Phra Nang Cave

Legends and lingums

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 3.5 stars

Located at the southern end of Phra Nang beach, this cave shrine is famous not for its caverns or stalacmites, but its legends.

One story tells of how after an Indian princess drowned in a nearby shipwreck, her spirit sought refuge in the cave, where it remains to this day. Another claims that Nang was a sea gypsy woman who was abandoned here by her husband and became a powerful sorceress turned potent spirit following her passing many centuries ago.

The most famous legend tells of how a son, Boon, and daughter, Nang, of two feuding families fell in love and wished to be married. Seeing that their children were in love, the two families settled their differences and arranged a marriage. But a powerful sea serpent spirit wanted beautiful Nang to marry its son instead. Disguised as a man, the spirit attended the wedding on what's now Phra Nang beach and instigated a bitter fight that renewed the two families' differences. A holy man who lived in a nearby cave became angry at all this ruckus, so he cast spells on the whole lot and transformed them into various mountains and caves in the Railay area. Boon's spirit became the cliff at the end of Phra Nang beach while Nang was encapsulated in a cave at the bottom of the cliff.

In more recent times, workers who were building the nearby Rayavadee luxury resort are said to have gotten drunk in the cave and accidentally started a fire that torched the shrine. A woman apparently became possessed by Phra Nang's spirit that same night, and not long after, Rayavadee's generator exploded during the resort's disastrous grand opening. The management first attempted to dedicate a concrete shrine to appease the spirit, but when another local woman became possessed and the resort faced a roller coaster of grief that included dozens of employees quitting and large scale protests against their encroachment on the area's environment, they ordered the remaining staff to carve new lingums so as to replace those that had been burnt. Only then did Phra Nang's wrath finally cease -- for now.

In all of the legends, Phra Nang is a female spirit that symbolizes fertility. Phra Nang cave is said to resemble a vagina, and to this day, local couples visit the shrine and offer carved wooden lingums (phallices) during pregnancies or while trying to conceive. Pregnant or not, virtually all Thai people who visit Railay make it a point to pay respects to Phra Nang. If you visit, do be respectful of the local beliefs and remember that each lingum is considered a sacred offering that was given in complete seriousness.

Last updated: 27th June, 2013

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Sights in Railay Beach