We had previously heard about the Tiger Cave temple, situated 3km outside of Krabi Town the last time we were visiting Thailand, but didn’t have enough time in our schedule to follow it through. We had already trekked for 5 hours around Krabi towns main sites and river front in the heat, and the thought just popped into my head “lets go and tackle stair hell”. This sounded a good idea at the time little knowing what was ahead of us and what punishment I was ready to put my butt & thighs through, let alone my favourite T-shirt of the moment.
Tiger Temple or aka Wat Tham Suea is a Buddhist temple at the top of 1237 steps of the 600 metre high temple mountain and is a 15 minute taxi ride from Krabi town. We negotiated with a taxi driver and agreed on a price for the return trip of 400 baht (while he waited for 2 hours in his air-con 4×4) and entered the site that also houses various other temples including the newly built Chedi Tower. The whole area is considered by Thais as a sacred place and Buddhist monks make pilgrimage from across Thailand to visit.
I would really like to tell you that this picture was taken after completing the 1237 steps to the top, and then a leisurely stroll back down, but this was at step number one, hence the smiling face and unknowingly what was around the next bend over my shoulder. After ascending the first flight of stairs past the thieving monkeys we had read about, and powering through the first of many flights of stairs, we had made it up to step 188 and we were both looking at each other as the all conquering pilgrims descended above us from towering staircases leading to the heavens wondering what in gods name were we doing.
Already dripping in sweat and looking not to dissimilar in appearance to a sponge, we were doubting if this was possible, as our first water bottles were emptied. Remember to take plenty of the stuff, it’s required trust me.
What made the experience more painful were the nice marker posts telling you at what step you were at – thanks for that.
As each flight was successfully navigated and the views around us changed with every turn, and each new set of even steeper stairs approached, it’s a weird experience to see the difference of the victorious skipping down past us with a second wind and an added enthusiasm to get back down as quickly as possible, especially after all the effort to get up to the top. We had seen others fail at 300 and 600 steps and people being ill, throwing up and crying (nice). We had started to take each new set of 50 odd steps in our stride as we hadn’t come this far to turn around, and the burn in my thighs deepened.
Chedi tower is based on the Tiger Temple site, and is a prominent figure as you take in various views . Make sure you have your camera and plenty of water with you, as though there is filtered water at the summit (warm and dry), there isn’t any outlets funnily enough on the way up.
The whole experience of the task takes around an hour and thirty minutes, and having finished the last 3 litres of water we had taken with us for the challenge, marched onwards and upwards. We soldiered on past the 1100 marker until we were close to the summit. Well almost, as another deluded soul passed us on the descent to let us know “the worst is yet to come”. After 1100 steps of varying height, widths and depths of every known step ever created by man, there couldn’t have been any worse than those I can tell you. The last of the 130 odd stairs were successfully navigated and were no worse than the previous, be it the last 50 which seems to vanish vertically into the cave.
This dude would greet us at the top which was a worthwhile sacrifice to my aching limbs, wet and dripping with sweat. This was an achievement for both of us. The views are great, and a wave of relief fills you as you take it all in. Throbbing muscles and joints add to the relief of not having to go up anymore.
So just down then…..that will be fun, and fun it was, with all the enthusiasm of the previous souls who past us you have to tell them something to keep them going, mine was “they shut in 10 minutes so get a move on” to “the icecream seller up there is nearly out of chocolate”. Now I realised what the comments were as we were climbing upwards, the relief of success and going back down.
At the bottom, you have various temples and photo opportunities, and some outlets to take on board some cold refreshments. After a few snaps, air-con taxi awaited to get back to our hotel. A quick shower, and out for food was on the agenda, washed down with numerous Singha beers was the order of the day and a great pain relief. Overall a great free experience, and worth 2 hours of anyone’s time, so add this event to your to-do-list for Krabi, it will be in the top 3.