A cooler day yesterday and a massage appointment that was postponed for two hours had us heading the 40 km down highway 210 towards the town of Loei and Wat Erawan, a cave set in limestone cliffs with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. I had read about the 600 plus steps to get to the cave itself, which was why the cooler weather played a part in the decision to visit.
The 210 West of Nong Bua Lamphu is one of Thailand’s more uninteresting roads. It is single lane for a lot of it, usually busy and has largely ugly development each side. It isn’t a trip that will add much to your Thailand photo library. However turn off either side and you are into some lovely rural land and small villages, which makes the drive worthwhile.
Erawan is one such diversion. The place is well signposted and you will see the right hand turn easily, which takes you onto a small rural road that winds its way through fields that are being being readied for rice or planted up with sugar.
A short distance after you make the turn you will see a rocky outcrop on your left and it is worth a short stop to visit the cave wat, or temple, that sits inside.
The sacks you see at the back are full of bat droppings and can be bought for 100 THB if you want to take home something different from Thailand 🙂
The smell inside corresponds to the droppings! Outside the air was cleaner and the scene very rural.
Keeping on this road Erawan is a couple of km further on and can’t be missed. Inside you will find lots of parking under trees, which is always a bonus in such a constantly hot climate, and of course places to eat and buy things.
I am often amazed by the Thai’s take on Buddhism, which seems to include just about everything. I thought I had seen it all but this was a new one for me!
The entrance to the cave is just beyond the markets. Warning – do buy or bring water and a face cloth. The climb to the cave is hard work unless you are pretty fit, which I’m not. The lady at the base of the steps will sell you a bottle of cold water for 10 THB. You can also buy a little offering here to give to the Buddha statue at the top. a candle, incense sticks and a small bundle of flowers, if that’s your thing.
The entrance to the steps is guarded by a partly submerged tiger.
Despite being relatively cooler, and we are still talking low 30’s, this is still a challenging climb that will get the average unfit farang wishing for a rest stop. I was passed by elderly women and small children – only joking maybe.
Luckily the Thais have allowed for us old folk and built several sala rest stops along the way. I confess to using a couple of them.
Once up those 600 steps you find yourself at the entrance to the cave and meet the big Buddha that checks out the visitors.
Here you can leave your offering if you brought one with you and then head into the cave complex.
Before you do I am sure you will be taking in the view, which is worth the climb even before the cave experience. It is also worth spending a moment thinking about the work required to build all those steps and construct this huge Buddha, plus the paths and steps you’ll find inside the cave. I had enough trouble just getting me up the hill let alone carrying concrete and everything else needed for this construction.
I have to say that the cave itself is nothing special if you are expecting the spectacular display of stalactites and stalagmites that you find in some caves. Even the caves of Chiang Dao close to Chiang Mai, which I wrote about HERE, are more photogenic. This is a large space inside the hill and it is novel as a result but beyond that I don’t think it offers a lot. You definitely know that bats are in residence too. Lovely and cool though which is a bonus.
For me the most impressive part of the cave visit is to walk right the way through and climb the stairs at the other end to see the view on the other side of the hill.
Not surprisingly the climb back down is easier and you can nod your sympathies to those on the way up.
As you come past the three headed elephant turn right and check out the excellent tourist map you’ll find there.
I wanted to check out that lake we saw from the top of the hill so we headed down the road in that direction. Sometimes these lakes have salas, small covered huts, on them such as this one in Nong Bua Lamphu that I will write about in my next post – “Visitors in Isaan”.
This one didn’t but it was worth the trip to look back to Erawan. As we left the wat I took this photo of the countryside, which captured the best of this part of Thailand.
A glimpse of the Erawan cave opening on the way back to the 210 had me taking the final photos for the day to capture where we had been earlier.
A return to Nong Bua Lamphu and a wonderful massage to finish a great day out.
I can recommend this massage place, despite the name 🙂 in the unlikely event you find yourself in Nong Bua wanting a massage!
This is a legitimate massage shop. Clean rooms, a double air conditioned room at the back away from the street if you want a massage with your partner. Ask for Ba. I have had a LOT of massages in Thailand and she rates up there with the best. 150 THB or A$6.00 for a hour of Thai or 300 THB or A$12.00 for oil.
UPDATE: 26 June 2015
The two excellent massage ladies at this shop have moved to Bangkok 🙁 I tried their replacement this week and was very disappointed. No longer recommended. There is a new place that has opened opposite Tesco Lotus but a few hundred meters down the 210 heading into Nong Bua, next to the Sport’s Bar. Nothing fancy but clean and friendly. Ask for Or. An alternative is the massage shop just before Tesco Lotus, which I covered HERE. I haven’t been there for a while so can’t update you on its current status.
UPDATE: 15 July 2015
Good news on massage. An old employee has returned to this massage place called Nuan and she is excellent. I had an oil massage and Gaun told her to be strong and she certainly was. Knew what she was doing and found lots of tender points. Recommended.
Thanks for reading.