise of Thai temples located at Songkhla the southern part of Thailand.  This beautiful tropical island is the connecting gateway from Hadyai to other northern destination of the Thai kingdom.  Travellers going along the way to Songkhla, Nakhon Sithammarat, Phuket or Bangkok by land transportation via Hadyai will surely pass by KoYo island via the 2.6km highway bridge linking Hadyai.  KoYo Island is approximately 30 minutes away from the heart of Hadyai town center by public transport.  This is a popular spot for day trippers where you can certainly find 5 Thai temples in this island mainly populated by fishermen community.  This travellogue is a continuation from our previous travel episode on Wat Wanaram.

There are other means of reaching Hadyai e.g. by flight to Hadyai airport or express bus from K.L.  In this travellogue we have decided to be more adventurous by reaching this destination through Satun the southern Thai gateway from neighbouring Malaysia's Langkawi Island.  This route is not common to most travellers going to Hadyai.  If you decides to follow this route, making your first stop at Langkawi Island and settling down for a night with good rest is crucial before embarking on this journey.  Taking this sea route to reach KoYo Island via fast ferry at Langkawi Kuah ferry terminal, we assure you will enjoy many wonderful scenic views of islands along the way.

While we take you around to some temples in this article, it is the main objective of this travellogue to experience the way of life of Buddhist monks and their practices in this southern island.  We came across many unique amulet talismans along the way and decided to publish it here for collectors and enthusiasts to view.  But certainly it is not our intention to promote those amulets, temple or any particular Arjans with regards to amulet topic.  Therefore, we would like to suggest exercising your own discretion and put Buddhism learning as the utmost priority.
Getting There
A one-way journey to Satun Tammalang pier will take approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes via the fast ferry services.  Please observe the timetable for ferry services in order to make your journey more relaxing and enjoyable.

The earliest ferry service to Satun from Langkawi starts at 9.00am.  The above timetable is to serve as guidance only.  It is best to double check the actual departure time at the Kuah ferry terminal before  purchasing your ferry ticket.  For Malaysians and other foreign nationalities you will need to produce your passport or border pass when purchasing a ticket.  

A one-way ticket cost RM30 for adult.  Likewise returning ticket cost THB300.  You would expect a lot of locals, tourists and Thais plying this sea route.  Langkawi Island is a duty free port and it's a popular tourist destination with many hotels and resorts available here.  Therefore, we have provided all the crucial info to help your travel journey to avoid overcrowding passengers especially during peak seasons. 

As promised you will get to capture some breathtaking sceneries from the top of the ferry deck as you leave Langkawi.  Simply enjoy the refreshing air and a wonderful atmosphere with the beauty of many small islands
along the sea route.

Tammalang Pier, Satun
Upon arrival at Tammalang port, you can disembark and proceed to the Thai Immigration to offically enter Thailand. 

For many first time travellers Satun town is another 20 minutes away from Tammalang port.  You will need to board a Public Van to get to Hadyai from Satun township.  The quickest way to get to Satun town is by hailing one of the local taxis available just outside the pier which are mainly converted pick-up vans.

The local taxis standard practice is to leave only when passengers are full.  Enjoy the fun and bumpy road ride for the next 20 minutes before reaching Satun town.  You can tell the taxi driver to drop you off at the public van transport for Hadyai.

I am pretty impressed with this lady motorcyclist riding steadily on the road while her child was crawling all over the front of the motorcycle.

The 14 seater air-conditioned public van is quite comfy and would take approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to reach Hadyai town center.  Have a cup of coffee or lunch nearby if the waiting time for the next shuttle service is another hour away before departure.

In total the travelling time taken from Kuah Ferry Terminal Langkawi at 9.00am till reaching Hadyai town at 1.30pm is approximately 4.5 hours.  Hadyai offers plenty of food, beverages, shopping and hotel accommodations.  You can basically walk-in to any hotel and ask for the hotel rate that suits your budget if you are alien to this place.  You can rent a car or hire a taxi to visit KoYo island or any other places of interest in Hadyai during your stay.

KoYo Island do not have any hotel except some homestay scattered around the unfamiliar island.  Hence, it is advisable to put up your stay in Hadyai unless you know the island's homestay accommodation offering pretty well.

Hadyai is about night entertainment heavens, brothels, social escorts, and massage “palaces”. Perhaps there is something to ponder for those dual purpose adventure seekers coming as group to indulge with the many mind-defiling activities and the next morning seek blessings from various temples. It’s like purifying the mind and then polluting the mind again is not in accordance with the way of the Dhamma. I have witnessed and heard many stories from these dual purpose seekers defending that they are mixing the right balance in life. Without any prejudice the decision is up to every individual because Karma is following every action that we take.

However, for the real single minded Dhamma seekers, having a good intention holiday break, giving alms in support of the Sangha Order and rejoice in receiving the Triple Gems is the highest gain.

