Also known as Wat Jetiyakhiri and located some 150 km east of Nong Khai town, Wat Phu Tok is one of the most interesting of Nong Khai's countless forest temples.
The unusual cluster of rock that now serves as the monastery's centrepiece first attracted the famous meditation monk, Ajahn Juan (pronounced jew-an), in the mid 20th century. The monk was part of a forest tradition that favoured untamed places for meditation, and the area was once home to many dangerous wild animals such as tigers and cobras. The monks felt that meditating in dangerous places served to strengthen their mindfulness while teaching them to overcome fear.
In his later years, Ajahn Juan built a series of wooden stairs and platforms to make the ascent more manageable. The original stairs still meander in and out of rocky crevices that have since been turned into Buddhist cave shrines. Good views of the surrounding countryside can be enjoyed from the top.
Along with several other prominent monks, Ajahn Juan was killed in a 1980 plane crash, and a chedi and mausoleum were built to enshrine his relics in the now well-groomed grounds below the rocky hill. While this is a great place to meditate, foreigners are apparently no longer allowed to stay overnight after a foreign couple was caught being a little too touchy in this highly sacred monastery where a small community of meditation monks reside.
Note that we have not made it to Wat Phu Tok in person; the above information came from reliable local sources. If you decide to take a trip here, we suggest stopping by Mut Mee Guesthouse, which offers a map and up-to-date travel info.
How to get there
Wat Phu Tok can be visited as a long day trip from Nong Khai. If you have your own wheels, head east on Route 212 (you can also follow smaller riverside roads for part of the way) until you reach the village of Chaiyaporn, about 30 km east of Beung Kan. In Chaiyaporn, turn right onto Route 3024, following signs for Tham Pra and Chut Na waterfalls. After 17.5 km, take a right in the tiny village of Baan Na Tong, and the temple will be on the right after another four km. You can also take a 7:00 bus to Beung Kan and hire a tuk tuk from there for around 600 baht roundtrip. Or, take a local bus from the clocktower in Beung Kan to the town of Siwilai, from where a roundtrip tuk tuk fare should be around 300 baht.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 23rd March, 2014.