Tiger Cave Temple (Wat Tham Suea), Krabi
On our little 3 day holiday in the Krabi area at the end of April 2017 there were a couple of well known attractions that we wanted to visit. We were not too bothered about beaches although for sure on our next visit I want to see Railey Beach. We did want to see the Emerald Pool, and will visit there again, but have noted that you have to get there early to avoid the crowds! Top of my list was the Tiger Cave Temple - Wat Tham Suea (วัดถ้ําเสือ). Not to be confused with the Tiger Temple near Kanchanaburi (a couple of hours west of Bangkok) which featured tigers cared for by monks and was raided and shut down last year! The Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi has no actual tigers. It does have a cave although we somehow neglected to visit the cave! The main temple and cave are below a tall cliff with a temple on top. It's 1,237 steps up and quite steep. Sounded like a family challenge :)
This is something to be done early in the morning, or late afternoon. You don't want to do this in the middle of a hot Thai day. We were awake about 6:30am and based on this experience, I'd say that if we do this again we will start even earlier! We could actually see the Tiger Temple from our Krabi Town hotel room - on top of one of the hills in the distance (actually only about 7km away as the crow flies).
We parked at the temple by about 7:15am. Very few people there. A new temple building is under construction and nearing completion. We skipped the cave (and then forgot to visit the cave after the hike) and headed to the start of the climb up the mountainside. First small problem - daughter was wearing shorts that were too short, so she had to rent a skirt (no charge for rental, but a donation is appropriate should you forget to dress properly). Oh, and there is no entry fee here, so I'd suggest a donation anyway, even if you have the right clothes!
(above) Please dress politely!
So .. we begin a 1,237 step climb. Let's say you should be averagely fit to attempt this. And start early. And carry water with you. Here's us - I am 48, used to be an athlete many years ago, but now mostly sit at a computer and am about 20kg overweight. My dear wife admits that a year ago she'd not have been able to do this climb, but she has been doing a lot of exercise in the last year. Kids - no worries, they are pretty active. Our daughter (15) was worried that she'd struggle, but I think she found it easier than any of us. Our son (12) bounds up and down mountains like a mountain goat.
The steps do start very steeply! After just a couple of hundred, I am thinking "1,000 more?!!" Mostly the steps are well built, and easy enough to climb, but in some areas they are quite big - each one is a big step up! There are numbers painted on the railings on the way up, so you can see just how many hundreds more you have to climb! After just a short climb you get a nice view of the temple that's being built below :
(above) I was hoping there would be more shade on the way up, but much of the climb is hot and sunny, even though we started early. I guess, then, that a late afternoon start would be in the shade as you're climbing up the east side of the mountain. This photo taken on the "lower slopes".
(above) We did see a few monkeys on the way up. I have read that they can be a little naughty and try to steal food and drinks.
(above) Only 491 steps? A long way to go! You start to get nice views as you climb higher, but only looking east across the flat land to the east of Krabi. The mountain views are only seen right at the top ... Keep climbing ...
(above) View looking east from about 1,000 steps up
(above) Our daughter on some steep steps and very nearly at the top! It took us just over 1 hour to climb up. A hot, sweaty climb and we drank all the water that I carried (2 1/2 liters!). I say again - don't try this in the middle of the day! In fact, I'd not start this climb on a sunny day after about 8am. It's hot here in Thailand! My wife's cousin's son did this climb a while back - he's a soldier and he ran up to the top in 15 minutes! Damn!
So ... despite some self doubt about half way up, once we hit 1,000 steps we knew the top was close. And as soon as we got there, it was one of those WOW! moments.
Thankfully there was some shade at the top. We all needed a 5 minute breather! We stayed at the top for about 20 minutes enjoying the views, the quiet and basking in our family achievement :)
(above) Buddha at the top of the Tiger Temple
(above) And some more Buddha statues
(above) And time for my wife to say a little prayer
We were pretty thirsty after the hike up despite drinking 5 half liter bottles of water between us. I should have carried more. There is a tap at the top and the sign says that the water is drinkable, but ... well, up to you. We figured that it would not take too long to walk down, and you can buy drinks at the bottom! Well, going down took about 25 minutes, but my thigh muscles were sore and my wife's knees were buckling! We had to stop a few times. The kids got down well before us. It really is quite steep in places! Once back on terra firma we bought some drinks and left some money in donation boxes. Back at the hotel we wished that we'd not taken rooms on the 4th floor in a hotel with no elevator. Ouch! My legs were sore for a few days after the climb. But I think we all agreed that we'd like to do it again.
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Holidays in Krabi
Temples in the Phuket Area
Tiger Cave Temple - Location Map