I remember writing in an early post about living in Isaan that I wanted to show readers there was more to the attractions here than you might gather by exploring the internet. The problem for us expats is that there aren’t a lot of us out there chasing down new sights outside the very limited selection available on favourites such as Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet. I am sure the Thai script internet is full of possibilities but for someone reliant on the English sites it can sometimes be a bit frustrating.

There have been times when I have been so disappointed with the options available that I feel like giving up but then something comes along like Wat Tham Sang Tham and I find a renewed enthusiasm for chasing the possibilities out there. I have to thank an expat friend who pointed me to this temple as we had lunch after a sport’s day opening ceremony that morning, which was so unusual that it will be the subject of a separate post.

The signpost to the wat called it Tham Sang Tham and is off highway 228 between Si Bun Ruang and Si Chomphu.

The ever present posters promoting the Thai royalty.

The ever present posters promoting the Thai royalty – the king in this instance. This photo was taken with my back towards Si Chomphu on the 228.

Now “Tham” means “cave in Thai (pronounced more like “Thum”) so Tham Sang Tham seemed to double up on the cave bit. However Gaun tells me that the two “Tham’s” are actually different words, so close in the Thai pronunciation that in translating them to the English phonetic they are spelt the same. Tham number 1 refers to the cave aspect and Tham number 2 relates to the sort of meditative state one enters when spending time with a Buddhist monk. “Sang” means light as far as I can make out so I think the whole name means a cave where you experience a “lighting up” (maybe a clarity or enlightenment) of your life while spending time with a monk. Anyway whatever the name this is a super cool wat even in its half finished condition.

Finding the place is a bit of a challenge as the signage is all in Thai once you leave the main road and there seem to be a couple of wats out this way. Even Gaun had to ask the way.

Leaving the main road we were into pure Thai countryside and traffdic like this little chug chug tractor that you see everywhere in rural Isaan.

Leaving the main road we were into pure Thai countryside and traffic like this little chug chug tractor that you see everywhere in rural Isaan. A new road happening here.

You can see from the photo above that we were heading into some hilly outcrops, which was really surprising as we have nothing like this where we live just 30 minutes down the road, I had no idea that these features were around in our part of Isaan.

Sugar cane.

Sugar cane shown in the foreground taking over from rice paddies as a result of several years of drought.

This lady was paying respects to a San Phra Phum, a spirit house, when I stopped to take some photos.

This lady was paying respects to a San Phra Phum, a spirit house, when I stopped to take some photos. You can read more about spirit houses HERE.

This Buddha statue was just sitting in the back garden of a pretty ordinary house. It made a good photo moment.

This Buddha statue was just sitting in the back garden of a pretty ordinary house. It made a good photo moment against the backdrop of the hill.

More hilly outcrops appeared much to my amazement. Bales of leftovers from the rice harvest behind me.

More hilly outcrops appeared much to my amazement. Bales of leftovers from the rice harvest behind me.

Once the sugar is harvested Isaan becomes a brown dry landscape and nothing like the postcards of Thailand. The sort of blue haze of the hills and the dry season brown gives it an almost Australian feel.

Not with the buffalo though.

Not with the buffalo though.

The road even turned Australian by becoming what we Aussies would call a dirt road. Eucalyptus trees completed the scene.

The road even turned Australian by becoming what we Aussies would call a dirt road. Eucalyptus trees completed the illusion.

We soon got a glimpse of the wat and you can see why I was so excited. If the Munsters had a place in Thailand this is what it would look like:

Spooky.

Spooky. I am showing my age by raising the Munsters TV programme. Go HERE if you are under 40 years old!

Not very farang friendly but not many expats get here I suspect.

Not very farang friendly signage but not many expats get here I suspect. The temple in the background.

The temple "plaza". An eating place (well knock me down with a feather) clean toilets and a couple of seating areas.

The temple “plaza”. An eating place (well knock me down with a chilli) clean toilets and a couple of seating areas. We were the only visitors.

The steps up to the rock wall temple are to the right of the food place.

This looks worse than it is. There are several short bursts of stairs, this being the longest.

