I decided to visit the north part of Thailand this time. Northern Thailand is very different from our usual views about this resort country. North of Thailand is full of mountains with the highest peak Dointanon, Doi Intanon (Thai. ดอย อิน ท นนท์) in Chiang Mai province. There are a number of caves in this region! Four of them, I was able to visit – Chiang Dao Cave, Tam Goo Gcaw Cave, Tham Pla Cave и Tham Sao Hin Payanak Cave.
How to get to Chiang Dao Cave from Chiang Mai city
The three of us (our team is “Need For Travel” – Olya Bilinskaya is the ideological inspirer, Yura Vasiliev is a “jack of all trades”, he cooks good. I am an author of this blog and, sometimes, our team’s sponsor 😉 By the way, Olya and Yura are very experienced travelers, they also have their own travel blog “Need For Travel” – I would highly recommend to read it!) arrived to Chiang Mai and found Shirley through Couchsurfing. She works as a professional volunteer and helps refugees from Burma (Myanmar) to get higher education.
Shirley told us that there is a bus from Chiang Mai bus station in the city center (the full name of this bus station is “Chang Phuak Bus Station”) to Chiang Dao City and from there it is possible to get a “tuk-tuk” or a taxi to Chiang Dao Cave. We decided to get to Chiang Dao City first and then walk or hitchhike to get to the cave.
Every half an hour, there is a shuttle bus, No. “1231” from the “Chang Phuak Bus Station” bus terminal to Chiang Dao City. The bus ticket costs 40 baht. The trip took us around 1.5 hours.
We took a bus, where 3 seats are in one row. However, even 3 small Asians do not fit there. One row is usually occupied by 2 people. If there are absolutely not enough place in the bus, then the bench can be extended using the place in the aisle of the bus. There are fans in the bus.
We arrived at our destination (Chiang Dao City) in time. The trip was a bit tiring, so we decided to have a meal in the nearest cafe. Everything was good, except the urinal (Fontaine) location in the toilet! We were surprised that the wall does not protect it at all! So, you have to do everything you need almost in front of the other visitors. 🙂
We decided to walk to the cave. It’s not very far from the bust station, just around 5 km. On the way we saw a very weird temple we called it “The Hell Temple”. After visiting it we were shocked how people imagine “The Hell” in Thai religion.
Entrance fees, route options, penalties
You can buy tickets for 40 baths at the cave entrance.
After going through several huge lighted rooms in the cave, we found another ticket office! They offer to explore the darkest corners of the cave! There are 2 directions — to the right — to see one hall with a reclining Buddha, and to the left — 4 more halls. It is allowed to do only with a guide and provided lighting.
This service costs 200 baht per person, but the group should be 5 people. There are signs that if someone goes to a dark cave without a guide the cave administration is not responsible in case of any injuries.
If you are going to the cave with your own light, then you will need to pay 5,000 baht penalty for this violation.
We decided not to take a guide, but just walk around all the accessible corners in this cave, take pictures and enjoy the refreshing cool air.
That’s our result.
After a few days we went to visit another Couchsurfer in a small village Ban Pa Kwao. “Sky” – this is the name of our host (by the way, he is a real American hippie, who left in search of a better life back in the 80s, and eventually settled down in Thailand). He told us that only, about 500 people live in the village. So, we decided to explore the surroundings and visit three more caves – Tam Goo Gcaw Cave, Tham Pla Cave and Tham Sao Hin Payanak Cave.
Tam Goo Gcaw Cave and Tham Pla Cave “The Fish and Monkeys Cave”
If you decided to visit the north of Thailand on a rented car or a motorbike, then I am sure that you will definitely like this place. We decided to hitchhike, because we neither had a car nor a motorbike. So, we went to the main road, which was around 1 kilometer from our home, and 10 minutes later, we stopped a car with a local. He didn’t understand any word in English, but absolutely knew where exactly we needed to go. After all, we were very surprised that he brought us to the very entrance of this temple complex.
There are several Buddhist temples in the territory, and a lake with catfish and Koi carps, as well as a couple of aviaries with crocodiles.
Following the sign, we went to the right, and after a couple of minutes we were already standing at the entrance to one of the Tam Goo Gcaw caves. You can buy some food for fish and monkeys nearby (we saw monkeys a bit later, when we went to the second cave.
It turned out that this is a real “wild” cave, almost without lights and without any tourists. There are statuettes of Buddha installed at the entrance and in one of the halls. The lighting comes to these statues, but the other part of the cave is absolutely dark. It has several branched paths with very low ceilings, so I had to move on my haunches. It’s very unusually warm inside the cave, and also there are bats. After exploring the cave for about half an hour, we were able to take several shots (we experimented with illumination on our own, using the lights taken with us).
THE ENTRANCE IS FREE
When we finished with this cave, we decided to return to the starting point and there we saw that there is another sign to the cave – we had to turn left now. Let’s go to see what’s there!
Tham Pla Cave – “The Fish and Monkeys Cave”
A very high stairway leads us to the cave, it has around 200 steps. The entrance to the cave is actively guarded by monkeys! A few of them tried to prevent us, but we broke through 🙂
THE ENTRANCE IS FREE
The cave has one huge hall with a Buddha in the center.
I would highly recommend you to visit Tam Goo Gcaw and Tham Pla Caves. You can find them here
The next day we went to the lake. This is undoubtedly the most beautiful cave in the region, which is just near the lake. It is called Tham Sao Hin Payanak. I will tell you about this place below.
The most significant for Buddhists cave Tham Sao Hin Payanak
There is another amazingly beautiful and quiet place which is very close to Tam Goo Gcaw Cave. You will find a very good cafe on the shore of the lake Ang Kep Nam Tham, where you can relax from the hot weather, drink iced tea or try local cuisine (prices are slightly above average) and enjoy the surrounding mountain views.
There is a bridge across Ang Kep Nam Tham Lake. You can feed fish there – catfish, carps and a lot of others in a huge reservoir. The food for fish can be bought in a cafe, or right on the way to the bridge.
At the entrance to the cave you will be greeted by a statue of a very beautifully decorated Buddha statue! There is also a peacefull meditating monk or rather his absolutely realistic wax copy.
I noticed that there are two entrances to the cave (or you can say one entrance, one exit). The first of them is very beautifully decorated and it is the main place for prayers, and the second one (it is the Exit) is upstairs, near the Buddha statue.
The cave has three main tiers connected by metal stairs. I definitely recommend taking flashlights with you to explore the farthest corners of the cave, as it completely has no lights. There is a huge hall with a Buddha statue on the highest tier.
There are a lot of stalactites, columns and stalagmites all around! The atmosphere is a complete peace and tranquility. You feel like a discoverer, a researcher, who managed to touch something unknown.
At the end, I want to tell you that the caves Tam Goo Gcaw and Tham Sao Hin Payanak are very close to each other, so you can plan to visit them in one day.
The next day we decided to visit the “Golden Triangle”. It is the place where 3 countries meet each other – Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.
The north of Thailand surprised us by the climate, mountains, and people and by incredibly calm and measured pace of life. If you want to relax in a place without bunch of tourists, lots of night clubs, parties, etc., then the Northern Thailand is perfect for you, even despite the absence of the seacoast.
GOOD LUCK! 😉