As I mentioned yesterday, I think I found something special.
I passed through a small village that for some reason I felt was hiding something, and so on my second pass, I stopped. The only thing that initially caught my eye was an area where they were building some kind of dragon floats, or boats, I’m not sure which. So I took a few photos of those and the wat nearby.
Then I wandered past a school, and found what looked like an entrance to something. In the distance I could see a glaring white building, but not much else. Having had to pay yesterday to see a river, I wondered if I needed to pay to cross this bridge…
A monk appeared out of nowhere, so I politely asked if I needed to buy a ticket. “I’m sorry, I don’t speak English” was his reply – in perfect English! “Oh yes you do” I said, while smiling. But I realize now it was probably not a good idea to disagree with a monk. I’ll be re-incarnated as an African Dung Beetle, or worse, a Justin Bieber impersonator.
Anyways, he assured me I didn’t need a ticket, which made sense. It’s not normal to pay to enter a religious building, although contributions are gratefully received. Except, at this point, I had no idea what I was entering!
Before crossing the small bridge I spotted a helpful sign. Apparently I was at something called Tham Singkorn Temple. Try Googling that, and you’ll draw a blank. Google Maps shows nothing except for a nearby, and not too interesting, wat.
So I learned that the place had been “established around the prehistory.” Let’s just call that a very long time ago. I also learned that the temple had been “the Buddhist place since the late Ayutthaya period.” Okay, that helps a little. I believe it would place some of the statues at around 1700CE. A lot of the other items though date back to the “13th Buddhist century” That, I think, works out to about 600CE. So, whichever way you look at it, it’s really really old! Oh, and there was something about a “ghost cave” but I didn’t read that part! 🙂
After crossing the bridge, there wasn’t much more than a rock face. Along the path there was a dragon statue, and later the large white thing, behind which there was a cave with lots of Buddha statues. This was all quite exciting and different, but not too different. Cave, statues, Buddhas, yeah, been there seen that; no t-shirts for sale.
But as I stood there, I realized this was a place that had to be explored. It was necessary to look beyond the obvious. Like the ceiling. There were lots of paintings, presumably centuries old. From “the prehistory” maybe. Parts of the ceiling had what looked like saucers stuck on it… which at some point had probably been a part of something grander, maybe a mural of some kind.
Then as I moved inside the cave, I found more and more statues, of all kinds and sizes from a few centimeters tall, to a few meters. The depth of the place was not obvious from outside in the bright sunlight. There were stalactites and stalagmites, and all kinds of strange rock formations. Just as I was thinking, “yes, really nice place, glad I found it” I realized, as my eyes adjusted to the darkness, there was light coming from the left side at the rear of the cave. A few florescent lamps were illuminating a stone staircase. More Buddhas were visible.
“Okay” I thought “I’m here now, better start climbing.”
And climbing. And climbing.
The stairway was steep, and in places winding. It passed through a few low, short, tunnels that required climbing while bending. There were just enough lamps to light the way. I stopped often. It was steep, and stuffy in places. In others, there was a hot stiff breeze blowing from somewhere, to somewhere else. Occasionally there was a cool breeze. That was nice. And every time I stopped to let my eyes adjust, and my lungs recover, I could see more and more Buddha statues. One was lying down. Smart guy. I could have done with a rest. But no. It was onwards and upwards.
Then I reached an area with the most amazing views. There was sunlight streaming from above, down a long shaft, the top of which I couldn’t see. The shapes of the rocks and the colorings had been made at some point by, I assume, water pouring down the shaft.
There were a few more places with the sun streaming in, but higher up it became dark with few lights, and the steps seemed to get narrower and steeper, with more low and lower ceilings.
At which point I thought – that’s probably enough of an Indiana Jones adventure for one day. It occurred to me that at any moment the lights could go out. Power failures around here are common, and often last an hour. I had no form of light at all. I’m not glued to my mobile phone like most people, so I couldn’t use the flashlight feature. It was in the car. And needless to say, since this place has to be best kept secret in Thailand, I was completely alone, at least fifteen minutes walk – with lights – from the bottom.
So, I’m sorry, but for now, I can’t tell you how much further the staircase goes, nor what’s at the top. All I can do is leave you with the photographs of the interior and surroundings.
Some are a bit blurry, because there was way less light that it appears. The shutter was open for at least half a second, and after climbing, there was no way to keep my hands still for even that brief amount of time.
I will return. I will have a flashlight. I will bring my big camera flash unit and a tripod. And I will discover what’s at the top … even if it’s the ghost cave!
If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know why.