Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Tiger Cave temple in Krabi

The Andaman coast of Thailand is famous for its beaches and karst formations, not to mention for paradise islands like Koh Phi Phi and Koh Lanta. The dilemma then is what to do after a few lazy days spent by the beach, when you feel the urgency to saviour a little bit of Thai culture, almost invisible in the touristic heavens of this area. 
Unfortunately, the Andaman coast is not a particularly good place for temple-hopping, because a part of the population is Muslim. There is, nonetheless, a Buddhist temple that is really worth visiting, a mere 8 km from Krabi Town (the main town in the area and a transport hub): the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea).

Top of the shrine of Tiger Cave Temple
I reached it by negotiating a tuk tuk ride from my accommodation in Krabi Town, but I guess you could go there from Ao Nang as well. The reason for the name Tiger Cave Temple is uncertain: some say that a huge tiger was seen roaming inside a cave where they also found tiger paw prints. The most astonishing and fascinating part of Wat Tham Suea is the shrine on top of a staircase of 1,237 steps. It is quite a challenge to reach the top and I must warn you: it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. Some of the steps are quite high and uneven, and because of the heat some people give up even before they are half-way through.

Made it to the top

I was really sweaty and panting, but I finally reached the top. I think it was one of the best experiences I had in southern Thailand. At the top there is a big golden Buddha statue, but the real reason to get there is the view. You can see all the karst formations in the area, and all of Krabi at a 360° angle. Wat Tham Suea is not an ancient temple, as it was built in the 1970s, but it has turned into a place for meditation and retreat for Buddhist monks.

View from top of Tiger Cave Temple

At the bottom there are monkeys who love to play with fruit and any food that they might find. As usual, a temple in Thailand is made by different pagodas and stupas, so it's worth exploring a little bit more the area. For me, it is always fascinating to see different religious practices. Usually these temples are tourist attractions, but they are also used by the local population, so you get the chance to see the local offerings. Sometimes local people offer flowers or rice, but it's interesting to see offerings of money or candy bars. Apparently, Buddha likes chocolate  too!

A pagoda of the Tiger Cave Temple

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