Wat Tum Sua (also called, “Wat Tham Suea”) is one of the most fun things to do in Krabi on your vacation.
TIGER CAVE TEMPLE ESSENTIALS
You can make this a 4-6 hour trip – half-day or full-day. Make sure you eat a couple of hours before and have a lot of energy because you will need it to climb the mountain, and then later climb another 90 steps to get into the foothills area (see 2nd video, coming soon).
Watch the video to see the climb up the hill. Don’t let the idea of 1,256 steps scare you into not attempting it. We’ve seen 80+ year old people at the top, and a 5 year old that made the climb. It’s difficult, but if you rest every 50 steps or so – you’ll be fine. There is almost always ice-cold water at the top for you. Bring a clean cup or a water bottle to refill so you don’t need to use the dirty cups at the top.
Tiger Cave Temple History
Theravada Buddhist monk, Ajahn Jumnien, is the founding abbot of this amazing temple located at the beginning of the Khao Phanom mountain chain just outside of Krabi Town in the south central area of Krabi province. Ajahn Jumnien is a world-renowned meditation teacher and he travels to many continents to help others learn Buddhist meditation. Ajahn Jumnien is also well-versed in the mystical aspects of Buddhism and he creates many important amulets at his temple – which you can find HERE.
The temple started as a small place for monks to learn about Buddhism, and now has grown to be a massive temple and one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand’s South. There is a large Chedi being built – 99 meters high – of concrete. There is a very high set of steps to climb – 1,256 steps climbing 280 meters up a limestone hill – offering an absolutely stunning view at the top.
There is also a foothills area down to the left of the large Kwan Yin statue. You climb 90+ steps up, and another ~90 down and you are in a primary rainforest with gigantic palms and prehistoric looking plants. There are a group of monks who live here and meditate in the various caves located here. You can tour one of the shallow caves too – turn on the lights first, or bring a flashlight (torch).
There are a few counters where you can buy authentic Thai amulets, blessed Theravada Buddhist bracelets, necklaces, and more. They have an extensive collection of amulets they create there at the temple for visitors to share across the globe. Spend a few minutes browsing around and see if you can’t find something as a gift for Buddhists or someone else special in your life.
Attraction Reviewed: TIGER CAVE TEMPLE – Wat Tum Sua (Thamsua, Thumsuea, Tham Seua)
WHAT TO DO AT TIGER CAVE TEMPLE?
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 (280 meters above sea level). There are 1,256 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 (130 kg?) 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 Tham seua. 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) >
5. Buy Amulets on-site or through this website.
Interesting Tiger Cave Temple facts:
Built: Over 40 years ago.
Founder: Ajarn Jumnearn (Jumnien) Seelasettho 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: Usually around eight (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? There was a guy from Germany, a track runner, who climbed in 9 minutes and 20 seconds.
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 for a vertical mile of climbing!
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 (Interested in snakes? ThailandSnakes.com.
At about step 800 there are sometimes a different group of monkeys (gibbons) 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 THAM SEUA TEMPLE IN KRABI
ABOUT MONKEYS (Macaques)
1. Park in Front. Do not park anywhere except at the beginning of the parking lot where other motorbikes and cars, buses, tuk-tuks are. The monkeys sometimes chew your motorbike seat and handlebar grips. Don’t leave food on your motorbike or under the seat – dogs, monkeys will find it.
2. Keep Food in Backpack. 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. 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.
3. Don’t Stare in the Eyes of the Monkeys, or smile and show your teeth – these behaviors are 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 feed the monkeys. Don’t get close to the monkeys. I have seen some horrible bites to visitors when the monkeys get angry. The monkeys have fangs and when they bite, it is a really bad bite. I’ve helped to carry a number of people down the stairs after bad monkey bites.
5. Don’t get between the adult monkeys and the babies. This can be the cause of a monkey bite – or full-blown attack by multiple monkeys.
6. Stay Calm. If a monkey jumps on you don’t flip out – just give it what it wants and he’ll get off. Seriously.
THE HEAT, HEATSTROKE
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. It is a strenuous climb – bring a hat too!
REGARDING RESPECT AT THIS BUDDHIST TEMPLE
1. Keep Shirts On. 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!
Don’t wear anything you wouldn’t wear to the Vatican in Rome. Do NOT wear a bikini. Do wear bras. This is a Buddhist temple, and though you’ll be sweating outside and it’s hot, swimwear is NOT acceptable.
You can wear sandals, shorts, t-shirts, hats, glasses, etc. Don’t forget to bring your camera.
2. Don’t Play Music. 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. 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. Remove Shoes. 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 AT THE TEMPLE
1. No Lights on Stairs. There are only a couple lights (or, as now, none) 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.
3. The Dogs at the Bottom. If you come down the steps at night there are very few people around, and the dogs may bark and follow you around. There have been dogbites occasionally, so keep this in mind if you’re planning on coming down late. I always pick up some rocks off the hill before I come down, and if the dogs are crazy, I start throwing big rocks at them. That chills them out. It doesn’t endear you to the monks, but then, at least you’re not bitten. There is a SERIOUS dog problem at the temple – like most temples. The dogs are not controllable.
Do bring some water. There is water at the top, but you will need some before you get there. You will also need your plastic bottle to drink from as you refill it at the top. There are cups there, they are dirty. The water is clean, it is filtered. Bring water for the trip up and maybe down too. Coming down is also strenuous for some people, take some breaks.
BOTTOM LINE? IS WAT THAM SEUA (TIGER CAVE TEMPLE) WORTH THE TRIP?
A visit to this popular temple is an awesome experience, and one you shouldn’t miss. 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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Ride your car, motorbike, or take a taxi or tour to Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tum Sua / Wat Tham Seua). This is a large Theravada Buddhist temple located just outside Krabi town in Krabi Noi area (little Krabi). On highway 4 from town, traveling towards Koh Lanta and Trang you’d make a left at the stoplight at the first sign of a large hill. This is the Khao Phanom Bencha mountain chain. You go about 2km and you’ll see the temple on your left side. The road is marked with a sign for the temple.
Don’t miss Tiger Cave Temple – even if you don’t plan on climbing the big mountain, you can climb up into the foothills area and see where the monks live in the caves. There are turtles and 1,000 year old trees back in this area. There are some small caves to explore (look for the light-switch).
Want to see MORE PHOTOS?
Here is a page full of photos from the Wat Tham Suea Buddhist temple (CLICK)
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For Tours Info around Krabi Town and Beaches – Click HERE.