It is amazing what you can find walking around the small villages in Thailand. That goes for Khao Tao (not Koh Tao the island) as well. There is not much written about Turtle Village, as it is called in English (thanks Alan!), so most of what we have found here has been purely by chance. Every time we venture to the village we find something new, whether it’s a restaurant or a new coffee stand, or tourist destination.
A couple of days ago Chad, Zoë, and I decided to drive to Khao Tao a minute away from our house for lunch at a restaurant called Rim Sung (I am really trying not to gush over the food so much here, but their fish casserole… Holy moly… so good!). After a very filling lunch, we were needing some exercise so we decided to walk the length of the town to the Khao Tao temple center. It is about a fifteen minute walk with a two year-old, so without a child you could probably make it in 5 minutes. It’s an enjoyable walk by the lake that is well paved for the most part, but I would not recommend strollers as once you get to the end of the street, it’s a dirt road.
Just a side note here: if you are coming to Khao Tao Temple from Hua Hin, you should not have to pay over 300 baht for a taxi (during high season). If the taxi, or song taew driver, tries to sell you a tour for over that amount, I would either talk them down (totally possible in Thailand) or have someone else drive you.
As you get to the dead-end of the main road in Khao Tao, there is a shrine holding many different deities (not sure what they all are) but it is fun to take pictures of. Taking a left at the shrine, you have a couple of options: You can go up a beautiful walkway to the Chinese buddhist temple, or head to the right for all the other temples and a hike that will take you up into the mountain which leads to Sai Noi Beach on the other side of the mountain.
We went to the left, down a dirt road with parking on one side and lined with food stalls and tiny markets on the other. There were also a couple of souvenir stores, though they were very small and didn’t have much to offer. The walkway turned into a wooden path leading us around a massive rock over the ocean and up into the temple area.
The “temple” was actually many temples alongside the mountainside, for many different eastern religions as far as I could tell (I am definitely not an expert on this subject). There were statues of monks and gods, as well as opportunities to donate food (they had food baskets for sale) or money to the monks that take care of the temples. The walkway went up and down the side of the mountain. Each stop was a different place to pray, meditate, or bring offerings. I did my best not to look down, as I have no love for heights, and I was able to make it through most of the temples until the last one, at least I think it was the last, because it had a pretty high, old staircase. I just didn’t trust myself to carry my 30 pound (13 kg) child up those stairs without falling. Strollers will not work here as there are many staircases and tight areas. Most of the time Z walked while holding one of our hands, but still we had to carry her at points.
I will let my photos show you the different temple areas as best they can in the gallery below, I honestly have no idea what each one is. If you know, please leave a comment and tell me. I crave knowledge and love to learn all I can. I am sure that those reading would like to know as well.
In summation, the Khao Tao temples were really a fantastic and interesting experience. If you are a follower of an eastern religion, this area would probably mean so much more to you than I. For me, I thought it was interesting and I loved the exercise (stairs, stairs, stairs… so good for your calves). If you are in Hua Hin for a bit, I would definitely recommend hanging out in Khao Tao for an afternoon, and spending a while in the temples. As Zoë likes to say lately, it was a “nice day.”