Treasures of the Khao Luang Cave in Phetchaburi

posted in: Asia, Heritage, Thailand | 62

” Descending down into the cave, I braced myself for the expected darkness. Only to be pleasantly surprised to be enveloped by the spiritual glow of the Golden Buddhas that lit up the entire cave”. Thus began the treasure hunt of this Indiana Jones in the depths of the Khao Luang Cave in Thailand.

Tham Khao Luang Cave Temple in Phetchaburi, Cha-am, Thailand
Tham Khao Luang Cave Temple in Phetchaburi, Cha-am, Thailand

Khao Luang Cave was one of my highlights in Thailand this year. A little offbeat, this cave surprised me with its creativity – the manner in which the Man-Made Buddha Idols were placed within the natural grooves of the temple. My visit here felt like a scene from Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom, where he stumbles upon the many Golden Idols.Β  Stay with me as I regale my tale of the Khao Luang Cave and be warned – you are going to add this to your list of key things to do in Cha-am or even Thailand.

About Khao Luang Cave

Buddhas placed in the Khao Luang Temple
Buddhas placed in the Khao Luang Temple

Also known as the Tham Khao Luang, this cave temple supposedly existed during what the Thais call the Ayutthaya Period (the 1350s to 1760s). An old Chedi was discovered around here and they say a replica of Buddha’s footprints too, were found here. It was during the reign of King Rama IV that this temple was restored to become a meditation center. Golden Buddha statues were installed at various points in the cave to create a divine atmosphere. King King Rama IV further developed it and today, this Phetchaburi temple has become a protected ancient monument of Thailand.

The natural caves of Khao Luang
The natural caves of Khao Luang

They say that the cave was occupied by young women. True or not, but it is still tended to by the Buddhist nuns along with the monks.

Descending into the Tham Khao Luang

I visited the cave temple on my way back from Cha-am to Bangkok. Enroute my guide shared the history of Khao Luang while at the same time cautioning me against the notorious monkeys around the temple. The moment the car parked at the base of the Khao Luang hill, one dropped plonk onto the bonnet. Now I knew – that I really had to Beware!

Buddhas at the entrance of the Khao Luang Caves
Buddhas at the entrance of the Khao Luang Caves

With minimal belongings, we hitched a ride on the official Songrathaew for a quick ride to the cave entrance. With a close hold on my camera and bag, I descended down a staircase to the Tham Khao Luang temple.Β  As I reached the final landing, a row of Golden Buddhas sat – waiting to unfold the secrets to the Khao Luang Cave.

Cavern One of Khao Luang Cave

The Golden Buddhas as seen from the entrance to the Khao Luang Cave, Thailand
The Golden Buddhas as seen from the entrance to the Khao Luang Cave, Thailand

While I did spend some time with the distracting Buddhas at the entrance, my feet were itching to enter the glittering cave that I had seen while I got down the stairs. With a promise to examine these Buddha idols upon return, I entered the dark crevices of the first cavern through its curtain of stalagmites. My jaw just dropped at what greeted me.Β  The eerie darkness of the cave was blown away by the glittering glow emanating from the many Buddha statues that were kept around the cave.

Buddha Idols lit up in Khao Luang Cave Temple
Buddha Idols lit up in Khao Luang Cave Temple

The Golden Buddhas though placed, seemed to be a part of the cavern. The Buddhas on these natural ledges were a perfect replication of how the actual Buddha might have been when he was meditating. Even though there was artificial light creating the mystical aura of the Golden Buddhas, my guess is that even without those, these would have brightened up the whole dank atmosphere.

My favorite Buddha Image in Cavern One of Khao Luang Cave
My favorite Buddha Image in Cavern One of Khao Luang Cave
Buddha with the snake hood
Buddha with the snake hood

Spellbound like a zombie, I slowly moved around this first cavern to see the various Buddha idols. My favorite was the one with the hooded snake over the meditating Buddha.

Idols along the walls of Khao Luang Cave
Idols along the walls of Khao Luang Cave
Stalactite with the Buddha Images at Khao Luang Cave Temple
Stalactite with the Buddha Images at Khao Luang Cave Temple

Close to this Buddha, was this huge limestone pillar – a natural one from the way the stalactites created a design around them. While the natural formation itself was amazing, what enhanced were the idols that meditated in the grooves. The Stalactites actually framed a few of them beautifully while in some cases, they looked like curtains giving it a mystique aura.

