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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
The steps up to the rock wall temple are to the right of the food place.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The next level up brings you to a more open plaza type area, once again with magnificent views of the surrounding area.
This level gives you access to more stairs than crisscross up the rockface to take you to even better expansive views.
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:
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.
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.
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.
On the way down we called into the “Tham” or cave bit of the wat’s name and it was pretty impressive too.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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
Thanks for reading.