There are altogether 5 Temples surrounding this small island that you are able to visit in a single day trip.  The temples are;

Wat Laem Poh
Wat Khao Bor
Wat TaiYo
Wat Kok Piew
Wat Samnaksong Khao Kud

We have included another temple called Wat Sathing Phra in Songkhla about 30 minutes drive away from KoYo Island using the water bridge highway in this travellogue.  This temple is on the same route to the popular Wat Pako's Luang Pu Tuad.  In our quest to study and understand better the way of life about Theravadian Buddhist monks in this southern part of Thailand, we have specifically chosen Wat Samnaksong Khao Kud with generosity and support from the abbot of this temple. 

Exploring KoYo Island
Whether tourists or backpakers have a pattern - they visit for a few days, stay around Hadyai, check out a few temples within the vicinity, maybe rent a motorbike or hiring the infamous "Tuk-Tuk" to cruise around town.  They have heard about Hadyai's reputation for entertainment, food, Thai Buddhist temples and shoppings but their exploration hardly goes beyond Hadyai.  You can find the best way to explore KoYo Island from your hotel's reception or tour desk. 

The 2.6km span bridge which link Hadyai with Songkhla and the northern sides. 

Wat Khao Bor entrance. 

Wat Khao Bor

Fishing villages and houses built on stilts surrounded by the island's tranquility is simply mesmerising.

Wat TaiYo
Wat TaiYo

Wat TaiYo

Wat TaiYo - local devotees seeking blessing from monks
During our stays at KoYo Island, we managed to travel to Wat Sathing Phra or 'Ja Ting Pra' to pay a brief visit to 2 senior monks at this temple.  It's a mere 30 minutes driving from KoYo Island toward Songkhla direction.  It is possible to drop by this temple should you visit Wat Pako (Wat Phra Kho) that is further distance up which Luang Pu Thuad once resided as its abbot.

Sathing Phra in this Songkhla Province is considered an important district and a sanctuary for Buddhism establishment in deep South Thailand as this area was once thrived by Luang Pu Thuad in those days.

Received a momento Rian medal B.E. 2533 issued from Wat Sathing Phra. 

Wat Samnaksong Khao Kud - Mind Cultivation

Wat Samnaksong Khao Kud is located at the highest hilltop in KoYo among all the temples in this island. The road going up uphill to reach the temple is very steep.  Once you reach here, it offers every visitors a majestic scenery and the fresh atmosphere is suitable for mind cultivation.  The main Buddha venerated at compound in this temple is Somdej Chao Koyo Chedi. Based on research, Somdej Chao Koyo was one of the four Buddhist monks from Southern Thailand who earned the Somdej Title. The four holy monks are listed as follow;

1. Somdej Chao Koyo
2. Somdej Chao Koh Yai
3. Somdej Chao Chom Thong
4. Somdej Chao Phra Kho (Rajamuni Samiramo or famously known as Luang Pu Thuad). 

Somdej Chao Koyo Chedi

Local villagers and devotees in this island will come to pay respect to Somdej Chao Koyo in the evening and some will join in together with monks and nuns for TumWat - chanting of Dhmma scriptures at 7.30pm everyday and followed by walking and sitting meditation practice.  This is a daily routine in this temple every night.  The cool sea breeze at night is soothing and the recitation of Dhamma chanting and meditation is indeed eye-opening especially in the open night sky.  This event will end at 9.00pm and thereafter it's free and easy for everyone.

In the Thai's Theravada perspective, chanting and recitation of the Dhamma is an important part of mind cultivation.  Therefore, the TumWat routine is strictly followed in every Thai temple.  According to Buddhist commentories, cultivators will earn 10 great benefits in practicing the Buddha's recitation.

(1)  Throughout the days and nights, all invisible Heavenly Spritual Generals of Great Strength will always protect the cultivators.

(2) The twenty-five Great Bodhisattvas including Guan Yin Bodhisattva will always protect and take care of the cultivators.

(3) Throughout the days and nights, all the Buddhas are always protective and are mindful of the cultivators.  Lord Buddha often emits bright light to shine on the cultivators as to gather them in. 

(4) The cultivators will never be harmed by all evil spirits, Yakhas and Rakhas.  Even poisonous snakes will be unable to hurt the cultivators neither will they die of poisoning. 

(5) The cultivators are free from disasters such as flood and fire.  They will not be harmed by enemies or robbers, neither will they be killed by knives, guns or cannons.  They will not be caught in handcuffs or sent to prison.  Neither will they be killed in accidents. 

(6) The sinful karmas which were committed by them in previous lives will be eradicated or at least lessen down. 

(7)  They will have auspicious dreams or they may be able to see the supreme image of Lord Buddha. 

(8)  They are always happy with bright and shining complexion.  They are always energetic and all their undertakings will be successful.

(9)  All the wordly people are always respectful towards them.  They make obeisance to them just as though they are regarded as the desciples of Lord Buddha. 

(10)  They will not be frightened at the deathbed.  There will arise in them the proper mindfulness.  The cultivators will enjoy the supreme wonderful bliss.

