We spent an afternoon recently on the local backroads close to Si Bun Ruang our home town in Nong Bua Lamphu province, chasing new wats (temples) and it paid dividends with so many excellent photos that it required a separate post. I will give you a My Maps link at the end so you can easily follow our route and discover these hidden places for yourself.
My initial goal was to revisit this big Buddha wat on top of a hill a 30 minute drive from us. The wat itself is nothing but the views are amazing. The last time I was here it was in January and not as green and lush as this wet season countryside. Gina Hutchings Broso you might remember your initial find on that road trip.
And people say the views are only in the far north. How’s this for a fightback from Isaan?
You can either drive to the top of this hill, although it would be a challenge for a low-slung small car as it’s a bad dirt road with a steepish climb at one stage, or just take the steps! The road cuts through the middle of them. These are heading up. Good luck!
And these down.
This is a pretty new Buddha, less than a year old and not super huge. However, he has one of the best views in Isaan to contemplate.
The green of new paddies and sugar crops make this a spectacular time of year to be here.
I spotted the roof of what looked like another temple in these hills (we didn’t find it) so with nothing else planned for the afternoon we headed on a voyage of discovery.
Even at the base of the hill the scenery is pretty spectacular. Corn being grown in the front and those unexpected rugged outcrops of rock in the background.
Gaun tells me that this isn’t the name of the wat but it is the sign at the base of this hill. The wat isn’t marked on Google Maps either.
Dirt roads. Just following the tracks and seeing if anything turned up. It’s the best way of finding new attractions in Isaan. A teak tree plantation. Beautiful.
Following our noses to see what we find.
This cave wat was hidden away at the base of a steep rocky outcrop. Many of these hills have wats because once you have a cave you have a monk and then the locals build a temple around them. Any wat with ‘Thum/Tham’ in the name has a cave.
See the tree roots that have almost embedded themselves into the rock.
A closer view.
You can follow your nose to caves because of the bats and this was the entrance.
There was no way Gaun was going inside. I was pretty relaxed because if I did lost Thailand is pretty good with cave rescues these days 🙂 I have Elon Musk’s (ex-chairperson of Tesla as of today) phone number handy so I can book his mini-submarine!
It was actually pretty dark in here with the camera picking up more than I could see. Nothing special but it’s the thrill of the chase that’s the enjoyable thing.
A small shrine to the right of the main one. Once again this was in almost total darkness and it is only the post editing that allows me to see what I saw 🙂 There is an illusion of bright sunlight, which was anything but the case.
Outside the main entrance was this reclining Buddha.
Further along there was another small cave down these steps. Only a monk meditation space but a bit spooky with no lights.
Gaun wouldn’t try this one either.
And to the right of this a small shrine decorated with seashells.
She sells sea shells…………..
And an ong, one of the big rainwater pots you see everywhere in Isaan including three of them I had moved into our tropical garden at home – see below.
Our very own ong. Isaan’s most beautiful private garden in the making.
Vast sweeps of sugarcane. The farmers will be disappointed this year as I have heard the price will be around 400 baht a ton at farm, half the return they were getting two years ago.
Yuan is relying on this year’s crop to give them enough money to build their house to the next stage so fingers crossed. No loans in my Isaan family.
We continue our trek into the wilderness. You sort of expect wild animals to appear a la safari but none spotted!
Another wat we came across in our wanderings. This obviously isn’t the wat but it was almost the highlight of an otherwise pretty small and unimpressive group of buildings.
How’s that for a crematorium location! Hard to beat. Brand new never used. I was going to write that it still had that new crematorium smell but maybe that’s in bad taste! Get in quick to be the first. The builders were finishing off a whole structure at my back for attendees including a small shrine.
The view from the coffin.
This plus the header are my boy’s photos for this story. Pretty pleased with the Nissan Sportech. Does the job. Takes us to places like this, which can’t be a bad thing!
A monk hut high up the cliff.
The hut is nothing but this is the view from his veranda. Not bad.
