I had never ever stopped in Phang Nga Town before, because normally we just drive towards Krabi and the east coast, and the junction where you turn off is just before the town. However, this time I wanted to visit Wat Thamtapan, a Buddhist temple with a major difference.
Walking into the grounds of the temple, we saw a stairway leading up into the jungle, so we followed that, passing an odd statue of Lakshmi sitting on a crocodile on the way.
And then we climbed up, and up, and up. A rather steep stairway, I nearly stepped on a snake. We had no idea where the stairs would lead, but thought it must have been built for something. Through the trees we climbed, until we reached a shrine with great views across the town of Phang Nga.
And then we entered hell. Through a dragon’s mouth. After some 50 metres, we stumbled across statues potraying people praying to be spared some pretty horrifying punishments.
My kids decided quite fast that they should ‘be good, for goodness sake’. Or end up like these poor folks. Our daughter (age 10) was interested. Our son (age 7) was a bit worried. So, be good!
There is a large cave here, near the hell statues. It reaches back about 100 metres into the rock, and there is a path. I will investigate further next time, but it’s the biggest cave I have seen in the area.
Wat Thamtapan is really a different kind of temple. I’m glad to have discovered it, but if you have young kids, the visions of hell might not be such a good idea. And although I object to the use of religion as a form of control, my kids picked up the vibe pretty fast! Well, they are good anyway.
After this temple, we checked out a waterfall ‘forest park’ called Sa Nang Manora, a few kilometres north of Phang Nga Town. Indeed, there are lots of waterfalls and caves in this area. Phang Nga is sparsely populated and very green. If you don’t own one, rent a car, Phang Nga town is around two hours drive from Phuket (of course, depending on where you start from on the island). Explore!
Jamie Monk works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers. For more information call: 084 626 4646 or visit: sunrise-divers.com