The most important temple in Phatthalung town, Wat Khuha Sawan stretches over a pair of crags with a few caves and viewpoints.
The site was first used for religious ceremonies around the eighth to 10th centuries, as evidenced by Srivijaya-era votive tablets. A 19th-century engraving left by King Rama V joins the older relics.
Entering the temple from the north, you’ll first pass a limestone outcrop topped by a bell-shaped chedi that appears to hail from the Ayutthaya era. Though small by Phatthalung standards, it’s not every day that you see a chunk of rock rising to several storeys above the centre of a temple.
Continue further back to reach a typical ordination hall, beyond which lies a huge banyan tree with roots hanging over the entrance to the largest cave, Tham Khuha Sawan. A bunch of Buddha images are stowed inside along with twin images of the leopard-skin-clad hermit, Ruessi, adorned in bright ribbons and flower garlands. You might light some incense here, or join one of the forest monks to meditate.
Not far from Tham Khuha Sawan is a smaller cave, Tham Nang Khlot, where stucco statues depict characters from local folk stories. While we didn’t notice many winged mammals during our early-morning visit, we were told that another small cave houses hundreds of bats that fill the Phatthalung sky when they emerge to hunt at dusk.
Within sight of Tham Khuha Sawan is a long mossy stairway leading up a large, tree-covered hill. At the top, a few monkeys are likely to hang around near several ancient stone markers and a couple of run-down pavilions. Look to your left, with your back to the stairs, and you should see a narrow trail that rambles over some rocks before emerging at a viewpoint. From here you can gaze over the town and Khao Ok Thalu, with the silvery water of Thale Sap just visible on the horizon.
How to get there
Wat Khuha Sawan is an easy 700-metre walk west of the train station, at the far western end of Kuha Sawan Rd. Go straight through the temple gate, passing Veeranatsuksa School on the right, and the caves and viewpoints are found all the way at the back of the grounds.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 1st February, 2016.