Wat Tham Seua, 08-02-2009.
Wat Tham Seua aka Tiger Cave Temple is not like most Wats in Thailand. A temple might be a place of worship but still a dusty place with scrawny dogs lazily scratching their flea ridden behinds, temple cats desperately and in vain trying to keep the temple grounds free of small mice, bold house sparrows eating from the small bowls of rice offerings like dignitaries from Lord Buddha himself sampling the sincerity of the faithfull. Sleepy monks still dozing in the shade after early morning's alm round.
Wat Tham Seua on the other hand has slowly turned into a serious tourist attraction with new hotels being build all around the Karst stone rock formation which is the centre of the Wat and visible from Krabi centre about four km. away.
Long lines of VIP tour buses parked at the entrance greet me when I arrive by hired bicycle watching the construction workers at the side of the road sitting on bamboo mats eating fried chicken, white plastic cups go from hand to hand. I don't need the sour smell of fermented rice boiling in a food kettle over a small fire to know these Burmese day labourers are having themselves a ball not caring much about the five star hotel they are supposed to work on.
Sabai, Sabai and Sanuk, Sanuk are all I need to say to know the motorbike taxi guys will let nobody near my unlocked bicycle while I tour the Temple ground. My sketchbook and pen, my water colours and a small mineral bottle in my bag ready for action I buy myself a ticket joining the many tour groups that wander from one building to the next listening to local guides explaining everything in a variety of different languages, camaras snap while umbrellas are closed upon entering a temple, opened again outside as a protection for vulnerable white skin against a harsh Thai sun.
More than 1200 very steep stone steps will bring me cherished peace at the top of the weirdly shaped karst peak, no more rowdy tour groups of mostly elderly Europeans hung with expensive camara equipment and sweaty T-shirts - not that my T-shirt is still dry after these 1200 steep steps up - just a few local and Farang die-hards who must have felt as fit as me at the beginning and look just as exhausted and perpiration drenched as me now that we have made it to the top.
Our rewards are more than just worth it though, apart from peace and tranquility that rule up here, vistas all the way to the Andaman Sea, a huge Buddha statue and a gilded stupa, friendly young monks hand out much needed bottles of mineral water free of charge.