Wat Tham Ta Pan in Phang Nga Town is one of the weirdest original temples in southern Thailand. Located around 100 km northeast of Phuket, the site offers a journey through Buddhist Heaven and Hell.

At first sight, the temple looks a bit abandoned and decrepit, which simply adds to the eeriness of the place. You’ll see a fountain at the entrance, where there are 5 sculptures of monks. Each holds a bowl that represents wealth, beauty, happiness, cleverness, and health. Try throwing a coin in the bowl of your choice. If you succeed in landing one in, your wish will come true.

Heaven Cave

Right next to a small shop, there's a huge Chinese dragon with a wide-open mouth waiting for you to enter. This is the beginning of your ‘journey’ through representations of Buddhist Heaven and Hell. The inside of the dragon has a long and dark tunnel, with just a few tiny windows lighting your path.

At the end of the tunnel, you'll find the entrance to a deep cave. Pray at the small shrine on your left before heading toward the Nirvana section, right at the end of the cave. It takes about a 10-minute walk along a dark track with bridges crossing a river to reach the end, which has  2 Buddha statues symbolizing Heaven. 

Buddhist Hell

Buddhist Hell ('Naraka' in Sanskrit and 'Na Rok' in Thai) awaits you if you do not follow the 5 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 drunkenness).

A visit to Wat Tham Ta Pan can be a really scary experience, so it isn't recommended for young children. Scenes showing torture applied to sinners are vivid and straightforward, leaving no space to the imagination.

Good to know about Wat Tham Ta Pan

There are a few buildings in the center of the temple grounds, including with a small shop selling snacks and drinks. An area behind these buildings offers a walk up a cliff through a garden dotted with statues of animals. The cliff displays sculptures and representations of Indian deities, such as Ganesh and Akhilandeshvari.

Wat Tham Ta Pan is a one-of-a-kind temple that's well worth a visit, simply due to its weird originality. Rental a local guide if you want to learn about the various concepts represented at the temple, which has touches of Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Taoism.

Wat Tham Ta Pan in Phang Nga Town

Location: 79 Soi Tham Ta Pan 5, Tham Nam Phut, Muang, Phang Nga 82000, Thailand

Open: Daily from 8.30am to 6pm

Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveler