Jamie's Phuket Blog

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Tham Paya Nakarat Cave Temple in Phang Nga

I was a happy temple hunting blogger last weekend! We (that's me and the family) visited an interesting temple that we'd never seen before .. never even knew it was there! I don't drag my kids out to temples that often these days now they are getting older and have their own things to do, but even they were impressed by Tham Paya Nakarat (ถ้ำพญานาครา). Certainly worth a Sunday afternoon drive and we were back home in time for the kids to get a couple of hours wake-boarding in :)

Tham Paya Nakarat is built into a rocky limestone hill with caves and huge stalactites and I am surprised that I'd not heard of it before. So I got a message on Twitter a couple of weeks ago asking for directions to the "Dragon Cave Temple". Never heard of it. A little Googling found some tor companies in Khao Lak visiting this temple, but I found no Thai name or map. So using Google image search I tried to find other pages with similar images and finally found a location on Google Maps, with a photo that matched the name "Dragon Cave Temple", but on the map it just said "Monastery". Well, it looked like we'd have to take a drive and see what we could find! Over the years we've done any of these drives exploring back roads and we always make it into a nice family day :)

After lunch at Dairy Hut Seafood, just outside Phang Nga town, we took the main road east to the small town of Thap Put which we drive through often on the way towards Surat Thani and Chumphon. At the junction in Thap Put town, almost everyone turns right, but we headed to the left. This road heads into the hills and eventually back to Phang Nga Town. I have seen it written on maps as the "road of 100 bends" and it is indeed a twisty road and climbs up and down, lots of views, and some steep drops by the road. We've been this way only a couple of times before, but did not know about Tham Paya Nakarat, down a small side road marked with this sign ...

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

A narrow road heads south for about 1km and there is a rather unimpressive concrete building to the left and lots of parking space. Was this it? No sign of a cave or temple, although I could see monks robes hanging on the balconies of the building. And a sign said "ถ้ำพญานาครา" .. We drove in and parked, then could see a stairway heading up the cliff.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

The stairway was lined with bells. I am never quite sure if I should ring these bells. Best not unless you are sure of the spiritual significance. But I rang some anyway. Hope that is good luck. At the top of this stairway we passed a doorway with a sign saying "Please remove shoes" and found a Buddhist shrine, along with a desk staffed by a young guy (not a monk), a donation box and a table of temple items for sale, and stairways heading up in 2 different directions.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

We took the stairs to the left of the shrine heading up the cliffside. No idea how many stairs there would be. Maybe 1,000 plus like the Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi? Luckily not so many!

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

(above) Climbing the steps at Tham Paya Nakarat

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

(above) And up more steps .. not too many really! The whole place is built into the side of the cliff with giant stalactites hanging down and the jungle growing up into the cave. On this higher level you start to get some views across the valley. The floor here has been either tiled in some places or covered with sand in other places.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

The path is not long, maybe 100 meters passing a small chedi before you get to the "big view" with another shrine and collection of Buddha statues. Now, this is a view I could sit and admire for a while.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

This place is shown on the map as a monastery, or a meditation centre rather than a temple / Wat (วัด) and I think right here is a good place to meditate. And made the trip worthwhile!

At this viewpoint next to the shrine is a wooden bench and a giant snake-like creature, which could maybe be mistaken for a dragon (maybe why some tour companies say 'dragon cave temple'), but this is a Naga, and not just any Naga, this is Paya Naga, the king of the snakes, leading to the name of this temple/cave. The Naga is part of Hindu myth and also Buddhism (which is related to Hinduism). So this is the cave of the king of the snakes.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

(above) My daughter with the king of the snakes, Paya Naga.

We walked back and down the steps to the first level again and then up a different stairway into a system of caves which went further back than I wanted to explore due to a very rickety looking bridge which I felt might not hold my weight! Inside the caves were shrines of Buddhist and Hindu origin.

