Early morning with a few pointers from Yen and Tor we headed towards our destination Tiger Cave Temple or Wat Tham Sua. After about an hour drive and following a few boards along the road we ended up at a place we thought were our destination.
Heading up into the cave, and about 50 of the most uneven stairs ever we reached the inside of a large cave and a few monks that look at us like we were lost. With no English and no Internet, Marius pinpointed our location as a place called the Bureau of Monks.
Built between the spearing cliffs of the valley in a lush green setting we found a Buddhist temple with a few monks working around it. To our right side was stairs leading up into a giant cave and on the left, a few Buddhist statues lead you up into a smaller cave.
We had gone off the beaten track and just as confused as the Monks were with us being there, so were we confused in thinking this was Wat Tham Sua. Whoever it definitely was worth the view of this huge and ancient cave.
Back on the road and letting our not so comprehensive Thailand Google maps guide us we were stopped by an elderly Thai lady inside the Krabi sports and training grounds behind the Krabi stadium. With our ability to communicate with gestures, a lot of pointing limited English on her part, less Thai on our part and our Google map she told us to go back and try again.
Eventually, after a few minutes, we found the correct road that leads to Wat Tham Sua, which is much bigger and hosts a lot of visitors. Navigating our small scooter between the large buses filled with school children we found a shady spot and parked at the entrance.
Wat Tham Sua is as impressive as you can get, it is a huge temple with many statues and shrines that span across a large area. On the right side of the cave and stairs leading to the big Buddha a new temple is been built and it is approximately 200m high and at the base is decorated with colourful, playful tigers and sea dragons.
After breakfast, which consisted of Green Tea, water and instant noodles, and the pestering of a scruffy and starving cat, it was obvious that a Buddhist temple is not the best place for food; we headed into the Tiger Cave temple.
Entering the temple a Monk greets you and after getting a woven red-brown armband and donating a few coins we explored the tiger’s cave which is built into the limestone rock face. This cave was home to a tiger but now lined with various golden statues the tiger has moved away and only a few golden tigers statues remain.
Making our journey up the mountain to the big golden Buddha we were reminded by a signboard that it is a startling 1237 stairs to the top.
With some stairs more than a foot high and very narrow, it soon dawned on us that it was more like climbing up a ladder. Going up is quite a workout but a lot of fun as everybody encourages everyone, even though the language was a big barrier a smile here and a nod there was enough to keep going.
Climbing the 1237 stairs is no easy feat and at about 300 stairs, resting becomes mandatory for every 30 steps thereafter and at 800 it feels like you have been climbing forever. It took us more than an hour to reach the summit, sweaty and tired, although some people have done it in less than ½ hour.
The view at the top and the large golden Buddha is simply amazing. Visitors have a spectacular 360 degrees view of the surrounding valleys. We spent about an hour taking pictures and staring in awe at the beauty around us.
As we heading down the same path that we came up with, we soon discovered that it is a knee killer and I had to rub my knees with Voltaren Emulgel and bandage them up. It took us a few days to recover from all the sore muscles.
Tips for the trip:
- Do it early in the morning before 9 am or before sunset 5 pm.
- You can buy water and food at the temple.
- Take water with you, there are toilets and refill stations along the way up.
- Bring your camera and binoculars
- Entry is free, but do donate a little something for the Monks.
- “Wat” means Temple