sign in a cave in Laos

28 January 2024

Kanthan Sakyamuni Caves Monastery & other cave temples protection

Some months after the change.org petition to save the Sakyamuni Caves Monastery at Gunung Kanthan, there is finally some good news. This applies not only to the Kanthan monastery, but also to other cave temples and religious sites in general.

On 27 January 2024, change.org issued an update "A Commitment to Protecting Sacred Sites: Prime Minister's Pledge to Safeguard Religious Monasteries".

There is a link to this Facebook page -


And this leads to the next link -


It is encouraging news. Let's see what happens as a result.


There was a further update on 21 Feb in FMT "Century-old monastery seeks to nullify company’s land lease extension". This was also shown on change.org on 22 Feb "LATEST FMT NEWS : Century-old monastery seeks to nullify company’s land lease extension". 

The Edge 28 Feb "Old Perak monastery fails to set aside APMC's eviction notice".

Change.org update 28 Feb "Sakyamuni Caves Monastery Gunung Kanthan" . Latest news : The Edge.

Meanwhile The Star 28 Feb had this article about cave temples in Perak - "Limestone cave temples to stay, says Perak exco".


27 January 2024

Chinaraj Cave monastery aka Thai Monk Cave, Gng Lanno

Thai Monk Cave at Gunung Lanno is now known as Chinaraj Cave monastery. It is located at ground level on the southwest side of Gunung Lanno in Perak, not far from Kong Fook Ngam temple. 

I first visited in May 1996. At that time it had a concrete path leading up to it and inside the cave. But about 10 m in there was a locked gate and we could see the cave continuing. There was a store room. To the right was a series of cement tanks/gours and a passage to another entrance. The cave is by a bend in the Sungai Raia. 

My next visit was May 1999. The cave had been developed since my first visit. Half a dozen cars were parked inside the first chamber of the cave. A concrete walkway with electric lights goes through to a wang, with a pond. A new "temple" has been established - more of a meditation place for the monk.

Next visit was July 2001, on a recce for the 2001 Gunung Lanno expedition. The gate was locked but a man was inside and let us in when we spoke to him. The place is only open on Sundays when people come to the monk, although people look after him during the week. He lives alone, from Thailand. We went through to the house and pond. Lots of catfish and they aerate the pond. It is a long distance to the opposite side of the wang. There is a pond and swamp outside the front of the cave. After this visit I named the cave as Thai Monk and gave it the register number of Prk 18/07.

The Gunung Lanno expedition took place in November 2001. We were unable to survey the cave as we couldn't get access. However a nearby cave was surveyed, Gua Kera Mati aka Dead Monkey Cave, Prk 18/32, and this was found to connect into Thai Monk Cave.

During the expedition, we were able to hire a 4-seater plane and fly around Gunung Lanno. From the plane we could clearly see the flooded wang of Thai Monk Cave. 


2001 views -


Sg Raia outside the cave

My next visit was in May 2014. A building had been constructed inside the cliff and the swamp is part of the garden. There is an ornate metal fence outside. 






The Sungai Raia





The track that leads further around the hill was closed off by a large gate by the temple -


Now (2024) the cave is known as Chinaraj Cave monastery - a Buddhist temple, Tokong Siam. I don't know when this was established. In Feb 2022 The Star referred to it as Persatuan Penganut Agama Buddha Chinaraj. It was one of 19 caves in the Kinta Valley to receive an eviction notice, to vacate in 30 days. However a few days later the notices were revoked. 

According to Google Maps, the temple is open mornings and evenings. There are hundreds of photos on the page. 

Cave location 4°31'8.12" N 101° 8'18.01"E.

--

See my Cave Register .


7 January 2024

Bat Cave, Phnom Sampeu, Battambang, Cambodia

In  2008 on the caving expedition to Cambodia, we spent time exploring and surveying caves in the Battambang area. The best known hill is Phnom Sampov (Sampeu). Phnom Sampeu is the famous hill which contains the killing caves and is on the tourist itinerary. It is a striking limestone outcrop with a wat on top.

Towards the end of a day spent surveying caves on the hill, we descended and had a look at the northern side, which is on the opposite side to the killing caves. Here we saw Bat Cave. 


 

In our reports, we called the cave La Ang Pracheu. Our description (from BHB 34) -  "Called “PSW4 (Million Bat Cave) by Herries (2006a). This cave is located at the base of Phnom Sampeu near to where an 18 m high Buddha is currently being carved out of the rock face. A steep 15 m climb is needed to reach the large cave mouth. However, a strong stench  of bat guano and the noise of the large bat colony successfully keeps explorers out of  the cave, which consequently remains unsurveyed."

Apparently the bats of Bat Cave have become a tourist attraction. The Khmer Times, 7 Jan 2004 has an article "Phnom Sampov bat cave attracting more tourists".  The article says that during the last months of 2023, more national and international tourists flocked to visit Phnom Sampov (Sampov mountain) bat cave in Battambang province. It goes on to say -


And a photo taken from the Khmer Times, AKP -


There are lots of photos of the bat flight on Trip Advisor.

