Tiger Cave Temple Mountain

Published on 10 August 2023 at 22:36

There are two lookout points in Krabi province that are high enough to look out over the many giant limestone rock formations.  One is Dragon Crest Mountain, which is north of Ao Nang, and the other is the Tiger Cave Temple Mountain, which is south. Guess which one we chose to climb?

I was keen for us to conquer at least one of these peaks during the week, and we decided that an epic climb to a giant gold Buddha statue would be a highlight, so the Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Seua) won out.  This spot is on the tourist route (said the tourists), so we woke Harris up early to hit the road and beat the rush. 

The name “Tiger Cave Temple” stems from the legend that a tiger once inhabited the cave at the base of this mountain, and its roar was heard at night across the valley.  A monk later meditated in the cave (long after the Tiger had left) and during his mediation he witnessed many tigers roaming around the cave, and paw prints were later discovered deeper inside the cave. It’s a theme that has been embraced by the local monastery that now inhabits the base of the mountain, with statues and motifs celebrating Thailand’s big cat. You can visit the cave itself where the paw prints were found. 

However, whilst the temple is interesting, it’s not the cave itself nor it’s namesake that are the most impressive aspect of this religious site.  A staircase has been built up the side of the mountain, consisting of 1260 steep stairs that zigzag their way up an elevation of 300 meters to a shrine which has a large golden statue of Buddha that is visible across much of the province.  This was our mission for the day.

Until this point, I had been commenting to Sandra on the lack of wildlife we had encountered to date – especially monkeys.  Well, today we crossed seeing them off the list and then some. 

The base of the stairs heads up through an area of the jungle that a tribe of wild monkeys’ call home.  When you first encounter them, individually they are very cute, especially those carrying their young.  But when you find groups of five of the big ones lounging in the sun on the narrow staircase, blocking your path, things are more unsettling.  We had been warned a few times by locals in recent days that these were naughty monkeys not to be trusted or interacted with, and that they had stolen many a pair of glasses and the odd iPhone from unwary visitors.  One licked Sandra’s leg as she squeezed by, and another reached out to touch my leg for some reason.  That gave us both a speed boost! 

We stopped at one point to remove a few layers of clothing, and as soon as we put our backpack down, the small ones were quick to get close to see what treats or trinkets we may have in store for them.  Once you get around 100 meters up the stairs, there are no monkeys to be seen so they know where they are most likely to find a snack from a stranger. 

The staircase is a mission. The rises of the stairs can be over 30cm high and the tread very narrow, so you must literally watch your every step. You find your quads get a great workout and, thanks to the humidity, you get a great detox from sweating like you have never sweated before – no sauna required. To keep you motivated, the monks have painted the number of stairs you have climbed onto the posts of the railings, as milestone markers along the way. It was a smart move to pack a large bottle of cold water each, our Kathmandu cooling bands for around our necks, and we were glad we had proper shoes. Other visitors that we encountered on our way back down later were finding themselves very underdressed for the effort. Slowly but surely, we made our way upwards.

Sandra did very well to make it all the way up to the peak on 1.5 legs and with a bad back, although she would later find it near impossible to walk up even a slight incline over the next two days!

The view at the top of the mountain is very worth it, providing 360 degrees across the entire province of Krabi.  Once you have removed your shoes, you are free to roam.  As we had made the climb early in the day, we had the spot to ourselves and, after paying our respects, we launched Dronie for a few keepsake photos and footage.  

The buddha is even bigger up-close, and there are other smaller statues and shrines around his base.  

We spent around 45 minutes checking out the vista and recovering from the effort of the climb before taking the slightly easier trip back down the narrow stairs.  We came across a number of small groups of young folks who were finding that the climb was much harder in person than the virtual tour on their phones, so we gave words of hope and encouragement to stay the course. 

At the bottom we spent more time in the various shrines in the monastery, watched more monkeys play fighting and being shoed away from the cafe, before heading home feeling chuffed with ourselves.

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8 months ago

All this walking deserves amazing food. What an experience!