This looks worse than it is. There are several short bursts of stairs, this being the longest.

The effort required to get to the wat building and cave in this case is a lot less than to say Wat Erawan that I covered HERE, which is cool season climb only.

Like Erawan the climb is well worth it because you rise above the landscape to get some spectacular views of the local area.

The wat is work in progress and won't be finished for years if ever.

The wat is work in progress and won’t be finished for years if ever.

The work and money required to even get it to this state is awesome. You have to love the vision too, which is to build a multistory building glued to the side of this rock outcrop in the middle of absolutely nowhere. What relevance this has to Buddha who supposedly achieved enlightenment sitting under a tree in India is a little beyond me and probably to Buddha as well.

Kid proof railings. Our children being the protect species they are would fall over. Thai kids seem to survive on the whole. Life experience starts early here.

Kid proof railings. Our children being the protected species they are would fall over. Thai kids seem to survive on the whole. Life experience starts early here.

The view is worth the climb.,

The view is worth the climb.

Looking down on the road in.

Looking down on the road that we had just driven.

Rubber trees on the far left and right, Longan trees standing individually and sugar in the process of being harvested to the right of the road at the entrance to the wat. The rubber trees are deciduous so this will be a more “winter” look in a few weeks.

Views out to the distance.

Views to the distance over the rubber plantations.

More interesting this way.

More interesting this way.

Spot Gaun.

Spot Gaun. One of the balconies taking advantage of the views.

The second level of the wat. A way to go but you can see the potential.

The second level of the wat. A way to go but you can see the potential.

We stopped off to try and get this gong to “sing”, which is considered auspicious, without success. It looks easy when someone who knows how does it as always.

Gaun trying.

Gaun trying.

Gaun not happy!

Gaun not happy!

For some reason if reading this post on an iPad the play button doesn’t work. Tap to the far right of the photo image of the video to get it started. Who knows why.

Buddha keeping an eye on things.

Buddha keeping an eye on things.

This photo shows how the temple building has been merged with the rock face.

This photo shows how the temple building has been merged with the rock face.

The next level up brings you to a more open plaza type area, once again with magnificent views of the surrounding area.

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More work in progress. A pretty spectacular small temple building once completed.

More work in progress. A pretty spectacular small temple building once completed. A drop to nowhere at the back.

But wait....there's more!

But wait….there’s more!

This level gives you access to more stairs than crisscross up the rockface to take you to even better expansive views.

A concrete "branch" supporting the stairs.

A concrete “branch” supporting the stairs.

Looking down on the level you have just left. This shows the context in which that mini-temple sits. Pretty breathtaking

Looking down on the level you have just left. This shows the context in which that mini-temple sits. Pretty breathtaking especially on a clear sunny day like this one.

Climbing up you pass this spirit house. I am sure the ghostly occupants appreciate the view.

Climbing up you pass this spirit house. I am sure the ghostly occupants appreciate the view.

You might come across these little sticks inserted into rocks throughout Thailand. Done for good luck. You will see the same principal being applied in temples where long sticks are placed under the branches of trees to support them.

You might come across these little sticks inserted into rock cracks throughout Thailand. Done for good luck.

You will see the same principle being applied in temples where long sticks are placed under the branches of trees to “psychologically” support them. I went to Google search to illustrate this point and came across one in my own blog! No copyright infringement this time:

Photo taken as part of a Chiang Mai post - Wat Chet Yot in Chiang Mai HERE.

Photo taken as part of a Chiang Mai post – Wat Chet Yot HERE.

Gaun on the edge. Living with me this is a constant state for her.

Gaun on the edge. This is a constant state for her living with me. Once again no handrails. Be sensible or die! How refreshing.

The following photos try to give you some idea of the incredible views from this spot at the top of that outcrop of rock I showed you at the beginning of this post. As I said previously I had no idea there was this sort of variety so close to where we lived. It has been an eyeopener in a good sense.

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A small moo ban or village snuggled into the base of this rock formation.

Meeting a bunch of girls on their way to the top.

