The beautiful temple complex directly on the rock is known for its fish pond. The Thai name Tham Pla – fish cave – is due to the many fish that live in a small lake that is fed by an underground reservoir. They hide under the rock when not being fed by tourists. The name monkey temple comes from the many monkeys that live here and who like to offer themselves to tourists as photo models.
Be careful, the monkeys are sometimes quite aggressive and have a strange taste. We had parked our bikes near the pond. When we came back the saddle of my colleague was eaten. The monkeys grab everything edible or what they think is edible; even from bags. Sticks are often not enough to chase them away, but they have great respect of stones and especially slingshots, and take to their heels.
There are two caves on the site. To the left, over a steep staircase, is the Tham Pla with an interesting entrance. Inside, Buddha figures stand in the little light that enters through openings in the rock.
The cave to the right after the bizarre figure cabinet is called Tham Goo Gaew. The 500 meter long, winding passage is not illuminated. Whoever struggles through the partly narrow, tunnel-like corridors is rewarded with absolute silence. But not much more, because the rock formations are not very spectacular. Those who go in here should be ready to get dirty.
There is also an old Chedi made of a dark type of stone reminiscent of tuff. The stonemasonry is barely visible, but that is exactly what I often find attractive.
And how can the monkey temple be reached from Chiang Rai or Mae Sai?
For self-drivers you can find the temple on Google Maps under วัดพุทธสถานถ้ำปลา.
With different tour operators on one round to the Golden Triangle or self-organized by Mae Sai, both is easy. From Mae Sai, Songtheaws drive south on Highway No 1 to Huay Krai. Get off at Baan Tham and either walk about 2 km or make a rickshaw driver happy with a paid tour to the temple and a small tip. The bus or minivan from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai also stops here if the driver is told.
Rock Climbing in Mae Sai
If you stand in front of the temple on the left are a few rock walls with bolts. The routes are partly challenging from difficulty level 5 upwards and also with an overhang. Until 2018 I climbed there regularly. During this time the hooks were checked regularly.
Once while climbing at the monkey temple in Baan Tham I met Hector and Brendan. I had already seen a lot of gear on a climber, but never a small BB gun. “The monkeys above the rock can get pretty dangerous” was their explanation. “In California, the hippies suck. In Colombia, the drug dealers suck. Here the monkeys.”
My personal tip: If you are already at the temple, then just walk to the left along the rock wall to Sao Hin Phayanak, the enchanted lake. There you can get good fish to eat in the Thai restaurant with small huts directly at the lake.