Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World TravelThe secret of adventure, then, is not to carefully seek it out but to travel in such a way that it finds you. To do this, you first need to overcome the protective habits of home and open yourself up to unpredictability.
Arriving at Tiger Cave Temple – Krabi
Tiger Cave Temple is known locally as Wat Tham Seua to Thai people in the Krabi province and is located about 20 minutes from Krabi Airport. Betina and I had just finished our weekend retreat with Dropship Lifestyle at the Krabi Resort and a few nights on Phi Phi Island.
When we arrived back in Krabi early that morning by ferry, we didn’t have anywhere to stay until our late afternoon flight to Chiang Mai. I knew we would have a long gap in between, so the night before I looked up nearby activities, so we could make the best use of our time.
Luckily, and undoubtedly, I knew there would be something. I came across the Tiger Cave Temple and it seemed like a beautiful attraction to see, since we had a few hours, and better than waiting in the airport.
We found a place within the airport that would hold our bags until we returned. It seemed a little strange at first, because it was basically a storefront that had some storage space behind the counter, but we trusted our belongings to them, and when we returned there was no issue.
I only mention this because I’ve heard several reports from backpackers and travelers over the years to never separate yourself from your bags, while traveling in SE Asia.
I’ve seen pictures of buses, where the bottom is hollowed out in the luggage space for little thieves to hide and rummage through your bags while you sit above unknowingly.
I’ve only heard stories, but have never known anyone personally to experience this, in any case, please do your own research, and if you don’t feel safe leaving your bag, keep it with you.
Once, we dropped our big bags off, we hired a taxi to drive us to Tiger Cave Temple. Our driver was very quiet, but friendly, most likely because of the language barrier. I’ve realized that not everyone we meet in foreign countries is so eager to speak English with us. Usually, a few words, spoken in the local language will help open up communication.
He agreed to drop us off and return to pick us up in approximately 3 hours, while we explored the caves, jungles and mountains of Tiger Cave Temple.
At that moment we had no idea how long or how difficult the climb would be. First, we needed to find the path up to the viewpoint, but there were so many attractive decorations along the initial entrance walkway.
Almost immediately Betina and I began taking pictures and short video clips of our dramatic entrance. As we followed the walkway, we gazed at all of the shrines and these colorful structures and park benches where there were many monkeys running around mischievously.
I had to warn Betina, to secure her bags, because these deceptively cute little macaques (monkeys) will steal any small loose items that they can get their hands on.
We continued out on a path that would lead us to one of the many shrines and also to the caves and jungle behind the tall rock formation.
I am still not sure if I should call it a rock formation or a mountain. I think rock formation is more fitting, but I could be wrong.
The entrance to the temple was decorated with colorful flags, statues, and endless plants and wildlife. Yes, wildlife, no tigers, but many, many monkeys and different types of birds were all over the grounds.
With all of the beautiful distractions, we somehow, missed the staircase path to the pagoda and the famous Buddha at the top of the mountain(rock formation).
Instead, our curious meandering around brought us to a staircase leading to the tiger caves, near the back of the temple grounds. Before climbing the steep stairwell near the back, to what we thought was a staircase to the top we read a map displaying a hiking trail through the forest and through caves so we proceeded on and figured we’d find our way to the top later.
At the first rest stop on the way up, a group of Thai school children greeted us with smiles and innocent curiosity.
At the same moment, we realized that we were headed right back down the other side of the staircase to a trail that led to some of the caves. Not knowing what to expect while exploring places like this is part of the fun, so we kept on walking.
We followed the trail along the base of the rock formation and dipped in and out of a few of the caves. After exiting one of the caves we came across this marvelous rock face with Buddha shrines and more intricate decorations than you can count around it.
We took a few pics in this area and moved back onto the trail where we passed many of the monks living quarters. Even some of the monks were out doing laundry inconspicuously in a small concrete structure under the cover of massive and very, very old trees.
I took note of our location near the rock formation and continued on the trail with Betina who was ill-prepared for a muddy trek through the forest wearing a long casual cotton dress and flat sandals.
