Wat Tham Suwan Khuha is a surprising cave sheltering an immense reclining golden Buddha. So if you feel like a little drive outside Phuket island, explore another side of Phang Nga! This region is not only famous for its incredible limestone cliffs plunging down into the sea, but also for some unexpected jewels. If you rent a car, driving along these majestic cliffs of Phang Nga will reveal impressive landscapes and the surprising Wat Tham Suwan Khuha cave where this famous reclining Buddha is located.
Phang Nga town itself hasn’t been strongly affected by tourism yet. Long ago, there were obviously a lot of expectation following the popularity of this silly James Bond movie that made ‘Koh Tapu’ (James Bond Island or the ‘Nail rock’) so famous and the whole area became a tourist magnet. (It still is). One of the highlight of Phang Nga town is the park at the entrance of the city, accessible through a hole in an immense cliff. When you are about to reach town, turn right to Krabi but stop only few meters on your left.
What you see looks like a large parking but the road continues through that hole in the cliff. Passed this impressive ‘gate’ you will reach a large well maintained park surrounded by many caves and tunnels easy to explore and walk through. This park is obviously a popular attraction for locals, you can tell by from the amount of food vendors standing by every where. It’s a fun stop and you get to see quite a lot of monkeys.
10 km before reaching Phang Nga Town, the famous Wat Tham Suwan Khuha cave, (or Wat Tham), is indicated by the usual large temple gate. This small road leads to a parking in front of the cave, but remember not to park too close to the cave entrance: Monkeys are notorious for pulling cars antennas, wipers or whatever they can strip out of your vehicle. Nasty surprise when you come out!
A faded decorated gate opens at the feet of a cliff onto a large cavern with high ceilings, about forty meters long and twenty meters wide. This natural temple shelters an impressive fifteen meters long golden reclining Buddha and several other large standing Buddha images… definitely worth a visit. The whole place is also decorated with numerous religious items. A monk is often meditating in front the Buddha, surrounded by some lazy cats who seems to find the place spiritual enough to have a nap.
At the entrance of the cave, a Chedi structure reminds of the famous Wat Arun in Bangkok (temple of dawn) and some stairs next to the reclining Buddha take you up to another small grotto with another golden stupa. At the very end of the cave, a fly of wide stairs opens to the forest outside and from there to smaller but less interesting caves. Don’t forget to make a small donation while visiting, it is good for you too 🙂
From there, you can choose to go to James Bond Island, but I wouldn’t really recommend it. If you feel like riding longtail boat to see something even more unusual go to Koh Panyee instead, it has a bit more to offer. Alternatively, if you like temples you can continue on the way to Krabi to admire the beautiful giant sitting Buddha of Wat Bang Rieng (photos) or have a great seafood lunch in one of the local restaurant but the Mangrove. A great way to spend a day driving out of the island!