Underneath a vast cavern in Phetchaburi lies the statue of Buddha, 3.7 metres in height, made vivid by the ray of light from an opening high above. It is called the Tham (cave) Khao Luang and is a shrine for more than 180 Buddha statues and relics.
Of all the caves in Phetchaburi Province, Khao Luang is the most important. The atmosphere inside the cave is serene and quiet as Buddhist people pay respect to the Buddha images burning candles and incense sticks. There are about 170 Buddha images in Khao Luang cave. One of the most beautiful is a huge reclining Buddha image, symbolizing the passing of the Buddha into final Nirvana.
The rays of the sun shining through holes of the ceiling of the caves illuminates the cave chambers, giving the gold colored Buddha images a mystical appearance. Apart from the Buddha images and chedis, you will find stalactites hanging from the caves ceiling, formed over the centuries by dripping water. The hole also allows cool air to flow into the cave, making it not humid.
The impressive caves are set in Khao Luang hill which is almost 100 metres high, just North of Phetchaburi town.
King Mongkut (Rama IV) recognised the beauty of the cave and had 10-metre long concrete stairs built from the foot of the mountain into the cave. King Mongkut reigned from 1851 until 1868 and used the cave to study Buddhism and to meditate. He had ancient Buddha images, including a six-metre long reclining Buddha, installed in the cave.
During his reign, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) constructed a temple in the cave in honour of his father, King Mongkut. He had new Buddha images made to complement the ancient ones.
He also had the first five kings of the Chakri Dynasty’s coats of arms inscribed at the base of one of the newer Buddha statues.
King Chulalongkorn ordered a large 4 meter high Buddha image be made and placed in the cave dedicated to Kings Rama III and Rama IV. He also had a number of older Buddha images restored.
The caves are accessed through a paved stairs close to the parking lot. The cave chamber is around 27 metres below ground level. To reach the main entrance, there is a walk up a hill and a guided path from the parking lot, and then descend a steep flight of concrete stairs.
Up the road to the cave and in front of the cave itself are groups of monkeys waiting for visitors to give them food. Take care of your belongings as the monkeys are very cheeky and might go after your bag if they think there is food in it.
The best time to visit is in the morning, where the sun’s rays are brightest.