The park is covered with deciduous and evergreen forests, along with various types of bamboo and herbs. Wild hogs, barking deer, mouse deer, monkeys, and many species of birds call the park home.
We had lunch near the lookout tower above, and took in the view below.
Wat Tham Phuang is a series of temples in the park, many of which tell a story from the life of the Buddha. We started at the temple dedicated to the end of his life, but I’ll take you first to the last temple that we saw, and give you the story of the Buddha in chronological order, as told to me by the temples of Wat Tham Phuang, and by my little Tukata.
I’ve given names to the temples that make up Wat Tham Phuang, but it isn’t likely that anyone else calls them by these names.
The big temple doesn’t actually tell a story. It has a more standard temple theme.
It provides space for large congregations.
The rock of the mountain is incorporated into the building.
Below is one of the main entrances.
The resident monks seem to live near the big temple.
Below is a shrine to a venerable monk.
I would guess that this monk founded one of the original temples here in the park.
Near this shrine we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a monkey, some kind of macaque I think, in the trees.
The small temple below is dedicated to the birth of the Buddha.
It is said that Siddhartha Gautama, who would become a spiritual teacher, and later come to be known as the Buddha, didn’t cry when he was born. He stood, and took seven steps. Then he raised one hand into the air and proclaimed himself the Buddha. Then he slept, and when he woke he behaved as a normal baby, and proceeded to develop as a regular human being.
There’s a rest area with a roof and water for drinking and a great view.
Among the trees near the rest area is the small temple shown below. We didn’t go in for a closer look, so I don’t know if the figure inside is the Buddha, or whether this temple has a story to tell.
The temple below has a real Aztec look to it. I saw other Thai temples that make me think of the Aztecs, but they’re all ruins.
This temple is focused on the time that the Buddha spent meditating under the Bodhi Tree in order to reach enlightenment.
The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree located in Bodh Gaya. In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which you can see in the picture above.
Each of the four towers has a small temple inside of it.
Nearby is a small temple with stairs flanked by Phaya Naga.
A small shrine to Phra Mae Thorani sits above a pool next to the temple above. She is Thailand’s earth mother, and one of the supernatural beings that came to defend and protect the Buddha as he sat under the Bodhi Tree, so that his meditations would not be interrupted.
Below is another small temple that we didn’t enter. Through the window we can see the Buddha with an elephant kneeling before him. He is often depicted teaching an elephant and a monkey.
I don’t know the meaning of the scene below either. This, and the elephant and monkey, are things I’ll try to learn more about.
The temple next to the scene above tells of the time that three hundred monks arrived to be taught by the Buddha.
Notice the deer in the scene above.
When all of his work was complete, the Buddha lay down and passed from this life.
We didn’t take advantage of the hiking trails or camping, and didn’t see any of the waterfalls, or even much of the forests. That’ll be something to do next time.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 36 pictures below.