The name of this temple in Thai, which may or may not be helpful. All covered in English on my map later.
A glimpse of our final wat destination for the afternoon.
Tham Saeng Tham, one of the weirdest temples in our area. A massive structure under lifetime construction stuck on the side of a cliff-face. Remember that a ‘Thum/Tham’ is a cave so you know what you’re getting somewhere here.
A clearer view of that multistory structure.
A very friendly monk, as so many of them are, with a little bit of English.
Here we are all heading up the steps to the multilevel wat. The problem for these ladies is that they shouldn’t be physically higher than a monk. This required them all to sit down and wait until the monk had passed them and then follow him up the steps. No problems for me as I’m a bloke. I had someone recently ask me on my Facebook page if Thais minded having their photo taken. The answer is hinted at by lady waving at me even though we only said hello as I passed!
We passed a rubbish bin on its way up the cliff the easy way. I would have hopped on had I known!
A closer view of what is currently an very ugly concrete tower-block. Why not plan something smaller and finish it quickly? What a view though.
Halfway up the side of this cliff is a large and quite impressive cave. This photo only shows an offshoot of the whole space. A small group had started the evening chant even though it was only 4:00 pm.
The next level up is still very much work in progress.
The Buddha waiting patiently for hs space to be finished.
The view from this side of the wat at this level.
Looking down at the entrance road, which has been sealed since I was last here.
It’s quite a height even at this level and there’s a way to go.
Simple monk’s accommodation. That space saucer looking object is a mosquito net rolled up.
And the next level up. This was still under construction the last time I was here.
This was when we were last here and the photo shows Phillip, a good friend, capturing just the right angle for this shot!
Now finished and very nice too.
Simple but a little different.
You haven’t reached your final destination, which is at the top of yet more steps.
Some Australian wildlife has made its way over to Isaan!
Solar with a view.
This is a San Phra Phum a spirit house set in one of the best locations for these I have seen.
At the very top is a very simple shine with a Buddha footprint at the top. You mainly come for the views.
That was worth the climb.
I say it again this is the best best time of year scenically to be in Isaan.
Where we live in Si Bun Ruang it is totally flat. I am always slightly surprised to find this sort of scenery so close to us as there’s NO hint of it as you drive around our immediate area.
Last one. The early evening light was brilliant.
Heading back home the only wat we didn’t visit on our backroad trip yesterday was Wat Tham Pha Nam Thiang, a place I call the monkey wat. Here are a few photos from the last visit we made there. If you’re not into feeding semi-wild monkeys then don’t bother going.
Love this photo. Mum with baby.
The usual warnings when around monkeys. Take off all sunglasses and anything else that can be stolen and leave in the car. The two times we’ve visited there has been someone to keep an eye on the monkeys while you feed them. The first time it was a monk with a slingshot
Reindeer make an unusually regular appearance in Thai wats! They must be escaping the snow like the large number of expats that originate from Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and other extreme climate places.
You can buy very unhealthy junk food to feed the monkeys for 20 baht at the wat.
We had a couple of friends visiting at the time.
The water must have been coloured (I hope).
Monk with slingshot.
And on our way out of this area we came across two herds of cows heading to their homes for the night.
Such a rural scene in the soft late afternoon light.
Dinner being consumed.
Isaan rush hour.
A car window shot.
Not bad for an afternoon in the Isaan sticks! This trip works out being a big loop involving four small wats plus Tham Saeng Tham. For any potential visitors reading this post the circuit we did today will be offered at some time during your stay!
I was asked for a map of the route we took yesterday with the five wats available to visit. The Google My Maps link is HERE. Since we did this trip I have discovered a few other possibilities to explore and will report back as to whether they are worth a visit. The pins in orange are the wats I have shared in the last two posts and the markers in red are ones still to assess.
Thanks for reading and please leave a comment if you enjoyed this story. My sincere thanks to Tom, Clem, Cindy, Jim, Hans and Steve for their feedback on my previous story called post Respect for the Past HERE.