After a successful hitch-hike from Khao Sok to Phang Nga, we landed in Phang Nga town mainly to check out Phang Nga Bay. Phang Nga town is mostly used by tourists as a gateway to the bay or as a hub when traveling to places like Phuket or Krabi. The place is not really big and tourist activities (like long streets of bars and souvenir shops, henna tattoo’s) can mostly be found in the bay, you can enjoy the mountains and caves if you like though. There is one temple that is interesting or weirdly original enough to visit though.. if you dare.
Heaven and hell temple in Phang Nga: Wat Tham Ta Pan
The heaven and hell temple or wat tham ta pan in Thai, is known for its journey through Buddhist heaven and hell. As there are not many tourists that come here, and not many locals as well, it adds to the creepiness of the place.
There is a small shop for donations, snacks and drinks. If you walk around more you will notice all kinds of statues, like Ghanesh and different kinds of animals. Near the Hindu statues, there are steep stairs that go up. It will lead you to a viewpoint and the top of the temple, which could be seen as heaven. It is a steep but beautiful climb. The top chamber is where one of the monks is living. When you finally made it to the top, you can enjoy the view which includes limestone mountains, Phang Nga town and far down the horizon you can spot Phang Nga bay. The sea is not visible though, you can only see the mangrove forests that fill the sea.
Next to the shop lies a big dragon with its mouth wide open, waiting for you to take a step inside. This can be seen as the beginning of the journey through heaven and hell. While walking through the belly of the dragon – a tunnel – there is almost total darkness as the only light that comes in are from tiny windows.
When you step outside of the tunnel, you can see an entrance to a cave on your left side. This cave is also known as the heaven cave or by others as the way to hell. There is a track that goes through the cave for about 10-minutes, filled with muddy paths and bridges. We did not enter deep into the cave as it had just rained and the water in the river was pretty high and the track was very slippery. But after the cave, you will find hell with its creepy figures.
If you find yourself in a similar situation like us, there is also a part of hell on the right side of the dragon tunnel. The hell area has statues showing torture that are applied to ‘sinners’. It is pretty cruel and not child-friendly.