WAT THAM SUEA (in Thai) or TIGER CAVE TEMPLE is a Buddhist Temple located north east of KRABI, Southern Thailand’s so-called “ENCHANTED PROVINCE”. One of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the province, it is well-known for “Tiger Paw Prints” in the cave, tall Buddha statues and the strenuous “flight of stairs”.
The founding of the Temple dates back to 1975, when a Vipassana monk named Jumnean Seela Settho went to meditate under the cave. During his meditation, he witnessed tigers roaming around the cave. This discovery led to naming the Temple WAT THAM SUEA. Another legend says that a real huge tiger used to live and roam in the cave. The naming of the Temple also comes from the discovery of “tiger paw prints” on the cave walls, and also the “bulge” of the cave resembling a “tiger’s paw”.
The Tiger Cave Temple is Krabi Province’s most prominent beacon for the love and hope of the religion it represents. It is a prominent centre for meditation, and its spectacular setting in the Ao Luk Thanu mountain ranges provides the necessary “quiet atmosphere” for meditation. The main “vihara” or the “holy of holies” is inside a small shallow limestone cave. Both side are lined by monastic cells which are called KUTIS. The area is well-lit and very well maintained thus preserving the environment.
The Temple has one stairway leading to the summit, with a total number of 1,256 steps, some of them more than a foot high. The top of the stairs is 278 metres high. Another set of stairs, with 184 steps, leads to the foothill area where the monks live in the caves. Monkeys often roam around the stairs and Temple grounds. Occasionally people are bitten and require hospital treatment. Do not tease the monkeys or get between the adults and young.
At the top of the mountain is a large Golden Buddha Statue. This statue, other Temple buildings and much of Krabi town can be seen from the shrine at the top of the stairs. So, you can either have a “moderately strenuous” or a “very strenuous” climb, depending on which of the two staircases you choose. The view from the top combined with the Buddhist statuary makes the summit of the hill an unforgettably beautiful place. Sunset ascents are becoming increasingly popular, especially on a full moon, when it is possible to see the sun setting in the islands in the Andaman Sea on fire in the west, while a golden moon rises over the Krabi lowlands in the east.
The surroundings of WAT THAM SUEA consist of tropical rain-forest, including many old trees in the KIRIWONG VALLEY. There are many places to be seen, but the places to visit are the caves —— TUM KHON THAN, TUM LOD, TUM CHANG KAEO & TUM LUK. Many THANU ancient artifacts were found around the caves and Temple grounds. Mountains also cover most of the land around the THAM SUA region along with many other small caves that are not accessible to tourists. The THAM SUA TEMPLE is a Thai-Buddhist meditation centre and also has places of archaeological and historical significance. Examples of these historical attractions are stone tools, pottery remains and moulded Buddha footprints.
For a naturalist, the site is a “microcosm” of Krabi’s former natural environment. WONDERFUL TREE, not far from the main shrine and adorned in a sacred cloth, may well have the largest “root base” of any tree remaining in Thailand.
The view from the “platform in the clouds”, makes you feel closer to the twin spirits of the Temple’s faith ——– VIPASSANA (clear-seeing) and ANAPANASATI (mindfulness with breathing), which are essentially mental health therapies which are compatible with all religions, and which have reduced the suffering (caused by excessive attachment to impermanent phenomena) of millions, maybe as many as billions of people. They are predominant in THERAVADA BUDDHISM, which is mainly practised in South-East Asia, and which, maybe, contributes to the fact that Thai people, most of whom adhere to these beliefs, are amongst the MOST CONTENT IN THE WORLD.