• Barry

Wat Tham Suea, Kanchanaburi, Thailand.

Wat Tham Suea is also know as The Tiger Cave Temple, but should not be confused with Kanchanaburi's notorious Tiger Temple which was closed down by authorities, there are no live tigers at Wat Tham Suea. The name seemingly originates from the tiger paw prints found in the cave when a Buddhist monk went there to pray. Before even arriving at the temple it is a good idea to stop for a coffee at Meena Cafe, not particularly because I liked the coffee (which I did) but because of the stunning views of Wat Tham Suea offered from the rear of the coffee shop. Meena Cafe is situated almost 1km away from the temple and with only rice fields in between, if the timing of your visit coincides with favourable crop conditions then the view is simply stunning.

There are two entrances to the temple with one being around the side of the temple and the main entrance being from the large car park to the front, this is also where the food and souvenir sellers gather in the hope of making sales although they do not seem to be pushy.

Entrance to the temple is free of charge although there is then the option of climbing a long, steep flight of steps or paying a small fee (10/20 Baht) and taking the steep funicular railway leading to the top of the hill/mountain where the various buildings are situated; the tiger cave itself is situated on the lower levels. Once at the top of the hill the views over the surrounding countryside and the River Kwai are almost worth the visit in themselves, if views to die for are high on your list then this place should be at the top of it.

If you decide (as many do) to climb the stairs to the top of the hill then dont think that you will then have an easy walk around the statues, stupas and buildings, there are still many more steps to be climbed if you are going to get the best views of all. I would not consider myself to be a temple lover as most temples will not get a second glance from me, but when they are different to the norm then I could possibly go over the top with praise. Wat Tham Suea is right up there with the most beautiful temples I have ever seen and is not in the least gaudy, except maybe for the mummy and the live TV link.

The ornate buildings and what is reputedly the largest Buddha image in Kanchanaburi all combine to give the temple a magical feel, even the Chinese style pagoda of Wat Tham Khao Noi which is the adjoining temple gets in on many photographs, without actually being a part of Wat Tham Suea. The golden Buddha may catch the eye when looking inward but to fully appreciate the surrounding landscape climbing the stairs of the 63 metre high Chedi and stopping on the various levels to ring the impressive bells gives many more photographic opportunites.

What Tham Suea is only a short drive from Kanchanaburi town and if the visit is just to look at the temple maybe a one hour visit would be enough. Any keen photographers should possibly plan to stop longer.

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