Tham Paya Nakarat Temple in Phang Nga

Hindu Shrine

A fascinating and beautiful place. I notice on Google Maps that the small road passing this temple seems to keep going south all the way back to the main Phang Nga - Thap Put road about 5km east of the Dairy Hut Seafood restaurant. A small potentially scenic road that I need to follow one day! Very glad to have found out about Tham Paya Nakarat. Sure you might not drive all the way from Phuket just to visit this one temple, but combined with lunch, visiting Wat Suwan Kuha or Wat Bang Riang (near Thap Put town) and maybe Wat Thamtapan in Phang Nga Town and you have a selection of interesting temples in this small area.

Tham Paya Nakarat - Location Map



Top 10 Trips and Tours from Phuket

Most of the trips we do as a family from Phuket are done "our own way" without joining any organised or paid tour. And for us that's easy enough as we have transport, we know the roads, we can speak the lingo plus we enjoy exploring on our own. On many of the blog posts about trips such as Phang Nga Bay or visiting waterfalls I will post directions and maps so if you want to hire a car and explore, go for it! For other trips we get help from our friends who have a tour company called Easy Day Thailand - such as when we visited Koh Tachai Island and we've done trips as a group with these guys to Racha Yai Island, Koh Yao Yai Island and more. There is a lot to do here, lots of trips and that does not include local sightseeing to places like the Big Buddha, Cape Phromthep, old Phuket Town. When I stop to think about it, there is way too much to do here! Indeed after 17 years here, we still find new places to explore and there are lots of trips and organised tours that we have not done, I guess because we're not tourists!

My friends at Easy Day Thailand started by offering private tours and personal service. The private tours they offer are my recommendation, but they will also sell cheaper group tours and can offer airport transfers plus some tours in other parts of Thailand like Krabi, Kanchanaburi or transfers from Phuket to Samui or Koh Tao. Pretty much anything really, just ask them - contact here.

I have resisted adding any "top 10 attractions" list on the blog, because I think that depends what you are interested in. There are hundreds of pages on this blog and please do spend an hour browsing for information and ideas. You'll find there's more to Phuket than is shown in travel agent brochures. A lot more. Rather than "my" top 10, I asked the Easy Day team for a list of their 10 best/most popular/most recommended tours. The list is not in any particular order.

For bookings or questions, please contact Easy Day Thailand.

1. Exploring Phang Nga Bay

This would normally be the first trip I would suggest to anyone. We have done Phang Nga Bay trips many times, most recently in 2015 - see here : Phang Nga Bay. Great scenery, several iconic views. You can do trips like we have done by longtail boat in private groups visiting places like Panyee village and James Bond Island (see photo below), or there is a very popular (and lower price) tour including sea canoeing around several islands and caves in the bay. It's their best selling tour.

Private Phang Nga Bay Tour - More Information

Koh Tapu

Sea Canoes in Phang Nga Bay


2. River Tubing & Jungle Safari at Kapong

Kapong is in Phang Nga province to the north of Phuket Island. We have been in this area for a white water rafting tour, but the trip that is really recommended (and I must do it sometime) includes river tubing, swimming at a waterfall and elephant bathing and trekking .. and yeh, I know elephant trekking is not so trendy now, with concerns about cruelty, but I am assured this place looks after the elephants and they only take small groups.

Kapong Safari - More Information

Elephant Bathing at Kapong in Phang Nga


3. Private Phi Phi Day Trip

I have not been to Phi Phi for quite a long time. It does tend to be rather crowded and most tours are on big boats with maybe 40 or 50 people. So they can be very cheap and that sounds attractive, and yes the scenery is very pretty despite the crowds, but a private tour is the way to go! Actually, it's best to stay overnight in Phi Phi and get a boat either late afternoon or early morning to avoid the daytrippers from Phuket! Easy Day can arrange that, or a private tour for a day from Phuket, so you get your own boat with a private guide in Phi Phi after taking a ferry from Phuket. And yes, this is more expensive that some of the real budget tours, but really worth the extra. Me and the family must go again sometime. Our last visit was years ago on a seaplane!

