Buddha enjoying the view

Wat Phu Thok, the temple of the lonely mountain

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.

Wat Phu Tok
Wat Phu Tok

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.

Entrance
Entrance
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok

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.

Steep early stairs
Steep early stairs

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.

Wat Phu Thok
Wat Phu Thok

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.

A small temple
A small temple

Here I saw the first of two cable conveyances for building and other supplies.

Cable conveyance
Cable conveyance

There are seven levels on Phu Thok which represent the seven levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy.

View from Phu Thok
View from Phu Thok

If you look closely at the pic below you can see walkways at three different heights, each probably representing a different level.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

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.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

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.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

The same rocky overhang shelters a host of monk statues. A pair of visitors we met counted 58 and 59.

58 or 59 monks
58 or 59 monks

Another level up we encountered a small rocky peak that contains a small temple.

Rocky peak
Rocky peak

That wall is pretty thin.

Small temple
Small temple

Here we got our first good look at the back of the larger peak.

Back of Phu Thok
Back of Phu Thok

There are great views of the surrounding area, including another mesa nearby.

Another lonely mountain nearby
Another lonely mountain nearby

The walkway along the back of the mountain started out with rock underfoot…

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

…but soon became much more interesting.

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

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.

Wild bee hive
Wild bee hive

In my favorite of Phu Thok’s many spots for quiet meditation, a gold Buddha reflects on the sweeping panorama.

Buddha enjoying the view
Buddha enjoying the view

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.

Top of Phu Thok
Top of Phu Thok

We took a different way back to level six, and I realized that Wat Phu Thok is a bit of a maze.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

It took a while to find our way back to the rest of the group.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok

When we found everyone, we headed back down.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

Wat Phu Thok is located in Na Sabaeng Subdistrict, Si Wilai District, at the center of Bueng Kan Province. It’s just a little over 10 miles to the Mekong River and the border with Laos.

Monument to a departed monk
Monument to a departed monk

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.

3 thoughts on “Wat Phu Thok, the temple of the lonely mountain”

    1. hi Kim,
      It’s intense, and of course it’ll most likely be hot. I didn’t find it too bad, but I do walk regularly. On the other hand, I was still in a state of slight numbness to the heat of Thailand! That walk actually made me feel like myself, once I got into the groove.
      The stairs get steep pretty early. There are places to stop for a rest fairly regularly, so you can make a point to take advantage of them. Once you get to that first level open area with lots of space and a cave temple, it stops being so focused on going up, it’s easier to enjoy the view, your surroundings are very interesting, and you should find yourself thinking less about the walk and more about everything else. There’s also water there, and plenty of sitting space in the shade, so you can get fully refreshed before going on.
      This was my favorite temple in northern Thailand, including the ones in Chiang Mai.
      To really refresh yourself after a hot day of exercise, you can visit nearby Tham Phra Waterfall. Remember that they start escorting you out about 5pm.
      Thanks for your comment! Feel free to ask any other questions you have.
      Miles
      http://milesteppin.com/tham-phra-waterfall/
      Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/LXkcuAP2ja52

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