Text and Photo by Pluto
If you want to take a break from the sea and the sun and think that Krabi has more to offer than its beaches and its coral, if you want to discover these beautiful forests you admired from the plane upon landing, then the Rain Forest Tour is a trip tailored to you. Rain Forest Tour is a full day excursion, which leads participants in some of the most spectacular areas of Krabi province, amidst lush tropical vegetation.
The tour we attended was organised by a well established local operator and we were accompanied along the way by Ms. Prae, a nice young local guide who handled the itinerary and marked the rhythms of the day with expertise and personality.
Tiger Cave Temple
The visit began with a stop at the Tiger Cave Temple, one of the most respected places of worship in the entire southern Thailand, founded in 1975 by Venerable Chammnian Silsetto. During one of his meditation moments he noticed in the area a tiger wandering there and possibly dwelling in one of the many surrounding caves. Hence the name of the temple
Of course there are no more Tigers in Krabi, but the charm remains, and remains especially the frame made of caves, valleys, trees dating back hundreds of years and mostly inaccessible mountains. The god who created the Kiriwong Valley, this is the name of the area where there is the religious complex, had to be particularly inspired and generous on that day when he offered to the world this unique corner of nature.
Inaccessible mountains, it was said, but patience and devotion of monks and of those persons that materially helped them, made available at least one of those mountains, creating a 1237 steps stairway to place at the height of about 280 meters, a Buddha image that dominates and watches over the plain below, offering both to the faithful and to brave tourists engaged in this ascent, litres of sweat and an absolutely unique show.
The visit to the temple starts from here, from the base of the mountain where the stairway begins. The guide dispenses advice and recommendations to those in the group who have decided to tackle the climb. I of course preferred to avoid the enterprise, delegating the friendly Johanna, a twenty year old blogger from Estonia eager to take up the challenge, the thankless task of telling me all the details.
Moreover, even the spaces at the foot of the mountain are rich in interesting spots and my wait wandering here and there in the lower part of the temple wasn’t boring at all among devotees, monks and every kind of carvings, in which stands out, framed by a Chinese-style construction a representation of Kwan Yin the Goddess of Mercy.
But the real attraction of the Temple, both for those ascending to the top and for those who remain in the plan, are scores of monkeys: an unspecified number of monkeys that come down from the mountain slopes in hopes of getting food from the tourists or to steal from the less attentive any object can be interesting to them. Their stunts, their almost human attitudes, their irreverence in climbing or put their feet on any deity regardless of any form of religious respect, they are an irresistible attraction for any visitor who does not hesitate to challenge their aggression and risk more than is reasonable to take some photos.
Before rejoin the veterans of the staircase, I still have enough time to visit the part of the temple where monks meet and bless the postulants by spraying them with water, accompanying the gesture with chanting prayers. Upon entering the building where the meeting takes place you immediately notice that one of the walls is made directly from the mountain wall, giving the impression by focusing on the monks, the ceremony takes place inside a cave decorated with countless Buddha’s images of each size and in all poses symbolising the most significant moments of his life.
Meanwhile, the “ascendants” are coming back with flushed faces marked by fatigue but smiling and seemingly happy. “It was worth it,” Johanna says, “although after the first 500, the steps are higher and it becomes even more difficult. But the view you will see from the top is a compensation for any sacrifice “. “Never again,” affirms very determined someone else, but there is a good “exhausted” expression of pride for having made it.
The Hot Springs
The tour continues to the first relaxing break of the day, to delight those who have climbed the cliff. After about an hour minibus we will arrive at the hot springs: a hot water stream to 37/40 degrees that runs through the forest and flows into a larger river, whose course over the years has smoothed the rocks up to form comfortable natural pools.
The stream originates from underground volcanic sources, it is rich in minerals and is known for therapeutic activity even if they have not been scientifically proven. The fact, in real, is that even just indulge in the warmth of these waters with the head resting on the edge, letting the stream caressing your body, is in itself a healthy and relaxing benefit and we are going to take this opportunity without any hesitation.
The ponds are sloping and form different levels where the water descends in small cascades and the sense of pleasure you feel in letting the limbs restoring can hardly be explained in words. You must absolutely try.
Compared to previous times I visited the hot spring, were recently added artificial pools, always hot water, to allow bathing even when the number of visitors exceeds the capacity of the natural pools. The idea is undoubtedly valuable but the feeling is not at all comparable to immerse themselves in the shade of the forest and feel nature’s embrace.
“Baked” and relaxed, we are ready to continue the tour and to reach the restaurant of the Morakot Resort, just minutes away from the Emerald Pool, final stage of the excursion. Lunch is a light meal of Thai and international cuisine. The guide was keen from the beginning to inquire about any special needs and on arrival everything had already been prepared.
Finally we reach the entrance of Khao Phra Bang Khram Nature Reserve where, in a glade, reached in about a half hour’s walk, there is the Emerald Pool, whose water colour it makes us understand why the lake name is not usurped at all.
To reach the lake, in real, the paths are two: one shorter, about 800 meters that, more than the shade of the surrounding trees, offers a few interesting spots. The other that winds on a concrete catwalk for along 1.2 kilometres is lined with an exceptional variety of tropical plants and along the way you can admire a network of streams and ponds that seem to invite you to pick up the pace and reach as soon as possible the relief of a refreshing bath.
Once in sight of the Emerald Pool the clear water of the pond became a temptation impossible to resist. In fact, I could not resist, and without hesitation, without even caring of the guide explaining how to get, after a distance of about 600 meters, the equally spectacular Blue Pool, I entered the water leaving once again that nature took care of myself.
On the other hand, in the past, I had already been to see the Blue Pool and the spectacle of that deep blue water, that attract you like the sirens of Ulysses, but where is not allowed to swim because quicksand, it represented eventually more a torture than a pleasure for the eyes.
Abandoned to the waters of Emerald Pool and totally estranged from any thought, almost eager to stay in there forever, with the cool waters of the lake, even time flowed merciless and the curfew came almost without my noticing.
Inflexible Ms. Prae drew us to order and reluctantly we put back in motion toward the real world.
At the beginning of the tour inform the guide about any food allergies or special needs.
Tiger Cave Temple
The temple, though apparently seems to be very informal, there still remains a sacred place is therefore necessary to wear a properly respectful clothing. Back and legs must be covered. To climb the mountain, however, it is allowed more free clothing.
The ascent to the mountain is really tiring. It is necessary to evaluate properly your skills before ascending, considering especially if you could do it within the time set by the guide.
The monkeys can be aggressive and, in any case, they are wild animals. You should avoid approaching them and especially keep children away.
Prolonged immersion is not recommended, especially for those who suffer low blood pressure, and in any case it is better not to remain inside the water longer than twenty minutes at a time.
The edges of the emerald pool are very slippery. Use extreme caution when entering the pond.