Buddhist Monks or Bhikus, novice monks (samaneras) will adorn the yellow saffron robes in accordance with  Buddhist tradition over 2,500 years ago.  Nuns or Bhikunis, lay desciples both males and females will adorn white garments to signify purity of heart in acquiring the Dhamma.

Samadhi Meditation

The intensive mental cultivation training at Wat Samnaksong starts at 3.30am everyday with morning session TumWat chanting at 4.00am.  We practically slept for a couple of hours each morning waking up by an auto 'cock alarm clock' every morning.

The early morning recitation of Dhamma chanting and meditation would finish at 5.30am before all the monks gets ready to go to the village for 'Pindabart' or alms receiving at 6.00am.  This is an arduous daily routine for newcomers not used to this kind of life yet.  But with efforts certainly one will get use to the practice and mind cultivation.        

The beginning of a new dawn is beautiful at KoYo Island.  Local villagers in this mainly fishing community will start making their daily living. 

All the temple monks with the exception of Bhikunis nuns will go in separate ways bare footed for Pindabart with their alms bowl.  Ajahn Ayutho - the abbot of Wat Samnaksong lead 2 monks and 1 lay desciple to the village. 

All monks will walk in a single file lead by the most senior monk at the front to receive dana (generosity) alms food from lay Buddhist devotees.  Alms giving is an important practice of generosity for every people with Buddhist faith in supporting the Sangha.  The generosity gesture and support given by lay Buddhist devotees is to give sustenance and nourishment to the body of a practicing monk in his quest to achieve the profound Dhamma as taught by Sakyamuni Gotama Buddha. 

The 3 important aspects in Buddhism is the realization of Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta (Impermanence, the cause of Suffering, and Non-Self) only to be realized by the devoted practitioner.  This profound realization will ultimately eradicate greed, hatred and delusion of the defiled mind into a polished state of mind which is free from defilements. 

Thais will usually take-off their shoes as a sign of respect when giving away food to monks.  The alms round routine at the village nearby will usually take about 1 hour before returning to the temple.  The Buddhist community here are full of faiths in welcoming and supporting temple monks each morning.  Hence, food is never a problem and the Dhamma should flourish well in return as a service to the community.

Back at the temple eating mindfully is the correct way for monks consuming food from the alms bowl.  Taste of food, liking and disliking are all mental factors that must be comprehended during every meal consumption. All over the world it is a Vinaya rule (monk's rule) to consume solid food once a day between 6 o'clock in the morning until noon for Theravada Buddhist monks in mind development training as taught by Lord Buddha.  Fluid drinks e.g. water, coffee, molases are allowed throughout the day.  In the situation when a monk is ill, he is allowed to eat at odd hours during that period of time.     

For the lay persons living in the temple monastery the monks will be lenient and will allow you to have solid food at irregular time.  But if you are living in and practicing Buddhism and meditation in a monastery, it is good to train the mind to make adjustment with regards to this Vinaya rule.     

Temple Life Is About Simplicity
Taking refuge in the Triple Gems and abandoning all materials to lead life in a temple is something not everyone can achieve.  Only the brave ones, monks, young novices, nuns can thread this noble path to receive mind trainings in these Buddhist institutions as depicted at Wat Samnaksong in this article.  Leading a noble life is no easy task and it's all about simplicity and detachment from the worldly life.  Therefore, this noble action should be greatly encouraged for those who chose to follow this path while the Buddha's dispensation is still available.

There are many circumstances that lead to why some people would choose temple life.  It can be due to poor family background, life destiny to be a monk, etc.  Whatever the reasons behind one's going forward, learning of the Dhamma with strong faith and in search of the Ultimate Truth as expounded by Lord Sakyamuni Gotama will certainly bring success to the practitioner some day in the distant future.

Ajahn Ayutho explaining the practical use of modern tent that replaces the traditional 'Kort' or umbrella that is carried by Tudong monks in the past.  

We are very impressed with the temple abbot - Ajahn Ayutho whom came from Buriram Province 6 years ago to teach and lead the Sangha Order including young novices with strict practice that is highly commended.  Although Ajahn Ayutho does not speak English, we are indeed grateful for his hospitality shown to us during our stay here to learn the Theravada Buddhist way of life in this southern part of Thailand.  With this great opportunity we are able to share useful insights of Buddhsim with all readers.

Lodging for visitors and monks.

Lodging for visitors or monks.

Temple dogs taking nap in the afternoon as they too needed some after guarding the temple, waking up as early in the morning like us do, and partaking the merits of listening to Dhamma chanting day and night by sitting nearby meditators without causing any fuss.  

Little resident at Wat Samnaksong.

Monk's residence or 'Kuti' which is usually a cramp small room just enough for single dwelling. 

KoYo Island is more than just an idyllic tourist spot; it is a little micro-cosmos reflecting the processes happening on a whole island – a blossoming teaching of Dhamma giving blessings in the form of divine labyrinth of contemporary Thai Buddhism.   May you also rejoice in finding inner peace and happiness from reading this travellogue.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

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