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Monkeying Around in Phang Nga: Exploring the Fascinating Monkey Cave Temple

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: May 5, 2023

Nestled in the lush jungles of Phang Nga, Thailand, is a temple that’s unlike any other – the Monkey Cave Temple. This temple, also known as Wat Suwan Kuha, is famous for its resident monkeys that live in and around the temple. However, there’s more to the Monkey Cave Temple than just its furry inhabitants. Let’s explore this unique destination and discover why it’s a must-visit for anyone travelling to Thailand.

History and Background

The Monkey Cave Temple has a rich history dating back over 500 years. According to local legend, the temple was built during the Ayutthaya period by a group of monks who were looking for a place to meditate. They discovered the cave and decided to build a temple inside it. The temple was later expanded by King Rama V in the late 19th century.

The temple’s name, Suwan Kuha, means “golden cave,” which is a reference to the glittering stalactites and stalagmites that can be found within the cave. The temple is considered to be an important cultural and religious site in Thailand, attracting both locals and tourists alike.

The Monkey Experience

One of the main draws of the Monkey Cave Temple is, of course, the monkeys. The temple is home to hundreds of macaques that live in and around the cave. The monkeys are very used to human interaction and can be quite friendly – some may even climb onto your shoulders or take food from your hand.

However, it’s important to remember that these are still wild animals and should be treated with respect. Visitors should avoid feeding the monkeys anything other than the food provided by the temple staff, as human food can be harmful to the monkeys’ health. Additionally, visitors should avoid getting too close to the monkeys or trying to touch them, as this can cause the monkeys to become aggressive.

The Cave Exploration

One of the highlights of the Monkey Cave Temple is the cave itself. The cave is quite large and can be explored via a series of walkways and stairs. The cave is filled with stalactites and stalagmites, which create a dazzling display of natural beauty. The walls of the cave are also adorned with carvings of various Buddha images and other religious symbols.

At the back of the cave, visitors will find a small shrine that houses a reclining Buddha statue. This statue is believed to be over 15 metres long and is one of the largest reclining Buddha statues in Thailand.

The Temple Grounds

The temple grounds are also worth exploring. The main temple building is built in the traditional Thai architectural style, with ornate decorations and intricate carvings. Visitors can also find a small museum on the temple grounds that houses various artefacts and relics related to the temple’s history.

One of the most striking features of the temple grounds is a large statue of a golden Buddha, which stands over 15 metres tall. The statue is surrounded by smaller statues of Buddha’s disciples and other religious figures.

Local Culture and Traditions

The Monkey Cave Temple is an important cultural and religious site in Thailand. It’s believed that the temple has the power to grant wishes, and many locals visit the temple to make offerings and pray for good fortune.

One of the most important events that take place at the Monkey Cave Temple is the Vegetarian Festival. This festival, which is held in late September or early October, is a celebration of vegetarianism and is marked by various ceremonies and rituals. During the festival, the temple grounds are decorated with lanterns and flowers, and visitors can enjoy various vegetarian dishes.

Tips for Visitors

If you’re planning a visit to the Monkey Cave Temple, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. First and foremost, visitors should dress appropriately. As the temple is a religious site, visitors should dress modestly and avoid wearing revealing clothing. Additionally, visitors should wear comfortable shoes as there are several stairs and walkways to navigate.

It’s also important to remember that the monkeys are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Visitors should avoid getting too close to the monkeys or trying to touch them. The temple staff provides food for the monkeys, so visitors should avoid feeding them anything other than what is provided.

Finally, visitors should be mindful of the temple’s cultural significance and behave respectfully. This means avoiding loud or disruptive behaviour and refraining from taking photos in areas where photography is not allowed.

Other Things to Do in Phang Nga

Aside from the Monkey Cave Temple, there are plenty of other things to do in Phang Nga. One popular activity is exploring the Phang Nga Bay, which is known for its stunning limestone cliffs and emerald-green waters. Visitors can take a boat tour of the bay or kayak through the caves and lagoons.

Another must-visit destination in Phang Nga is the Khao Lak National Park. This park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including elephants, monkeys, and a variety of bird species. Visitors can hike through the park’s lush jungles, swim in its waterfalls, and even camp overnight.

For those interested in Thai culture and history, the Wat Tham Ta Pan temple is a must-visit. This temple is built into a cave and features stunning murals and sculptures depicting the life of Buddha.

If you’re looking to explore more of Phang Nga while also giving back to the local community, consider volunteering with GVI. GVI offers a range of volunteer programs in Phang Nga, including marine conservation, teaching English, and community development.

Volunteering with GVI is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing the community. Volunteers can work alongside locals on important projects and make a real difference in people’s lives.

Overall, Phang Nga is a destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking to explore its natural beauty, immerse yourself in the local culture, or simply relax on its beautiful beaches, there’s no shortage of things to do in this incredible part of Thailand.

The Monkey Cave Temple is a unique and fascinating destination that offers visitors a glimpse into Thai culture and history. With its resident monkeys, stunning cave formations, and ornate temple buildings, the Monkey Cave Temple is a must-visit for anyone travelling to Thailand. By following a few simple guidelines, visitors can enjoy a safe and enjoyable experience while exploring this one-of-a-kind destination.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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