17 In Religion + Spirituality/ Thailand/ Travel

Wat Tham Sua + Wat Tham Khao Noi – Kanchanaburi, Thailand

Kanchanaburi is truly more than just the bridge over the River Kwai. Many people stop through on a day trip from Bangkok. However, I think that people are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t take at least a few days to explore this gorgeous area. Wat Tham Sua and Wat Tham Khao Noi are two side-by-side temples that sit up on a limestone bluff. The Mae Klong River sits along the front and there are all of these fields behind it. Although they look like one joint temple, it’s actually two separate ones. 

Wat Tham Khao Noi


The meaning of this name is ‘Tiger Cave Temple’ which shouldn’t be confused with more famous Tiger Cave Temple in Krabi, Thailand. The wat is called Tiger Cave Temple because there’s a cave in this bluff that a tiger used to live in, but now there’s just a small tiger shrine inside of it.

Although Wat Tham Sua is probably the main attraction between the two, we started our trip with Wat Tham Khao Noi, so I want to start the post here too. Although the details of Wat Tham Sua are absolutely striking, the best way to view them is from Wat Tham Khao Noi. I think that it has some of the most beautiful views I’ve seen in all of Thailand so far.


This wat is a Chinese-style Buddhist Temple and is full of tiny rooms containing different Buddha figures. They’re beautiful, tile-filled rooms. There are bells hanging all over the the area and the views are just unreal all around this gorgeous temple.


Look at those stunning views. The owner of the hostel we stayed at told us that this was the best time of the year to visit this temple because the fields would be this beautiful! 


Left: Matt climbing the stairs // Center: Gorgeous Buddha tiles // Right: Me taking in the view

Truly, the highlight of this temple to me was the main tower that you climb. The view of the adjacent temple, the river and the farmland around it are all beautiful, but there’s more! You get to the top of the pagoda by taking series of small spiral staircases up and each level has its own individual shrine to the Buddha. It’s truly beautiful.

Here you can see the spiral staircases that go up + down from the many floors. 


I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful architecture in my life. It’s so detailed and so stunning! 

In this photo you can see the hand of the giant Buddha coming out of its home on top of the mountain. You can really tell how large it is because you can see all the people in front of it as well.


Wat Tham Sua

To get to Wat Tham Sua you have to walk through a whole stretch of shops and pop-up restaurants. Then you have to climb the big flight of brightly colored stairs. (Or you can take the cable car, for 10 baht, but it looks sketchy as hell. Matt and I literally laughed when we saw it going down.)


The white, red and blue, more chinese-looking pagoda to the left is where Matt + I were for that awesome overlook! 

Up top is the giant Buddha. If you get there when a busload of people have just been dropped off, like we did, it is a bit of a madhouse. Especially compared to Wat Tham Khao Noi where we passed only two people. There are a couple of shops up top and several places for a person to buy offerings. We opted out of that because of the crowd. At least the mass of people at the bottom allows you to see just how big this Buddha is.

I cannot rave enough about these two beautiful temples are. The whole experience is just so magical. When I first heard about these temples, I imagined that they would be beautiful. However, these two totally exceeded my expectations. It’s just a total package: spiritual destination with insane views. Kanchanaburi is truly a gem.

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  • Reply
    Candy & Crystal
    October 5, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    Wow, that architecture really is so detailed! I always wonder about the people who worked on all the intricate details. I also love the spiral stairs and how each level had its own Buddha. You got lucky with the perfect weather too!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 6, 2017 at 4:22 am

      I wonder about those people as well. They must be/have been amazingly dedicated to their worship. I’m grateful for them, though, because we get to enjoy the beauty of their work. We really did get lucky. It was perfectly overcast!

  • Reply
    October 5, 2017 at 11:08 pm

    I visited Bangkok 4 years ago and one thing I regretted is not exploring many places beyond the metropolitan region. The Chinese buddhist temples are so different from the ones in my country, Taiwan. So much details and the design is just stunning! That giant buddha is ginormous!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 6, 2017 at 4:24 am

      Kanchanaburi is my favorite place in Thailand so far. It’s so close to Bangkok, so if you return to Bangkok you should definitely take the train or the bus there. I would love to visit Taiwan. I’m very excited to make it there someday.

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  • Reply
    Nicola Holland
    October 7, 2017 at 6:40 am

    Wow, the temples are absolutely breathtaking! I could easily spend hours here. It’s good they allow you to take photos inside, I’ve been to many that don’t allow it and its really disappointing when you arrive and have to put your camera away.

  • Reply
    Sreekar Harinatha
    October 7, 2017 at 7:23 am

    With so many Wats to choose form in Thailand, I’m sure this one is right up there. Loved the details on the spires. And nice sweeping views of the fields too!

  • Reply
    Anuradha Goyal (@anuradhagoyal)
    October 7, 2017 at 8:20 am

    I did visit the first temple when I visited Kanchanaburi but the second one I seem to have missed. Colorful steps look lovely although I would rather photograph them from the cable car. Did you visit the Hellfire Pass Museum – I loved the old train track there with so many stories hidden in them.

  • Reply
    Beverley Goodsell
    October 7, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Wow the Buddhist temples are so different to the ones I have visited in Sri Lanka, I found it very interesting to see and learn how the temples are different, in different parts of world. This is a great article.

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    October 7, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    These look beautiful! I went to the one in Krabi and that was just stunning too, although in a totally different way. I’ll have to add these to my list for next time!

  • Reply
    October 7, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Gosh these pictures make me want to book a trip to Thailand right away. Simply love Wat Tham Sua, the views, the architecture…love it…I think I need to read more on Thailand and explore before going to Thailand. Thanks for sharing about such wonderful temple.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Thailand’s architecture does look amazing. I was also enthralled by the details of the temples on your photo. Great post!

  • Reply
    October 10, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Those temples looks fascinating. I can believe that people just pass through without taking the time to check things out. This place is beautiful and I love the architecture.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    October 10, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    We missed Kanchanaburi on our Thailand trip. These two temples look really fascinating and something we must include in our itinerary when we get there again.I was looking for the Hand of Buddha in the picture and was fascinated when I found it. It looks so intriguing and unique. Yes the size of the hand can be made out when you look at it with the perspective of the people near it.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    When we visited Thailand, it was only about usual places and after seeing your this post I feel I should have planned my trip in different way.
    This is incredible, I think you have unearthed a hidden gem which has so much in it. Wat Tham Khao Noi looks stunning and your photographs are stunning.

  • Reply
    October 29, 2017 at 11:34 am

    I have very fond memories of Kanchanaburi. Went there on a day trip from Bangkok. Saw the famous bridge and the tiger temple. Next time, I must stay at one of those beautiful resorts beside the river.

  • Reply
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