Tham Lod Cave (or Tham Lot Cave) is a breathtakingly beautiful cave between Pai and Mae Hong Son that you have to see with your own eyes. It’s a magical place with ancient coffins, murals, huge catfish, beautiful rock formations, sparkling stalactites, stalagmites and pillars, an underground river that’s several miles long and much, much more!
Tham Lod Cave: beauty covered in darkness
Tham Lod Cave consists of three connecting caves:
- Column Cave: with huge stalactites, stalagmites and pillars.
- Doll Cave: with all kinds of “sculptures”; from animals to Buddha statues.
- Coffin Cave: with coffins and a faded mural, thousands of years old.
The best way to explore this huge cave is by bamboo raft. Together with your tour guide you’ll be entering the dark cave via an underground river. There will be regular stops where you’ll be climbing wooden stairs towards the cave ceiling.
You can also explore the cave on foot; that would be a shame though, as you’d only get to see a tiny part.
After a few minutes you‘ll be getting off the raft to climb a steep set of stairs in a small side cave, in complete and utter darkness.
The tour guide reignites his oil lamp… and you’ll finally see where you really are: in a huge cave chamber filled with huge stalactites, stalagmites, pillars and petrified waterfalls dangling above you. Wow!
After the Column Cave you’ll be making your way to the Doll Cave through narrow corridors, while passing by all kinds of different rock formations. With a little bit of imagination, it’s possible to recognize an animal or object in pretty much any of them, much to the amusement of our tour guide:
“Look, a frog! Do you see the Buddha? This is a crocodile! And – hahaha – this is a woman’s breast!”
It was pretty funny and we had a giggle. Unfortunately, however, no explanation or information about the actual cave was given, other than a couple of badly translated information plaques.
After the impressive rock formations you’ll be making a crossing of about a kilometer toward the cave’s end. Although it’s completely dark, you’re definitely not alone. You’re being chased by dozens of catfish, some of which are HUGE!
It’s the perfect time to whip out the bag of fish food that you bought at the entrance!
The last part of the cave is perhaps its most remarkable.
First you’ll be climbing steps which are covered in swift and bat feces (thanks guys!). From the top there’s an amazing view of the caves ‘exit’. Awesome!
Next you’ll be passing a small, dark corridor with teak wooden coffins that are more than 1,000 years old. In addition, there’s a faded mural of a deer that is really remarkable.
Nevertheless, we’re still in the dark (pun fully intended) about the stories behind the coffins and the mural. Our tour guide barely spoke any English and our Thai wasn’t good enough to make sense of it…
If you know more about it, please leave us a comment!
Tham Lod Temple
After this remarkable guided tour, you can still have a stroll along the cave on your own. Follow the bamboo bridge left of the entrance, and it will take you back to the last part of the cave (Coffin Cave) in ten minutes. Here you can pass the time trying to spot swifts and bats at your own leisure.
Halfway along the trail, you’ll pass a modest but beautiful little temple, a serene place in the middle of the jungle in a truly unique part of northwest Thailand.
The best way to get to Tham Lod Cave is by arranging your own transport, preferably by motorbike! From Pai Valley it’s a very twisty road (road 1095) of more than 40 kilometers through mountainous terrain – which is awesome.
You can make a stop at a viewpoint with an amazing view of the mountainous and green landscape that’s typical for Northern Thailand.
Unless… you’re there during the smoky season. The difference with the rainy season is huge – we prefer green!
From the viewpoint onwards, it’s only 20 kilometers to the small town of Soppong. At a certain point you’ll notice a sign that says ‘Cave Lodge 8 km’. Take a couple of right turns and you’ll arrive at the cave in 10 minutes.
If you prefer not to go by motorbike, you can also arrange for a driver to take you from Pai. Count on paying about 750 baht per person. Group tours are also available for a discounted price.
The tour by bamboo raft through all three parts of the cave is around 400-500 baht per raft (with room for a total of 4 people).