Attraction Reviewed: Wat Tum Sua (Thamsua, Thumsuea, Tham Suea)
Where: In north east of Krabi town off Highway 4 make left 1.5k from stoplight in Krabi town heading towards Trang and Koh Lanta on Highway 4. A short trip by motorbike.
Parking: When you park your motorbike, just use the key to open your seat up and hang your helmets on the small nub that sticks out close to the front of the seat. Don’t take your helmets with you wherever you go, the locals will never steal a helmet at a Buddhist temple, and the monkeys are not allowed in the parking lot area anymore. They will not steal your helmet either, the monks and nuns chase them away.
What is there to see and do?
Wat Thamsua has a couple things to see and do. Outlined below:
1. Tiger Cave Temple is the tan/yellow colored building at the base of the hill close to where you will park. To the right of the building is a ramp and stairs leading up to the second floor. Once inside (remove your shoes) you can shop for Buddhist amulets at the counter, get a bracelet put on you from one of the women in white (nuns) and look at the 120+ Buddha statues. If you look to the front among the Buddha statues you’ll see a stairway that leads up to a special room where a Buddha footprint is as well as the most sacred place for the whole Wat Tum Sua temple. It’s small and crowded sometimes.
2. Outside the Tiger cave temple come back down to the ground level and walk left there are some buildings to see, but the next main attraction are the stairs leading up to the top of a small mountain (260 meters above sea level). There are 1,237 steps leading to the top that are challenging in the morning heat – best to go about 4 pm if you want coolest part of the day and to catch sunset, which is at times, amazing. There is cold water at the top of the climb (free) and places to sit or even lay down. I’ve seen all kinds of people make it to the top. A five year old boy, an 85 year old woman, and a 300 lb (130kg?) guy. If you want to make it you CAN – just go slow. It’s not a race. Sunset is awesome here when it’s not rainy season. Rainy season is April or May through November.
3. After you go up the steps, or in lieu of it (spelling of lieu?) go further back into the grounds and see the gwa-neen statue – female Buddha type statue. Chinese people love this goddess. Then to the left are more steps that lead to the foothills area of Wat Thamsuea. It’s about 88 steps up and 100 down into the foothills. There are 8 monks that live here and there’s a nature walk of maybe 400 meters around the perimeter of the foothills. Great for pics. Don’t miss the 1000 year old tree and the 2 caves. One cave you can walk back in and see a couple of rooms. Don’t stay long – in one cave it’s tough to breath. Not sure why that is.
4. There is a new building, a 99 meter high Chedi with 8 levels that might be done sometime in 2008. Looks cool from the outside. You can walk up now and see it – but not much to see just yet. Should be quite nice by time it’s finished.
Many photos, videos and even more in-depth description and review of Wat Thumsuea (Thamsuea) >
Interesting Tiger Cave Temple facts:
Built: Over 40 years ago.
Founder: Ajarn Jumnearn (Jumnien) from Surat Thani province north of Krabi. He lived in a small village, Ban Na San for a long time and had “Jack Kornfield, author and meditator, stay with him for a few years there.” Jack Kornfield invites Aj. Jumnearn back to California yearly to teach a meditation course with Jack.
Resident monks: 88 during the rains retreat time
Monks living in foothills area: 8
Most times traveled to top of steps? Pra Pornpitak, 50 years old has been up about 2,000 times over the past 18 years and counting. At 1000 they had a special party for him at the top (I missed it due to traveling.)
Fastest time to top of stairs? It’s rumored that a guy from France can do it in 10:45 minutes.
Most times to top of stairs in one day? I held the title briefly at 3. A 71 year old man, Alfred from the UK did it 4 times. Recently a young monk did it 5 times. Update: Me and a friend climbed it 6 times one after another.
Other interesting things of note: I found a meter long thin snake on the second level. I found a walking stick and a giant beetle. At step 357 there was a 4 meter long King Cobra I had to move off the steps (I have a snake hobby – ThailandSnakes.com).
At about step 800 there are sometimes a different group of monkeys that are very pretty to look at. They’re shy and don’t come close but if you can get a photo – they are very nice. I haven’t been able to get a photo yet. An American snapped photos of what the locals told him was a king cobra at the Tiger Temple Cave building. I saw the photos, I think it’s not a king cobra due to color, but it was a large monocled cobra. Occasionally there are a group of red monkeys – with bad tempers that come across the trees and visit the top of the Buddhist shrine and terrorize people. I’ve seen them just 3 times in 3 years.
TIPS for visiting Wat Thamsuea Temple in Krabi:
1. Do not park anywhere except at the beginning of the parking lot where other motorbikes and cars, buses, tuk-tuks are. The monkeys will chew your motorbike seat and handlebar grips.
2. Do not take anything to eat with you that is outside your backpack since the monkeys may forcibly take it from you when they’re ravenous. Especially early mornings they are a bit nuts.
3. Don’t stare in the eyes of the monkeys, this is a direct threat to them. The big ones will show you their impressive array of teeth. The small ones will run from you, cowering.
4. Don’t leave your shoes, umbrellas or bags of anything laying around where the monkeys are – they’ll take them and play with them high in the trees.
5. If a monkey jumps on you don’t flip out – just give it what it wants and he’ll get off. Seriously.
Regarding the heat…
1. 1,256 steps are tough in the heat. Take lots of water before, during, after climb. Once a girl from Malaysia almost died of heat exhaustion there. Recently I saw another Thai girl passed out and friends trying to revive her.
Regarding respect at Buddhist temple…
1. Don’t remove your shirts anywhere on the temple grounds. This isn’t the beach. It’s a Buddhist temple. You wouldn’t take your shirt off at a church in your country. Actually, you should never remove your shirt unless you’re on the sand at the beach. You should not ride your motorbike around Krabi town or walk the streets shirtless. That’s why Thais’ call you “key nok” – bird shite. Do as the Thais’ do, don’t bring your countries’ traditions here!
2. Don’t play music at the temple on your cell phone like some of the rude Thai kids you might see.
3. Don’t kiss your honey at the top of the mountain. It’s a sacred place. Thais don’t show affection in public. NEVER at a temple.
4. You must remove your shoes at the top of the mountain before you get on the ceramic tiled part. The sign looks like it means only womens’ heels -but it means ALL SHOES.
Regarding night time…
1. There are only a couple lights on the entire stairs. After you watch sunset (between 6:15 and 6:45) you should start down the stairs as you don’t want to get caught in the dark.
2. Bring a flashlight. 7-11 sells small yellow flashlights powered by 2 AA batteries for just 50 baht that work well! Good for exploring caves too.
Bring water for the trip up and maybe down too. Coming down is also strenuous for some people, take some breaks.
Bottom Line – An awesome experience. Besides Railay beach and Phi Phi islands, and Crystal Pond (Sra Morakot) this should be your next choice for something to do while you stay in Krabi, Thailand on your vacation.
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For Tours Info around Krabi Town and Beaches – Click HERE.
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