Wat Tham Ta Pan is without doubt one of the most weirdly original temples in southern Thailand. Located in Phang Nga Town approximately 100km northeast of Phuket City, it offers a journey through Buddhist Heaven and Hell. At first sight the temple looks a bit abandoned and decrepit, and this adds to the scariness of the place.
At the entrance you’ll see a fountain with five monk statues, each of them holding a bowl representing wealth, beauty, happiness, cleverness, and health. Try to throw a coin in the bowl of your choice and if you succeed you’ll get what you ask for, according to your choice.
There are a few buildings located in the centre of the temple grounds, with a small shop where you can make a donation and buy snacks and drinks. The area behind these buildings offers a walk to a cliff through a luxurious garden dotted with statues of animals. The cliff itself displays various sculptures and representations of Indian deities, from Ganesh to Akhilandeshvari riding a crocodile.
Right next to the small shop, a huge Chinese dragon waits for you to enter, its mouth wide open. This is the beginning of the ‘journey’ through representations of Buddhist heaven and hell. The inside of the dragon has a long, quite dark tunnel with just a few tiny windows lighting your path and offering a vision to the ‘hell’ outside.
At the end of the tunnel you find the entrance to a deep cave. Pray at the small shrine on your left before heading towards Nirvana at the end of the cave after a 10-minute walk along a dark track with bridges crossing a river. Heaven is symbolized by two Buddha statues (one sitting and one standing) at the end of the cave.
Coming out from the cave, you are now ready to see the highlight of the show: welcome to Buddhist Hell!
Buddhist Hell (Naraka in Sanskrit, Na Rok in Thai) awaits you, if you do not follow the five precepts of Buddhism during your life:
• Abstain from taking life (thou shall not kill).
• Abstain from taking what is not given (thou shall not steal).
• Abstain from sexual misconduct (thou shall not commit adultery).
• Abstain from false speech (thou shall not lie).
• Abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness (eschew drunkeness).
Wat Tham Ta Pan is really scary and not really recommended for young children. Scenes showing torture applied to sinners according to their sins are vivid and straightforward and leave no space to the imagination.
Wat Tham Ta Pan is indeed one-of-a-kind place well worth a visit due to its weird originality. A visit with a local guide is recommended if you wish get further details about the various concepts represented at the temple as touches of Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Taoism are all mixed together there.
Wat Than Ta Pan is only one of the many interesting sites that you can find in this area. Read about them in our review of a day trip by car in Phang Nga Province.
Wat Tham Ta Pan
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30 - 18:00
- Location: Phang Nga Town