2nd Cavern of Khao Luang Cave

The Chedis and Buddha Statue in Cavern Two of Tham Khao Luang Cave Temple
The Chedis and Buddha Statue in Cavern Two of Tham Khao Luang Cave Temple

The Caverns were seamless but had a character of their own. The first one was subtle but like a prelude to the grandeur of the 2nd one. If anything, it definitely looked even more divine with that natural sunlight flooding to the center of its floor. Several chedis stood tall against one wall while a huge Buddha statue dominated the main hall. Hindu Gods like Ganesha were placed along with some of the Buddha idols – just as I had seen in the Wat Doi Suthep Temple.

Close up of the Chedis of Khao Luang Cave
Close up of the Chedis of Khao Luang Cave
Chedi in the Khao Luang Cave_
Chedi in the Khao Luang Cave
Ganesha Idol next to the Buddha Idol
Ganesha Idol next to the Buddha Idol
Praying to the main Buddha in Khao Luang Cave Temple
Praying to the main Buddha in Khao Luang Cave Temple

This was the main Buddha statue of the Khao Luang Cave temple. This was where all the devotees offered their prayers. I noticed one very intriguing ritual. The incense sticks were kept in a small box that people shook till a few fell down. They picked the one or two incense and lit them while observing a pattern. My guide could not throw light on this but my guess is that it possibly gave an answer to their wish that they might have made while shaking the tin.

Shaking incense sticks in Khao Luang Cave
Shaking incense sticks in Khao Luang Cave
Row of Buddha in Cavern 2
Row of Buddha in Cavern 2

And I walked towards the final cavern but not before a backward glance to the whole mysterious cavern. With that smokey atmosphere lit by the natural sunlight let in by the narrow hole in the cave, I wonder what you would describe it as.

The final Cavern of Khao Luang

Close up of the Sleeping Buddha
Close up of the Sleeping Buddha

If there is one statue that will impress you in the cave temple – it would be the 5 m long reclining Buddha temple. Whether it is the size or the serene expression on his face or just his stance, there is no denying that it is one impressive idol in this entire temple.

Reclining Buddha in Khao Luang Cave
Reclining Buddha in Khao Luang Cave
Idol of the King in the Cavern 3 of Khao Luang Temple
Idol of the King in the Cavern 3 of Khao Luang Temple

Walking further, the last cavern had a statue of the King. However, before I reached that, I noticed a stone corpse of a human kept along the side. Again, the lack of information on this had me even more curious. Guess, that will be a question left open to someone who can answer it.

Stone Corpse in Khao Luang Cave
Stone Corpse in Khao Luang Cave
Caves behind the Buddhas at the entrance
Caves behind the Buddhas at the entrance

As I retraced my steps to return, I could not help but spend more time capturing details that I had missed the first time. Time was just not enough for there was so much to see. I exited to bid adieu to the same Buddhas that I had promised to return to when I entered. I could not help notice more caves behind this row. Guess, I just will have to return back to examine those. After all, Indiana’s quest is still not complete πŸ˜‰

Getting here

  • Phetchaburi is 2 hours by road from Bangkok. If you are on your way to Cha-am or Hua Hin from Bangkok, this falls on the way.
  • Click here to get Khao Luang Cave on your mobile. You can get to the base using the map. However, once here, you will have to park here and take the local Songthaew to the top. This will cost you 10 Thb.

Travel Tips

  • There are no entrance fees for the Tham Khao Luang
  • The Khao Luang temple opens at 9 am and closes at 4 pm.
  • Please ensure that you cover your shoulders and legs before entering the cave temple.
  • There are public restrooms at the base of the hill. A small cafe too can be found here,
  • The monkeys are a huge nuisance and one needs to beware of them.
  • The best place to stay around here would be hotels in Cha-am. I stayed in one of those.

Booking.com

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62 Responses

  1. Nisha

    Absolutely love the pics Ami!
    Shooting in cave or low light is difficult but you have shown some skills. The first one is a killer shot.

    I would have gone there. Will tell you when we meet. πŸ™‚

  2. Lisa

    Those monkeys can be a real nuisance, I remember them well when I was in Thailand! The Khao Luang caves are incredible, and I love that you took photos of each cavern. The most impressive for me is the sleeping Buddha. I saw it in Bangkok, but it never fails to mesmerise me!