Phi Phi Private Day Trip - More Information
More Phi Phi Islands Tours
Phi Phi Overnight Tour - More Information

Losamah Bay, Phi Phi Islands from a seaplane


4. Khao Sok National Park

Day trips are possible to Khao Sok, although it's about 3 hours drive from Phuket and it's certainly best to stay a night. We have been many times and Easy Day Thailand use the same hotel that we have used - Cliff and River Resort. Tours include rafting or tubing on the river and/or a trip on the huge Ratchaprapha Lake. We love this area, great scenery, fresh jungle air, a nice change from Phuket!

Read more about the area here :

Khao Sok National Park
Khao Sok Tours with Easy Day

Khao Sok View

(above) View from our room at the Cliff and River Resort in Khao Sok National Park

Lunch stop at Khao Sok

(above) On the lake at Khao Sok National Park


5. Krabi Kayaking and Adventure Day Trips

Krabi is on the east side of Phang Nga Bay, and has some attractions that are a bit too far for a day trip such as the Emerald Pool and the Tiger Temple, plus many small offshore islands. You can also ask Easy Day about tours if you stay in the Krabi area, but some are also available from Phuket. There are various tours available such as a 4 Island Tour, Sunset Cruises, Phi Phi Tours and the very popular Hot Spring Spa.

Krabi Tours Overview
Waree Raksa Hot Spring Spa

Kayaking Mangroves near Krabi

(above) Kayaking in the Mangroves near Krabi


6. Koh Yao Yai and more Islands

This is a new tour based on a trip we did in 2016 - see Koh Yao Yai Island. Day trips are possible, taking a boat from Bang Rong pier on the northeast coast of Phuket, but an overnight trip is better. Koh Yao Yai is a quiet island and the views from the east coast are great, looking across the bay towards the Krabi coastline. Tours will also include stops at Hong Island and others. Some more great scenery here. I think you can actually do several day trips in different parts of Phang Nga Bay .. and we have!

Contact Easy Day for more info about Koh Yao Yai

Thiwson Resort Pool

(above) View from Thiwson Resort at Koh Yao Yai Island


7. Similan Islands Overnight Snorkeling

The Similan Islands I know very well! I spent many months on dive boats there and I am still manager at Sunrise Divers, booking people for diving trips right through the high season from mid October to early May. So please do contact me at Sunrise Divers for diving trips. Easy Day can book snorkelers on a couple of different trips. Day trips are possible, but are a bit rushed. An overnight trip is much more relaxed. There is an option to sleep in tents, but this is not really comfortable (yes, it's cheaper) or you can stay in aircon cabins on a boat called the Pansa Queen. The Similan Islands really are beautiful!

Similan Islands Overnight - More Information

Similan Islands

(above) Similan Islands "Donald Duck Bay"


8. Surin Islands Overnight Camping

The Surin Islands are quite a long way from Phuket, it's an easier trip if you are staying in Khao Lak. Overnight or 2 night stays are possible, camping in the Surin Islands national park. A day trip is possible too. It's less crowded than the Similan Islands (because it's further away) and there is lots of great snorkeling plus you can visit the Moken Sea Gypsy village. Staying overnight is a real "get away from it all" experience.

Surin Islands Snorkeling - More Information

Moken Village, Surin Islands


9. Racha Yai Island Early Bird

Racha Yai island, also called Raya Island, is a very popular day trip destination from Phuket. There are lots of boats and lots of snorkelers, plus dive boats along the reef and in the bays. I have dived there many times - see : Diving at Racha Yai. And a few years ago we joined the Easy Day folks for an overnight trip - see : Overnight at Racha Yai. To beat the crowds on a day trip, the early bird tour is a must. Hotel pick up 6 - 6:30am means you get to the island a couple or 3 hours before anyone else! Or you can ask Easy Day about overnight options. If you stay on the island and wake up early, you also beat the crowds!

