Haunting Buddha cave
Published/Last edited or updated: 23rd June, 2017
Streaks of sunlight pierce dramatically into Tham Khao Luang, a large cave containing numerous Buddha images and other statuary in three chambers once frequented by King Rama IV.
The experience begins with troupes of monkeys begging for bananas sold by vendors at the car park. From there you can walk up the steep 400-metre access road or pay 15 baht to pile into the back of a pick-up. At the top, a few more monkeys hang around concrete steps that descend into the darkness.
Arrive around midday when the sun is out and you might see slender beams of sunlight shining through a large hole in the cave’s limestone roof. The contrast can be so pronounced that it seems like you could grab a ray and use it as a jump rope. Many visitors settle for a “beam me up” selfie.
Frequented by kings Rama IV and Rama V in the 19th century, Khao Luang (“Royal Mountain”) is the name used for the entire 90-metre-high limestone massif, with the cave at its belly. Two holes in different chambers allow for air to flow inside and keep parts of the cave quite cool, explaining why monks have long used it for meditation.
Contributing to the haunting atmosphere are dozens of chedis and religious statues, including a 14-metre-long reclining Buddha and three hermits overseeing each of the three chambers. Their shadows cast eerie shapes over smooth walls and ceilings dotted with stalactites. In the back chamber, the roots of a large banyan tree follow the sunlight down into the cave.
Legend has it that a passage in the back chamber will send you through a twilight zone to a mystical city inhabited by young maidens. With some imagination you also might see rocks shaped like elephants and Christ.
Tham Khao Luang is located five km north of downtown off Kiri Rattaya Rd, and an English sign marks the car park. Tuk tuks and motorbike taxis charge 100 to 300 baht for a round trip from the riverside area. Apart from the 15 baht charge for the truck to the top, admission is free.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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