Category Archives: Uthai Thani

Cave at Hup Pat Tat

Uthai Thani is in the Lower North of Thailand and is blessed with many forests and mountains. The most famous wildlife sanctuary here is Huai Kha Khaeng which I was lucky to visit about 15 years ago. Today it is listed as a World Heritage Site. In the same district of  Lan Sek, I recently went to visit Hup Pat Tat which is surrounded by limestone hills and lush vegetation. It is about 50 kilometres from Uthai Thani City.

A cave here was discovered by a monk called Luangpho Thongyot in 1979. From here he climbed down into a hidden valley which later turned out to have many ancient and rarely found plants. In 1984 he drilled through the cave to further open it up to give better access. Fortunately, the Department of Forestry later recognized the uniqueness and importance of the valley and declared it a conservation area. It is open to the public today but you need to walk through this cave for about 60 meters in the pitch dark.

The rewards on the other side are worth the effort. You will see a lot of Tat trees which are ancient trees similar to palm trees. There are also rarely seen plants such as Tao Rang (fish tail palm), Plao and Khatkhao Lek. From this vantage point there are steps that take us down to the floor of the valley. As it is surrounded by steep limestone cliffs on each side, light rarely penetrates this evergreen forest.

In many ways it is like stepping back in time and you could almost imagine that you were walking in a place that hadn’t changed for thousands of years. In particular this photogenic cave with its natural rock formations.  Of course, the illusion is shattered a bit by the crowds of Thai tourists with their transistor radios. For some reason, many of them don’t like silence. So, if you go to visit Hup Pa Tat then you might want to avoid public holidays.

Although I found the hidden valley in Hup Pa Tat to be very beautiful and worth a visit, I think the entrance price for foreigners at 200 baht is a bit steep for such a small attraction. Thai adults only pay 20 baht. To be honest, I have seen better national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Australia and many were free. The Department of Forestry really do need to re-think their two price system. How can they charge the same price for a national park and also this small area?

Tak Bat Thewo Festival

One of the most beautiful festivals in Thailand is Tak Bat Thewo which takes places on the last day of the three month Buddhist Rains Retreat. This event, in Uthai Thani, has started to become popular over the last few years and I was really glad to be able to go for myself this year during the full moon in October. It was certainly a beautiful sight watching about 500 monks descend the steps from Khao Sakae Krang.

According to legend, the Lord Buddha once went up to Tavatimsa heaven during the three month Rains Retreat to preach to his departed mother. On the last day of the retreat, which coincided with the full moon of the eleventh lunar month (usually October), he came down to Earth at a city called Sangkassa. Waiting for him were thousands of people who offered food to both the Buddha and his disciples. This day then became known as “the Buddha’s coming down from the heavenly world”.

The main event was advertised to take place at 9 a.m. Although we thought that we were arriving early at 7:15 a.m., there were already thousands of people waiting at the foot of the hill. Hundreds of tables had been set up so that people could place food on them that they had brought for the monks. The tables formed a natural walkway or lane. There were eight of these, so that after the monks reached the bottom of the hill they would split up into eight groups.

I was told that many people had been here even before sunrise in order to reserve a table. Certainly, by the time we arrived most of the tables were already full. I wandered around for a while taking pictures of the people before positioning myself at the bottom of the hill to wait for the monks to descend. Quite a few other people had the same idea as me including a lot of local media. However, there were very few foreigners among the 10,000 people attending.

The opening ceremony started at 8:30 a.m. with a speech made by the Governor of Uthai Thani. I would normally take pictures of this but I wasn’t keen on losing my spot. Then, about 20 minutes later we spotted the first monks starting to descend the hill. It was quite a moment and everyone was very excited. The monks were coming down from the top of the hill recreating the event of the Buddha descending from heaven. After taking pictures here I moved further back where I took this picture of the hill. On reflection, I think this was a better viewpoint (if you are tall enough to see over the crowds) to take pictures.

The monks were only carrying their normal alms bowls and shoulder bags. As these filled up very quickly, there was a small army of helpers who carried bigger sacks. All of the food and drinks that were offered to the monks were quickly placed into the sacks. Despite the early hour it was hot and hard work. Many of the monks were sweating. I tried my best to take as many pictures as I could but I also wanted to soak up the atmosphere. I knew from experience, that despite the large number of people, everything would be completed very quickly. As it turned out, I took my last picture only 30 minutes later.

The Tak Bat Thewo Festival takes place on the full moon during October every year. It takes place at Wat Sangkat Rattanakhiri in Uthai Thani City. Click here to see on a map. This is only about 220 kilometers north of Bangkok. I think it only took about 3 hours or so to drive there but as it is an early morning event, we came up the day before. Visit our Thai Festival Blogs for more pictures, a map and also dates for next year. I wish to thank the Tourism Authority of Thailand for bringing me to this event and I look forward to coming again to this city in the future by myself.