    • Ami

      No doubt that the sleeping Buddha is one of the best here. The size itself is so impressive. πŸ˜€

  3. Soraya

    Wow to travel to such depths of history! The Golden Buddhas once you get into the cave looks incredibly impressive. It does sound like a worthwhile trip to make from Bangkok, considering it is only 2 hours away. It’s good to know that there are no entrance fees to get in, which is definitely budget friendly.

  4. Ryan Biddulph

    Caves in Thailand are so cool Ami. Literally. Maybe humid but temps drop 20 degrees or more cave-dwelling. I did the cave thing at Sam Yoi Rot National Park. Same deal with treasures availing themselves in these impressive caverns. Tweeted and Pinned.

    Ryan

    • Ami

      Thanks Ryan. This wasn’t too deep but was fun all the while. Hope to make it to the other one you mentioned.

  5. Amy Dodd

    Wow these are beautiful photos! To see all of this inside of a cave is amazing. I always loved looking at caverns and to have this is even better!

  6. Doreen Pendgracs

    Ami, this is such an amazing site! Thank you so much for introducing me to the Golden Buddhas in the Khao Luang caverns. I’ve never seen anything like it!

  7. Navita

    I am in love with Thailand. Having lived there for a while, I feel totally surprised how I missed seeing Khao Luang Cave, Phetchaburi. The funniest part is we did drive from Bangkok to Hua Hin and since this is one the way, urrg! Am noting it down for the next visit as have loved seeing the pictures and the reclining Buddha reminded me of the one in a temple in Bangkok, much bigger there though right! Covering shoulders and legs is a good tip. I typically used to carry 2 shawls in my bag, always, just in case I feel like going to any one the beautiful temples during my trips in Thailand.

    • Ami

      Pity you missed this the last time. Nonetheless, since you frequent Bangkok, am sure you will catch up with this one soon.

  8. Sandy N Vyjay

    The Khao Luang Cave looks really very interesting. The dark cave with the luminous glow of the Golden Buddhas seems to have an ethereal feel to it. Love the way the Buddha statues are seamlessly integrated with the natural contours of the cave. There seems to be an entire city dazzling below the ground.

    • Ami

      It is the seamless integration that makes this cave even more special. Am glad to have stumbled upon it. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  9. Ha

    Khao Luang cave looks so amazing! The history of this cave is interesting to read. Also, the Buddha statues are impressive and beautiful. It’s good to know that there’s no entrance fee to visit this beautiful cave. Thanks for the information on the monkeys too haha.

  10. Claire

    You are absolutely right, I am going to add Khao Luang cave to the list of places to visit in Thailand! Your photos are beautiful and and it must have been an amazing feeling to be able to see all the dazzling golden Buddha statues inside a cave. I would really love to visit it one day! Thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

    • Ami

      Thank you, Claire. That compliment made my day. I do hope you get to visit these soon. Trust me, they are just amazing.

  11. Nancie

    I was not familiar with Khao Luang Cave until I read your post. The next time I’m in Thailand I will make a point of visiting. I have been to caves in Northern Thailand and they were interesting, but if I remember correctly, not as large as this one. Lovely photos!

    • Ami

      These are not very huge – the caves. It is the presence of the Buddhas that make them seem so. They are absolutely gorgeous owing to that. Hope you visit them soon.

  12. Indrani

    There is a full scale worship going on there. Good to know the religious significance of the place. The picture of the statue of human there has made me curious. Great pics in low light.

  13. Rima Gor

    Just a wonderful & peaceful place it is. Thailand is my most favourite place in Asia. I just loved all those man-made Budha idols. Thanks for sharing & I will definitely add it into my Thailand bucket list.

  14. Lauren Pears

    Caves are so cool! Especially ones that are made into a temple like this one. It really does look like a scene from India Jones – I will definitely visit when I return to Thailand πŸ™‚

    • Ami

      Caves are fun like you said but this one was literally a treasure trove. Glad to have visited them and hope you can too.

  15. Carol Colborn

    Outstanding photos for low light places! This temple under the cave highlights Buddha in such beautiful light. You are right, it is a must-see in Thailand. Congrats to those who designed this. The caverns are all special.