Nevertheless, Betina was already traipsing over fallen trees, muddy ditches, and rocky outcroppings in her flat sandals as I shook my head at times, in disbelief. Her sandals had leather straps woven around her ankles for support, but no grip on the soles at all.
She seemed unaffected by the challenge and pressed on with her relentless photo snapping and slippery side-stepping through the forest trail. We had no idea beforehand, that our little layover day trip was going to be so intense.
There is a saying that goes:
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Well according to many eastern philosophies, as long as there are ears to perceive it, it will be heard.
Hmm? Anyway, I mention this because as we were beginning our trek deeper into the woods, some very large tree branches broke from high along the side of the rock formation with the loudest crash you can imagine! It sounded like explosives being detonated!
Now hearing this in the middle of the forest with only the sounds of nature made it even more frightening and dramatic. After the shock, then came, the loud scraping of the tree limbs as it fell from way high above us, and landing with a tremendous crash to the ground.
Luckily, we weren’t too close to where it landed, but it really felt like it. Neither one of us was recording video at that moment, else I would definitely share it. It was a reminder of how unpredictable nature can really be and anything can happen at any time. However, we won’t let that stop us from exploring though.
Tiger Cave Temple – The Climb and the Summit
After making our way out of the forest, we still hadn’t found the staircase to the famous viewpoint that we came to see in the first place and we were running out of time. Once we found the sign pointing to the way up we began climbing.
I am not absolutely certain when, but according to Betina, we had only made it about 200 steps up before realizing, how difficult it really was going to be and if it was realistic or even possible to make it to the top in an hour and a half and back down.
With our carry-on luggage on our backs, we pressed on, despite sweating profusely and feeling the burn in our legs and feet. Not even a quarter of the way up this steep imposing staircase my shirt was soaking wet and seeping through to my backpack, and the same was true for Betina.
However, we decided we would continue slowly if need be. Step by step.
This climb proved to be one of the most difficult physical challenges, I have ever taken on. Initially, I believe we took it very lightly, but as time appeared to slow down and the packs on our backs became more and more burdensome.
Somehow our casual exploration had just transformed into a deep struggle of mind over matter.
I don’t know if it was because we are both stubborn, competitive, or just plain hard-headed.
Or, maybe it was just inspiration and our passion for adventure and facing challenges.
Yeah, the latter sounds better.
The motivational and inspirational analogy of climbing to the mountain top, we’ve heard so many times throughout our lives, had now manifested in the physical sense.
Everyone has their struggles to varying degrees, but to some, it is so much more severe. Looking back now I am just grateful, that we are in good health and had the strength to keep climbing until we reached the summit.
A few people turned around and climbed back down the stairs defeated, but what was inspiring was meeting a few people coming down that were cheering us on claiming that there wasn’t much further to climb to reach the top.
We passed the 3/4 mark and I saw people who were clearly not in the best physical shape coming down praising how beautiful the view was and how it was well worth the sweat and tears.
Pitifully, I thought, “Well, if they can do it, I can do it!”
When we reached the top there was a water fountain at the very end of the staircase and a little further a place to take off your shoes and walk over to the massive Buddha statue and Pagoda at the very top of the rock formation.
I still cannot imagine what great effort it took to build these enormous structures on the top of such a narrow rock formation.
Was it worth the strenuous climb to the top?
It was an overcast afternoon, so our photos did not come out as vibrant as we would have liked, but the entire experience is one I will never forget. It was also a great lesson in life, relating to working hard for what you want, whether it be in your relationships, your career, or even your health and lifestyle.
Anything worth having doesn’t usually come easy and sometimes it takes many more steps than you think you can bear.
However, you only need to take one step at a time to reach your goals, and don’t give up until you reach them.
Oh! I didn’t even mention how difficult it was to climb back down! Choo! Almost as difficult as the climb up. That’s when most of the pics looking down were taken. Because we had to stop every 25 steps to rest.