Wat Tham Pla - Monkey Temple Chiang Rai
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Wat Tham Pla – Monkey Temple Chiang Rai



Monkeys living at Wat Tham Pla, Chiang Rai, fed and watered by the monks


CHIANGRAITIMES – Wat Tham Pla means fish tail and this temple is found about 13km (8 miles) south of Mae Sai. The temple is also known as the Monkey Cave Temple after the macaques that live here. They are not usually aggressive though and only stay in one area near the fish pond and shrine to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy who is very popular with the Chinese..


The entrance to Fish-Tail Cave

Apart from the monkeys, the main attraction is the cave from which the temple gets its name: Tham Pla. Crossing the bridge over the fish pond fed by the crystal clear stream running from the base of the mountain, up nearly 300 hundred steep stone steps cut into the its side; the path then levels out into a deep, narrow gorge with steep vertical sides formed when the roof of a long cave collapsed. Trees high above on the very edge of the gorge have sent down roots forming a natural lattice like steel bands tightly gripping the walls.

At the top of the main flight of steps, at the entrance to the gorge, is a platform perched on the very edge of the mountain. From here it is straight down to the plain. Gazing out you can easily make out the line of hills across the eastern border of Thailand in Laos in the area known as the Golden Triangle. The border itself follows the Mekong River which you can almost make yourself believe you can see; while to the north are the hills of Burma.

Around two hundred metres long, the gorge is supposed to look like the tail of a fish, hence the name. At the far end of the gorge are a dozen slippery steps leading in almost complete darkness to a cavern with a partially collapsed roof, which at least allows a bit of light to enter. There are two main chambers each with elevated Buddha figures in a well maintained area. The floors are tiled and slick so step carefully.

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