07 April 2014

Krabi - Wat Sai Thai

Date of Exploration : 12 Jan 2014

Blink, and we almost missed it. Wat Sai Thai wasn't on our Krabi itinerary but having passed it a couple of times on our way to Krabi Town from Ao Nang Beach, we decided to check it out since we had a free day. I was so glad I dropped by.

Sitting at the foot of a limestone boulder, Wat Sai Thai is more of a huge shrine than a proper temple. It plays a central role during Buddhist festivals and weddings where locals would gather.

A 15m tall reclining Buddha is the obvious draw for Wat Sai Thai. But to me, the main attraction were something else. Read on to find out what they are.

Digging for information about Wat Sai Thai would put Sherlock Holmes out of business because it doesn't have much of an online presence. The temple is almost as invisible on the net as it is in guidebooks.

View of the temple grounds in front of the reclining Buddha. Apart from a shelter housing the Buddha, Wat Sai Thai is pretty naked. No ornate decorations typical of Thai temples here, but in my opinion, I think less is definitely more in adding a raw flavour to this religious site. It's a refreshing break from the majority of flambouyant wats in Thailand.

Nature overruns Wat Sai Thai.

A modest ubosot (prayer hall) and presumably future ho rakang (bell tower) at Wat Sai Thai. A shell museum of sorts was also under construction to recognise the site's archaeological significance to Krabi's formation and natural history.

I was wandering around taking photos of the temple when an elderly monk approached me. I had no idea what he was saying most of the time but through some miracle of my broken Thai and body gesturing, the kindly old man led us to discover more of Wat Sai Thai.

I had no idea what this crevice is but I assume it is a resting place for religious idols because I found these lining the shallow cave...

From figurines of the king (?) to headless religious statues, the idol 'grave' intrigued and unsettled me.

Moving past the hole in the limestone stump, I was led to a courtyard of impressive trees. The most impressive of all was this stunning giant...

I'm not sure I got it right, but according to the monk, this tree is more than a century old! This colossal tree is an attraction all unto itself at Wat Sai Thai.

As the temple was not developed as a tourist attraction, we could climb up and get upclose with the majestic tree. Watch your step while climbing though as there isn't a paved way leading up and the hardened earth the roots held on to are ready to drink blood.

The encounter with the forest giant was phenomenal. The old monk left us and we continued to explore Wat Sai Thai on our own. If you are facing the huge reclining Buddha, a pathway to the left leads to the massive tree while a path on the right leads to the monks' quarters. As we approached, a couple of dogs barked incessantly. They seemed hostile.

But a monk emerged from his lodge and spoke to the brown-coated dog. I think he told it to show us around. Because what followed next really blew my mind away!

The brown dog showed us around! It would walk ahead of us and look back often to see if we are following. It brought us to a rubber plantation at the temple's backyard. I found this spirit house at the entrance to the plantation peculiar for 2 reasons... first, it is made of stone (they are usually made of wood) and secondly, it is on the ground. Spirit houses traditionally sit on a pedestal.

Our four-legged guide pointed us to his playground.

My new furry friend. This dog made my visit to Wat Sai Thai that much more magical! He is definitely an attraction at the temple. I saw online that there were other visitors who had the privilege of this yellow dog's company. Wished I had some yum-yums to thank him with. If you visit the temple, bring along some doggy treats!

Our canine guide hard at work showing us the way up the side of Wat Sai Thai to some hillside pavilions, tombs and chedis.

Mid-way up Wat Sai Thai. At this point, our yellow friend went further up and deeper into the hill's foliage but we didn't follow as we weren't dressed for serious trekking.

On our way down from the hill, we spotted this peculiar coiled shell.It looked really, really old!

Was tempted to bag this highly unusual shell that looks like a curled up worm home but decided to just bring home photos. Take nothing from nature except images. A monk also gave May, our gungho explorer, three blessed stones, one for each of us but we returned them to the land from whence they came.

Unexpectedly, I spent almost 2 hours at Wat Sai Thai, much to the chagrin of my companions. I was captivated by the 'natureness' and unexpected discoveries of this rare Thai temple and its furry guide. Here we are waiting for a songtheaw back to our hotel along Ao Nang Beach.

Getting to Wat Sai Thai isn't difficult as the locals know this temple. You can either get a cab here and have it wait for you (approximately 400 baht) or take a songtheaw (20 - 30 baht one way per person).

We took the songtheaw option and while there were many prowling Ao Nang Beach where we boarded from, none can be seen along the highway where Wat Sai Thai sits. We were a little worried about not getting transport back but after a 15-minutes wait opposite the temple, a songtheaw came along and ferried us back to Ao Nang Beach.

Wat Sai Thai is one of those temples that doesn't seem like much on the surface but when you get under its skin, you get the kind of pictures that belong in the heart and not in the camera.

Related Posts :

Shrine in the Sky : Krabi's Tiger Cave Temple

The Immaculate Wat Kaewkorawaram

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