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Thailand's Caves

Photographer: Barbara Walton

 

Caves hold a mystical and religious significance to Thai people, and their preservation is buried deep in their hearts. As the first unofficial temples, Buddhist 'cave' monks lived in the natural shelters, before establishing their own temples just outside. In ancient times, caves were also the abode of holy men and ascetics, many with flowing beards and dressed in tiger skin cloths who sat in the dark in deep meditation. Many of Thailand's caves show impressive archeological limestone formations. There are thousands of caves spread across the Kingdom of Thailand, the exact number is unknown, and many are still being discovered. With their wondrous colors and formations, some resembling human and animal figures, as well as flowstones, stalagmites and statutes, towering columns, drapery, curtains and straws - only visible if lit - Thailand's caves scare and delight. Throughout history Thailand's caves have attracted royalty, holy men, scientists, and tourists. Thai kings have visited and also gazed with wonder at the formations in the moist, air-deprived caves. Upon leaving they have often carved their signatures in gold on the caves stone walls. These days, the caves mostly attract local tourists to pray in front of icons representing Buddha, but some remain the home of Buddhist monks in their orange robes who bless those brave and fit enough to visit. Thailand’s caves are places of wonder and worship, but they are fragile environments, easily destroyed and in need of ongoing conservation and protection.