Day #154: Chiang Rai Buddhist Caves

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September 3rd 2013
Published: September 13th 2013
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I spent today cycling around the outskirts of Chiang Rai: once out of the city centre it is quick and easy to get to quiet, rural lanes that are perfect for cycling (they are also flat!). I visited the two most famous sites on the West of the city today, both Buddhist sites built into the cave formations in the hillsides. I found them both a little creepy: the first site, Tham Tu Pu was deserted apart from a monk in a hut next to the cave entrance. You climb a set of steps into a dark, dank cave where it is hard to see anything. As I went in and my eyes adjusted to the light I caught sight of the strange looking Buddha on top of a table: a small, unadorned porcelain creation, gathering dust at the back of the cave.

Glad to be out on the road again, I went on to the much larger and lighter Buddha Cave. The cave is actually a temple where there are a number of Buddhist statues and altars. I began looking at statues, only to suddenly catch sight of a movement out of the corner of my eye. I then realised that one of the statues that I had taken to be a statue of a deceased monk was actually a real live one, sitting dead still in the lotus position. I jumped out of my skin but his face registered nothing, he only pointed to the ceiling of the cave, which I then saw was lined with bats, strangely (I thought) all resting on a part of the rock that was in the light, and flying from one part of it to another. I then noticed bat droppings falling all around me. Spooked, I made the hastiest exit I could politely make and was again relieved to be out on the rural roads.

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