    • Ami

      Thank you Carol for the lovely compliment. The cave was just spectacular and I could not help but try and capture it all.

  16. Danik

    I knew even heard of these caves before and I am going to say it… OH WOW! OH WOW! OH WOW! This place looks amazing and thank you for sharing your beautiful photos in a dark place. So hope to go here one day.

  17. Fiona Maclean

    Khao Luang cave looks stunning – yes I’m definitely adding to my must see list. I’ve never heard of this place before so thank you for sharing

    • Ami

      A little offbeat but worth every minute that you can spend here. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you can get there soon

  18. Heather

    Wow, I can definitely see how you must have felt like Indiana Jones exploring the Khao Luang cave. I love how the natural light shines in on the cave, illuminating some of the buddhas. I’m also curious about the incense ritual too, and would love to know more about it. Thanks for sharing your experience, I feel like visiting the Khao Luang cave would be a must-do, especially being an easy day trip from Bangkok!

    • Ami

      Thank you Heather for the lovely comment. I agree, this is a must do when in Bangkok and it helps get away from the crazy hustle bustle of the city

  19. sherianne

    I haven’t heard of this cave. I love how the Buddhas shine in the darkness. I like your theory that the incense is an answer to a wish, adds to the mystery of the cave

  20. neha

    I didn’t know that the cave has so many different Buddha Idols. They are all impressive, but yes, the sleeping buddha indeed grabs your attention because of it’s size. Hope to visit Thailand soon, and when I do, I am definitely not going to miss the thrill of visiting this cave πŸ™‚

    • Ami

      Thanks Neha. They sure have a variety of Buddhas here and you should go here given it is so close to Bangkok

  21. Rosemary

    Perfect timing. I’m heading to Thailand in October and would love to visit the Khao Luang caves. The Buddha statues are all so impressive. Thanks for the heads up about the monkeys! Glad to know it is easy to get to from Bangkok. Great read!

    • Ami

      Don’t miss these at all….and also, do the palace that I have mentioned in my next post. It is close by. A perfect day trip from Bangkok.

  22. Elaine Masters

    How absolutely stunning – and the monkey too! I’ve never seen pictures of the cave before and now know that I’ll definitely visit when I return to Thailand. Beautiful pictures too.

  23. Renata

    The name sounds so familiar – but I think I haven’t been there. I’ve seen very similar caves in Malaysia. But this is especially beautiful and richly decorated. Since it’s not so far from Bangkok, it will make it to my list for the next Thailand-trip. Thanx for this very informative post.

    • Ami

      Thanks for the info on the Malaysian caves. Will keep an eye out for those. And yes, don’t miss these on your next trip to Thailand.

  24. Vicky and Buddy

    I can’t wait to travel back to Thailand! I wasn’t able to visit these caves but I would definitely like to. Like you said, the statues seem like they are part of the caves and fit so naturally. It’s nice that there are no entrance fees to get in. Hopefully it stays that way.

  25. Christina

    Khao Luang Cave looks like an impressive cave so close to Bangkok. It’s a timely post as the world’s focus has recently been on the Thai football team of boys who were lost in northern Thailand’s caves. I like how the light streams through crevices in this cave – it’s very pretty.

    • Ami

      Thanks Christina. These caves really took me by surprise. And am glad to have found them. Hope you can visit them too.

  26. Marvi

    This is definitely going on my list to visit when in Thailand! What a mystical cave! I’m pretty sure I’ll be as awed as you were when you entered the first cavern. The lights does enhance the beauty of the buddhas and the cave. Good to know about the monkeys too. Will keep that in mind for sure! πŸ˜€

    • Ami

      Oh you most definitely will love it. And considering that it is not far from the capital, easily do-able. Go for it the next time.

  27. Alli

    I LOVE these images! How beautiful is that glowing light. At first I thought this was the Pak Ou Caves! And then I remembered those are in Laos! Very similar though. Love it.

  28. Suruchi

    Khao Luang Cave has surely intrigued me and this is the first time I have heard about it. Your pictures are beautiful and they have captured the essence of place so well. I loved the way they have lit up the statues in the cave. Each statue is quite impressive but surely reclining one will be my favourite. Great post .

    • Ami

      Thanks Suruchi. I was totally stunned when I saw them all. Each one is a masterpiece. Could not get enough of it

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