Spoiler alert: the floating nun doesn’t float unless you pay 200 baht.
That the statue is just that makes the process of arriving to see this supernatural act a bit disappointing. Fear not, however, as this intrepid traveler is not so easily disappointed or dissuaded.
In terms of photographic opportunity, this remote-feeling temple required little imagination (and little post-processing!) to come alive. Sometimes, however, one has to allow themselves to take in the scene.
That, and approach from a different angle, perhaps.
While Buddhist temples are old hat by now, I’m still amazed at all the details around the entire temple. Welcome to Wat Tham Mangkon Thong (pronounce the ‘th’ like a ‘t’).
While shifting from a portrait to a landscape shot might make this less steep-looking, this is not what my sandaled feet signed up for. Ninety-four steps up, with the reward being a number of more sights:
The old monks are revered, naturally, but little is seen about their works, deeds, or teachings — even in Thai.
An almost hidden set of stairs around the right let you get closer to the small statue, if you chose.
At least up here, there are fewer distractions (and people trying to sell you things). Instead, the quiet, almost quaint, world looks up at you, while you look up at your next challenge. Slip off your shoes before entering the merging of cave and temple:
Plenty of gold leaf here — just turn up the ISO on your camera to take the scene in. The further in you go, the more fascinating it gets:
The entry to the cave is behind some of the larger statues, and perhaps symbolically requires starting the journey on your hands and knees. This intrepid blogger left his camera bag behind, but took the DSLR (carefully!) up the incline…
It turns out the cave opens up after several meters of climbing, and while you still have to be careful, there’s just enough light to see. Thanks to a string of lights (contribute to help out with the electricity) and sunlight pouring in from the top of the cave, you’ll find the ladder and climb up relatively easily. This is not for the faint of heart, but if you have some experience ambling up rock faces you’ll be fine. Note that you have a couple of other forks to select, in case starting on your hands and knees isn’t an interest.
It wasn’t until an hour-plus in that we began consciously looking for the floating nun. This building, while quite pretty on the outside, wasn’t it — the doors were locked — so we went back to ask some of the souvenir sellers. Apparently, she wasn’t far away.
The floating nun — well, the statue of the original one at least. The mâe chii supposedly meditated while floating in the water on her back. The 200 baht fee would bring out a human follower, who would strike Buddha-like poses while serenely floating (not levitating) on top of the water.
The temple seems in an awkward position. On one level, new construction was happening on temple buildings some several hundred meters away. At the same time, the ‘history museum’, is now history itself — locked up and in need of a complete rebuilding. The handful of souvenir sellers were almost invisible — one was seen napping in a hammock — and the few other folks around were elementary schoolers playing Angry Birds. This temple is, perhaps, what happens when a tourist trap stops enchanting tourists — while still beautiful and worth seeing, go sooner rather than later.
Name: Wat Tham Mangkon Thong
Address: Mu 7 Tambon, Ko Samrong, Mueang Kanchanaburi, Kanchanaburi 71000 (GPS 13.985096, 99.516639)
Directions: Take a tuk-tuk here, unless you’ve decided to rent a car.
Hours: 8am-5pm — open daily.
Admission: free. As previously mentioned, the nun only floats for a minimum fee of 200 baht.
Phone: none available