To the right of Bat Cave, a large statue is being constructed (2008) -


I had seen the statue on a visit in 2004. In my diary, 4 Sept 2004, after visiting the caves up on the hill, I wrote "We began the long descent to the car park, using the 700 (?) stairs. This killed my poor knees. I went to look at the cliff face where they are just starting to carve a 38 m high Buddha. The mural will be 120 m long and will take 7 years to complete. Quite a feat. I had to give a donation. Women were manually breaking stones.



In 2008 I wrote in my diary "Bat Cave, this has the large entrance and is to the right of the new Buddha they are carving. There has not been much progress on this since my 2004 visit."

I googled the statue and 

Exclusive Cambodia Travel


Ret Bopha


There are hundreds more photos on the internet, especially on Google Maps, under Bat Cave Phnom Sampov.

References :

Berliner H√∂hlenkundliche Berichte BHB 34 (2009) Cambodia (Battambang) and its replacement BHB 77 (2019) Cambodia 1995/96–2017.

Herries, A. (2006a): Battambang Karst, North West Cambodia. – unpublished report, 11 p.

Herries, A. (2006b) Explorations in Cambodian Karst. Battambang Province, North West Cambodia. – SUSS Bull., 46 (2), 8-13; Sydney.

And my 2008 blog, Battambang Caves 1 - Phnom Sampeu 2008

30 November 2023

Atlas of Great Caves & karst of Southeast Asia, 3rd edition

 Atlas of the Great Caves and the karst of Southeast Asia, 

3rd edition

Hot off the press, Dec 2023 


Available for sale from the publisher in Germany. Contact me for details.

See more on BHB website, look under 2023.

13 November 2023

Oldest human fossils found in Vietnam

 The VnExpress on 2 Nov 2023 reported on "Vietnam uncovers oldest human remains". 

Skeletal human remains dating back 10,000 years have been found in a cave, making them the oldest human fossils ever unearthed in Vietnam. The remains were found last March at the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in Kim Bang District, in the northern province of Ha Nam.

At the Tam Chuc complex, archaeologists discovered three graves of children and adults, with the people buried in a kneeling position. There were also mollusc shells and teeth bones of small animals, which could have been food sources for ancient people. There were sea molluss shells along with stream snails. At the top of the mountain they found pieces of pottery lying alongside mollusc pieces.

At 10,000 years, these are the oldest human remains to be found in Vietnam. This means they date back to the late Pleistocene to late Holocene age, or 10,000-12,000 years ago.

Excavations at two caves in Kim Bang revealed prehistoric paleontological and material culture remains including animal fossils and reddish-brown rope pottery fragments belonging to the Dong Son culture. Dong Son was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered in the Red River valley of northern Vietnam from 1000 BC until the first century AD.

Photo taken from VnExpress -



9 November 2023

Earthquake affects Phi Hua To cave, Krabi, Thailand

 An earthquake off northern Sumatra on 7 Nov 2023 apparently caused cracks in the rock at Phi Hua To cave, Krabi, Thailand. The cave has been closed indefinitely after there were small rockfalls and cracks appeared.

The cave is in Than Bok Khorani National Park, in Ao Luk district. See Bangkok Post report.

I visited the cave on a canoeing trip in 2002, and wrote two blogs, "Canoeing in Than Bokkhorani Park, Krabi" and "Canoeing around Krabi - Star".

The cave is best known for its petroglyphs and is known as the Big Headed Monster Cave.



7 November 2023

Tham Phu Pha Phet, Satun, Thailand

 In 2011 I wrote a blog about Tham Phu Pha Phet in Satun, Thailand, which I had visited with the Axbridge Caving Group in 2001. 

The area now comes under the Satun UNESCO Global Geopark, designated in 2018.

On 6 November 2023, Nature published a report "Unravelling the hidden diversity of cave mycobiota in Thailand’s Satun Geopark". In 2019 researchers had studied the mycobiota or fungi, in two caves in the Geopark, Le Stegodon and Phu Pha Phet Caves.  

From the article :
"Satun Province in southern Thailand, recognized as the "Land of Palaeozoic fossils," became the country's first UNESCO Global Geopark on April 17, 2018. The Satun UNESCO Global Geopark encompasses four districts in Satun Province, known for diverse karst topography and abundant fossils from the Palaeozoic Era. Phu Pha Phet Cave, or "Diamond Mountain Cave," in Satun Province, Thailand, is the country's largest and the world's fourth-largest cave, with a length of 536.65 m and an area of 0.16 hectares. The cave has over 20 chambers with dazzling stalactites and stalagmites resembling diamond flakes, accessed via a wooden bridge and illuminated by lighting. Tourist visits are allowed with restricted access for conservation and sustainable tourism purposes, resulting in limited visitation and moderate human interference."

I don't know the definition of largest cave in this context. It is obviously not length, could be they are referring to volume. 

These are the surveys from the 2001 ACG visits :