Wat Phu Tok: Monks Living on Thailand Hilltop

"Wat" means temple in Thai. The name translates to "Temple of the Table Mountain".

Yet Wat Phu Tok is no ordinary temple. It doesn't even look like a temple to begin with.

It's a stone hill. Stood majestically away in the rural countryside of Bueng Kan, around 3 hours drive from the nearest city of Nong Khai or 4 hours from Udon Thani.

The drive here can be difficult to manoeuvre for foreigners as road signs in this region of Thailand are all written in Thai, it doesn't help that almost no one speaks English so asking for direction will almost always end in frustration. But if you're determined, you will be rewarded. For Phu Tok is quite a spectacular place to explore.

Monks live atop this hill, maintaining the peace and cleanliness of the place. To imagine they scale the hill on a daily basis is daunting, however the monks here have accustomed their life to the habitat of Phu Tok. Living among trees, birds and monkeys. I even spotted a huge pail where they collected rainwater that dripped through rock cracks to use for shower and basic laundry.

It was said a monk by the name of Ajahn Juan thought of the idea of building wooden ladders and steps up Phu Tok without damaging the hill. The construction itself is a marvel. He died in a plane crash in 1980.

Brace yourself for a 7-level ascent to the top (which signifies the 7 levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist Philosophy), skip the 7th level if you do not fancy jungle treks as it can be challenging for the inexperienced. You will stumble across many meditation huts and deity statues around and along the way up Phu Tok. Prepare for quite a hike, each level averages at 80-100 steps, so some sort of fitness level is expected.

While many locals and monks from all over Isan come here to meditate and pray, tourists come here for the view. Make sure you get to level 5 and 6 to experience the highlights of Wat Phu Tok.

local nun scaling Phu Tok for prayers 

Phu Tok was the highlight of my Thailand North Eastern leg. If you ever make your way out this far, don't forget to include Phu Tok into your itinerary, just remember to allocate a full day for it. 

Operation hour: 6:30am - 5pm daily. 
(close during Songkran festival 10th -16th April)


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