A garden of stone statues lies deep in Koh Samui’s south, which can be found at the top of Kao Yai, the island’s highest peak, offering the most spectacular views over the whole of Koh Samui’s mountains towards the sea. Finding Tarnim’s Magic Garden, is in itself a fun challenge, driving south towards Taling Ngam on the main ring road, one must fi rst fi nd Baan Saket and the road to the Air Force Camp. On the right hand side after the Namuang waterfalls, following the Land Offi ce and a Police Station, just after the main intersection, you will see the right turning and from hereon one follows the signs for Tarnim’s Magic Garden. Passing through the Air force Camp barrier, you have another 5 kilometres climbing up Koh Samui’s highest peak, Kao Yai, before reaching the entrance to Tarnim’s Garden on your right hand side.
Built over a period of more than twenty-fi ve years, this garden is a unique creation of a, a local gardener and farmer by trade. Once parked in the car park you will fi rst notice a beautiful sculpture on a large rock, which is entangled with the roots of a large, old tree and stands like a protector of the garden. The sculpture was hand made by Khun Lung Chai, in memory of his father Khun Nim Thongsuk. The engraving simply states: Khun Paw Nim Thongsuk, which is adjacent to a sculpture of his father and stands as a constant reminder of the garden’s history. At the top of what has become known as the Magic Garden you’re then faced by a tree-lined stone stairway, winding its way slowly down to the beautiful garden below. Almost mimicking a stairway to heaven, upon reaching the bottom there is a house, which is over-grown with mosses and tropical vegetation. These houses, of which there are a few, were built in order to house travelling or wandering monks who needed a place to sleep for the night. Khun Nim initially started visiting the site on Kao Yai from Namuang where he lived, to farm durian fruit and coffee plantations and over the years fell more and more in love with the place. And it’s easy to see why, there’s beautiful tropical jungle and vegetation with fl owering trees all over the place give way to natural water springs, rivers and waterfalls it’s an extraordinarily peaceful and harmonizing location. As his attachment to this special placegrew so did his dream of constructing a beautiful heaven garden for his fi nal resting place upon passing away, as a reflection of the heaven he believed he would be going to.
Built purely for his own use, as tourism was not yet established on Koh Samui, he set about the huge task of bringing concrete up the mountain in order to be able to make the statue garden. A very kind-hearted and considerate man, one of the fi rst things you come across to your left, after the first monk house, comfortably laid out by the river, are two sculptures of a grandmother and grandfather from the paternal side, as Tarnim felt the island had already paid respect to the grandparents of the maternal side with Hinta Hinya in Hua Thanon, he felt inclined to also honour the paternal grandparents. An intricate belief system in Thai means the paternal grandparents are called Bu, the grandfather, and Ya, the grandmother, whereas for the maternal side the grandfather is called Ta and the grandmother Yai. The word for stone or rock is Hin, hence the name HinTa and HinYai. Slowly making your way through this incredible garden is like taking a wonderful journey of discovery as you notice more and moreimages revealing themselves from out of the foliage. Amid the sometimes dense tropical foliage, turtles and frogs are some of the animal statues that are to be found in this completely natural haven.
Tarnim’s Magic Garden opens up in the centre to various groups of statues, to your right lots of angels stand by, protecting the tombs above. All statues have at least one hand in the air in a welcoming gesture, while to their right a group of angels sit playing music for everyone’s enjoyment and entertainment. Hidden behind the largest group of angels on the hill to the far right is another stone stairway, which leads the way to Tarnim’s fi nal resting place. Here you can sit at his tomb, light an incense and thank him for his special garden, where he rests next to his wife Yai Daeng. Looking down from here you can see across the river that runs through the middle of the garden over to the other side, where many more discoveries await the curious mind. Overlooking the whole garden from this height, you can understand why Tarnim chose this particular spot to construct his tomb upon. Crossing the small river running through the garden over stepping stones you reach the other side of the garden valley where you’re met by a group of statues including a monk who seems to be sat behind a lady in meditation whilst a wild dog stands slightly behind him andtwo dragons on either side – the one to his right in the grass and to his left up on a rock.
As you carry on walking along this side you come across two larger caves, which are naturally draped by beautiful purple and pink hanging fl owers and present a cool haven on a hot day. Just behind these caves you will come across a smaller, hand made looking cave with the statue of a man sitting inside. This is of course Tarnim himself, a place where he could sit and view the garden with the eye of a guardian. Judging by the size of the fi gure, he was also a small man, making this an even more miraculous achievement, when considering the amount of time, effort and love this one man put into his favourite place. A little further to the right and you will fi nd a similar second cave, wherein lies a statuette of his own father, as it can be noticed that these are made of a whiter stone, making them appear more human. And you will discover a small incense holder in front of them both, where you can light an insence stick in the Thai traditional manner to pay your respects to the dead. The journey of mystical discovery is seemingly endless here as the more time you spend, the more groups of statues you discover amongst the garden’s landscape, which if accompanied by someone who can tell you the stories behind the groups of statues is a fascinating story to listen to as you slowly but surely begin to understand the amount of deep thought and consideration that Tarnim has put into each and every single piece.
Khun Lung Chai himself is the garden guardian he is Tarnim’s youngest child. Having been specifi cally instructed not to make any changes or add anything new, he maintains and repairs the garden for tourists and interested people to come and enjoy its mystery. Continuing the family tradition, Khun Lung Chai has started construction on his own garden, which he is building in honour of hismother Yai Daeng, which is located a mere stone’s throw away. This will contain many more statues as with Tarnim’s Magic Garden and he plans to have a multi-tiered waterfall which will fl ow into a large pool at the base of the garden. The second garden will most likely take a long time to construct. However, with modern amenities to hand perhaps not the same twenty-fi ve years it took Tarnim to construct his garden. The area will defi nitely become more and more popular as Khun Lung Chai is also constructing uniquely detailed restaurant near the second garden, which boasts absolutely amazing sea views across as far as the fi ve islands and beyond, it is a truly breathtaking view. Upon completing the journey of discovery within Tarnim’s Magic Garden I felt I had truly experienced a mini adventure and tour through his eyes and thoughts, which brought about the concept of immortality to mind.
Tarnim’s Magic Garden is a constant reminder of a very special man with a vision to create heaven upon earth, and through this the memory and story of him will stay alive and be retold and retold for generations to come. How completely inspiring such a creation can be, not only to ourselves but his family and son who continue the passion for creating such natural wonders. And every August hosts the anniversary of his death when the family will gather at his tomb at the top of the garden to make offerings and remember their inspiring grandfather. An absolute must see for all tourists and visitors to the island, rent a jeep and pyou will be perfectly equipped to find your own way there. Alternatively you can choose to join one of the many excursions proposed by travel agents.