Sunday, May 10, 2009

Wat Tham Singkhon

Wat Tham Singkhon (วัดถ้ำสิงขร) is an ancient temple in Surat Thani Province, in Khiri Rat Nikhom district directly at the Phum Duang river. I had found it listed as one of the attractions of the province, but since all which I could find was in Thai I didn't know much of what would be waiting for me there. I also only saw photos of the dark chedi in Srivijaya style, and I did not realize that the name of the temple actually already gives a hint of what more there is to see - Tham (ถ้ำ) means cave.

After entering the ancient compound through a wooden roofed bridge the first one to see is the set of Buddha statues under an overhang, all the seven days with their specific gesture. Walking up on the cliff one shortly thereafter reaches the above-mentioned chedi, which is located opposite the cave entrance.

Further Buddha statues are located at the entrance, including one large black sitting Buddha. It already got quite difficult to take a photo of these, since they are located in the twilight, and I did not bring a photo tripod. I only succeeded but placing the camera on the rocks on the opposite side of the cave. As it was even more dark inside, only very few photos turned out without blur, which is a pity as there are several further nice views.

The cave is not such the large overhang opposite the chedi, but it continues quite long inside. A bit sparsely illuminated at parts, it is nevertheless easy to go inside as there are concrete steps on the way up into the cave. In a first hall it has several Buddha statues in a row, later another statue on top of a wall which looks like a waterfall from the speleothem covering it. Since it was dry season there was no water on it, but the monk who guided us through confirmed that in the raining season the small pools in this formation is actually filled with water.

At other places inside the cave bats are resting for the day hanging from the roof, one place is known to be the resting place of tigers in the past, and another large hall was used by the monk as a meeting hall. Finally the way ends nearly on top of the cliff, where the roof of the cave has collapsed and allows the daylight to stream in.

As the monk who was our guide only spoke Thai I could not get much of the many things he explained, but even then the natural beauty of the cave mixed with the religious items and the small details like the stucco decorations make it a visit definitely worth the on hour drive from Surat Thani city.

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