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Chiang Rai’s Secret Cave Temples

2Wat Tham Tupu

Starting in Chiang-Rai, head north to the Mae-Gok River, crossing via the Mae Fah Luang Bridge. This is also the boat landing for trips up river so it is well sign posted. Once over the river you have left Chiang-Rai City and are now in Bahn Nam Lat. Follow the road for just under a kilometre, past the school and market and turn left at the sign for Wat Tham Tupu.You will also sees signs for Buddha Images Cave and The Golden Mine Resort. These are on your route.

Off the beaten track. Chiang Rai hill country.
Off the beaten track yet close to Chiang Rai

Follow the road round as it works closer to the cliffs dominating the area. You’ll find the entrance on the right, 1 kilometre up the road just past a row of basic grass and bamboo huts, home to some hill people, mostly Akha, who are working locally. One of the buildings is actually a church.

The gate posts to Wat Tham Tupu are topped with statutes of monkeys covering their eyes in the classic “see no evil speak no evil” pose. The cliff at the far end of the road is being slowly decorated with relief carvings most of which are now finished. There are three small salas along the base of the rock and a flight of stairs between them leads steeply up into some caves. The main cave is dominated by a large seated Buddha. It can be dank and dark in here but the floor surface is good, though a bit slick and wet at times.

The afternoon is the best time to visit as the sun shines into the cave but you still need a light to see clearly. If you have a good flashlight go carefully round behind the Buddha statue and into a second cave which is full of bats. It’s a small circular cave with a large central pillar on the rear of which sits a small, golden, laughing Buddha. The floor can be slick with water and bat droppings—an umbrella and a clothes peg on your nose won’t go amiss! On the way out from the main cave, rough steps lead up to a terrace with some nice views for those who don’t suffer from vertigo.

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