Wat Phu Thok means “Temple of the Lonely Mountain” in the Isan language. The temple is built on, around and inside of an isolated sandstone outcrop that, in the American southwest, would be called a mesa.
I’ll guess that the temple came first, and then the park-like surroundings. There’s plenty of space for a picnic, quiet time in the shade, feeding of fish, or a visit to one of the shrines among the many small lakes.
I wore hiking boots, but the walkways are very good, and walking shoes would have been better. Most visitors wore some form of sandal. I was still adjusting to the heat, but we took it slow, and soon I was feeling like myself for maybe the first time since arriving in Thailand.
I was confident in the structure of all stairs and platforms. The stairs can be very steep, so we made use of the hand rails, and occasionally walked sideways down sets of stairs with particularly shallow steps.
After climbing stairs through the rock (see the pic above) we arrived at the first significant flat, open area. It contained shady places to sit and rest, water faucets, and a small temple below a rocky overhang.
Here I saw the first of two cable conveyances for building and other supplies.
There are seven levels on Phu Thok which represent the seven levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy.
If you look closely at the pic below you can see walkways at three different heights, each probably representing a different level.
This is very interesting use of the rock, and I’m sorry we didn’t see whether it leads somewhere other than the next level. We never visited any actual interior spaces.
The small roof along the rock at the top of the pic below causes water to drip down onto the walkway rather than flow along the rock to dampen the spaces below.
The same rocky overhang shelters a host of monk statues. A pair of visitors we met counted 58 and 59.
Another level up we encountered a small rocky peak that contains a small temple.
That wall is pretty thin.
Here we got our first good look at the back of the larger peak.
There are great views of the surrounding area, including another mesa nearby.
The walkway along the back of the mountain started out with rock underfoot…
…but soon became much more interesting.
The structure still inspired complete confidence, but there was just enough difference in board height to create the possibility of stumbling. Looking at where I was walking meant looking between planks at the ground below, which made things all the more exciting.
Along this walkway we found several wild bee hives. At the same spot there was a cave whose entrance was barely visible, but from within we heard the constant chirping of bats.
In my favorite of Phu Thok’s many spots for quiet meditation, a gold Buddha reflects on the sweeping panorama.
I’m not sure where we ascended to level six, but it was somewhere on the back of the mountain. Determined to leave no stone unturned, some of us climbed to level seven, the top of the mesa. There we found trails, rather than walkways. The going is still not precarious, but there are no railings.
We took a different way back to level six, and I realized that Wat Phu Thok is a bit of a maze.
It took a while to find our way back to the rest of the group.
When we found everyone, we headed back down.
My little Tukata’s youngest son frequently drives the local monks to temples in Udon Thani and surrounding districts, so he knows many of the most beautiful wats in northeastern Thailand. With Wat Phu Thok, might our guide have peaked early? Stay tuned!
Actually, he is good at taking us to a second destination after the highlight. This post ends here, but our day out did not – tune in in two days to see how our guide followed Wat Phu Thok.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 43 pictures below.