Meeting a bunch of girls on their way to the top.

The day we went was a school holiday as part of the Thai king’s 88th birthday celebrations. Now can you imagine a group of western kids heading off to their local church equivalent to pay their respects? A reminder that Buddhism here is much more an integral part of daily life than we can manage with our religions.

The very simple structure at the very top.

The very simple structure at the very top.

A Buddha footprint at the top. Lots of these in Thailand and beyond.

A Buddha footprint at the top. Lots of these in Thailand and beyond.

Gaun making a contribution watched by the girls. Gaun overheard them saying that they wished they could speak English so they could talk to the farang! Gaun is a bit of a novelty in that way.

Gaun making a donation watched by the girls. Gaun overheard them saying that they wished they could speak English so they could talk to the farang! Gaun is a bit of a novelty in that way.

A super modest "alter".

A super modest “alter” but what a location.

I had to share this photo taken as we climbed down. The spirit house I showed you earlier is on the left. To the right is a bank of solar panels and two satellite dishes channelling TV to bored monks (?). Thai temples are moving into the 21st century.

A mix of cultures.

A mix of cultures.

On the way down we called into the “Tham” or cave bit of the wat’s name and it was pretty impressive too.

The main entrance from the inside.

The main entrance from the inside.

Spot Gaun and you get an idea of the size of this cave.

Spot Gaun and you get an idea of the size of this cave.

Not just tall but quite expansive too.

Not just tall but quite a footprint too spread over two levels.

Gaun has told me the name of this monk but I can't find an English phonetic version.

Gaun has told me the name of this monk but I can’t find an English phonetic version. He has a black face and white beard and is often seen with a tiger and/or wearing tiger robes. Pha Leu Si is my spelling of Guna’s take on his name.

The second time I have come across this "Post for Lovers" mailbox. Last time it formed part of Isaan - the Small Stories HERE.

The second time I have come across this “Postbox for Lovers” mailbox. Last time it formed part of Isaan – the Small Stories 7 HERE.

At the back of the main hall and down some steps is this separate cave. Spot the monk.

At the back of the main hall and down some steps is this separate cave opening out to the opposite side of the hill. Spot the monk (bottom right).

Back into the sunlight we took a couple of photos of the funny side of so many Thai temples. They just love their replica animals, which helps bring a sort of Disney feel to Buddhism here:

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Me and the ducks and two frogs I think.

On ground level and having an iced tea I watched this guy delivering yet more rock to the site. I am not sure if he was “mau” (drunk), tired or just old but the truck was travelling at almost less than walking pace and he seemed to keep slumping over the wheel as if taking mini-naps. That rock probably left his farm just down the road several days ago!

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A single monk was doing the hard work getting the rock in place to support a new seating arrangement.

A single monk was doing the hard work getting the rock in place to support a new seating arrangement being built around the edge of this treed area.

Leaving the temple behind we trusted my GPS to take us home, which had us heading in the opposite direction from the way we arrived.

Leaving the temple behind we trusted my GPS to take us home, which had us heading in the opposite direction from the way we arrived.

Rubber trees.

Rubber trees.

Some of those rock formation at ground level.

Some of those rock formation at ground level. Sugar cane post-harvesting at the front. More to be cut at the back.

What an interesting skyline.

What an interesting skyline.

To top off a wonderful day we came across a mobile ice cream “van” and stopped for a 10 THB (A$0.40) sugar hit of coconut ice cream in a bun!

On of my favourite sights.

On of my favourite sights.

Can life get any better?

Can life get any better – the ice cream not Gaun!

This watting experience happened yesterday afternoon. In the morning we were invited to the opening ceremony of a local school’s sport’s day. With wild costumes, dancing and ladyboys it was a far cry from any sport’s day that I have ever been to and will be the topic of my next post.

Sport's day Isaan style.

Sport’s day Isaan style.

This temple isn’t easy to find as it is way off a main road. Google Maps Coordinates are 16°50’34.27″N 102° 3’57.35″E

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This map gives you as vague idea of the location. It is about 16 km from the 228 to the wat.

Thanks for reading.