Racha Yai Early Bird Tour - More Information

Siam Bay, Raya Island

(above) Arriving at Racha Yai Island


10. Private Phuket Island Sightseeing Tours

As I mentioned at the top of the page, Phuket Island itself has many attractions and it's a big island! Easy Day do have a few "set tours" (half day, full day, evening weekend market tour), but you can also contact them for a private tour to see whatever you want .. like maybe you want to start with sunrise at the Big Buddha and then visit Chalong Temple, maybe the Botanic Garden, then lunch in Phuket Town, then up a hill, or a stop at the aquarium and catch an evening show at Siam Niramit, the options are more or less unlimited. Just ask!

Phuket Sightseeing - More Information
Weekend Market Tour

Phuket Big Buddha

(above) The Big Buddha

Phuket 3 Beaches Viewpoint

(above) View at Karon Viewpoint

Walking Street Market in Phuket Town

(above) Sunday Market in old Phuket Town

More Services by Easy Day

Airport Transfers
Transfer to Phi Phi Islands
Phuket Cooking Class
Sailing Cruises

Of course, you can't see it all, which is why I do find that many people come back to Phuket. If you have a couple of easy beach days and a few tours that's a week gone and then you start to realise that there is a lot more here! For trips, tours, transfers, please do contact Easy Day Thailand. The trips above are suggestions, some of their best sellers and trips that get the best feedback. If you have questions you can ask them or you can post a question on my Facebook page. See you in Phuket!



Loy Krathong 2017 - 3rd November 2017

Loy Krathong is a very old festival which takes place on the full moon of the 12th lunar month (so the date is different every year). In 2017 the date will be November 3rd. Loy Krathong is largely about giving thanks to the goddess of water, though may be based on an old Hindu festival. There are many links between Buddhism and Hinduism, being that the Buddha was born in India. The festival is not huge in Phuket compared to Chiang Mai for example, but nevertheless it seems that everyone does it! Celebrations will be muted this year due to the cremation of King Bhumibol on October 26th. There are usually big parties, but this year will be more a time for quiet reflection. However I imagine there will be events at Patong, Karon, Chalong Pier and Naiharn, maybe more.

Does what exactly? Well, aside from a bit of a party, you have to "Loy" (float) your Krathong - a few years ago I wrote about How To Make A Krathong. There are also beauty contests and who-can-make-the-best-krathong contests. The story below is based on our Loy Krathong evening back in 2008.

Despite the weather, we headed out in the evening to Bang Wad Reservoir which is only a few kilometers from our home. The reservoir is Phuket's largest fresh water supply, so a good place to give thanks. The evening has been wet. Yes, we had been "blessed" with plenty of water. Of course, everyone waited until the rain had stopped, so it was rather crowded and also muddy underfoot. We had several Krathongs to float - one made by my wife, one made by her sister and one made by my daughter at school. There were hundreds of Krathongs in the water and hundreds more people wanting to float away all their bad luck.





Near the water were some food stalls. We did not hang around. It was crowded and muddy... and getting late. I think next year we'll go somewhere quiet for Loy Krathong.





At the reservoir we bought some "kom fai". These are lanterns made of paper with a lump of solid fuel built into the base. Simple design. All you need to do is light the fuel, let the hot air rise and watch them go. People were doing it at the reservoir.





At home we found that lighting the fuel was not so easy with a bit of a breeze. One of the lanterns took off and then landed again in the garden next door.. then took off again and got stuck in their TV aerial. I thought the burning fuel would burn their TV cable, but the lantern blew off to safety in the end. We sent 4 lanterns off into the night sky to become stars (so I told the kids!)



(above) burning fuel heating the air in the Kom Fai



(above) Once the fuel really starts to burn, the air heats up and you can slowly release your lantern... These things are getting to be a bit controversial, since they burn out and then the frame, often made of metal, falls down to litter the land or the sea.



NOTE : 2017 I'd be careful letting lanterns go unless you are sure it's allowed ... not strictly legal and maybe best to avoid.

More Phuket Festivals

Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Songkran in Phuket
Phuket Old Town Festival
Hungry Ghost Festival