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Part of what makes Pai special is that it’s not just an idyllic hippie town — outside the borders of the village map lie an almost overwhelming number of natural attractions to explore. I’d seen several on my previous adventures motorbiking around Pai, and was excited to see something new. That said, I wasn’t really attached to what this new thing should be, and neither was Heather, really. So one day, we rocked up to a tour agency and simply requested to be taken somewhere, — and you can see what difficult and picky customers we were being here — somewhere “cool.” And that’s how we ended up at Tham Lod Cave.

Pai Cave Tour

Pai Cave Tour

The 1,666 meter long Tham Lod Cave is about forty minutes away from Pai, in Soppong. We were joined by a group of four other girls and had a nice time getting to know each other and swap travel tips along the ride, which was also broken up by a stop at an overcast scenic viewpoint.

Arriving at the park, we were delighted to find all kinds of silly photo ops, including but not limited to a sign announcing we were in the land of Pee Man. (We’d later find out the local Shan people believe much of the caves contents were created by a spirit called “Pi Man.”)

Tham Lod Cave Pai

Tham Lod Cave Pai

At this point, our driver from Pai handed us over to a compulsory local guide. This isn’t the kind of cave you’d be able to or want to wander through solo — with the Nam Lang River flowing through it, you’ll also need a bamboo raft to get around to its various chambers.

As we approached the gaping cavern that led into the cave, I could already smell the overwhelming stench of bat guano.

Tham Lod Cave Pai

Pai Cave

Having been to extremely modernized and officially-outfitted-for-tourism type caves in more developed parts of the world, I loved that this one was so very back to basics. No installed artificial flood lighting, no ferries, no safety standard installed emergency exits. Just two guides carrying gas lanterns, and two bamboo rafts being powered by a large stick pushing off the floor of the shallow river.

Stepping gingerly onto the raft, I looked over the edge at the enormous, swarming fish, hungry for the food sold my locals and dropped into the water by tourists.

North Thailand Cave Tour

Tham Lod Cave

Tham Lod Cave

There were three different stops where we exited the rafts to climb up into the cave chambers via rickety wooden staircases and explore the wealth of stalactites and stalagmites inside. Also filling the caves were thousands of bats and swifts — a type of small bird — and teakwood coffins thought to have been carved by the Lawa tribespeople over 1,400 years ago. (Heather and I couldn’t help but think of another time we saw coffins in caves. I guess it’s kind of our thing?)

Our guide didn’t speak much, if any, English, but we don’t speak much Thai either. We enjoyed the back and forth of trying to decipher what they were saying when they identified various famous formations in the cave, (“a turd…. no! a bird!”) and we all had a good laugh when we got it right. Most of all, they were patient with Heather and I’s incessant photo taking, which was much appreciated.

Pai Cave Day Tour

Pai Cave Day Tour

Tham Lod Cave

Pai Cave Day Tour

Pai Cave Day Tour

Tham Lod Cave Photo by

Pai Cave Day TourPhoto by

This tour is no quick peek in a grotto — while I wasn’t checking the time, I think we spent well over an hour inside. There was just so much to see, and in a place like this, you move slow.

Tham Lod Cave

Lod Cave PaiPhoto by

Tham Lod Cave Photo by

Lod Cave Pai

Lod Cave Pai

Lod Cave PaiPhoto on right by

Reaching the opposite mouth of the cave, we wound our way through a beautiful trail in the woods. We had somehow lost track of our guide so laughingly hoped we weren’t going to be sleeping in said woods that night, but twenty minutes later we were deposited back where we started.

Later, I’d read that if you stay until twilight, thousands of swifts and bats fly into the cave in a spectacular show that lasts over an hour. I’ve seen something similar before in Lopburi and it was magical — wish I’d known about it here as well.

Tham Lod Cave

We each paid 500 baht (about $15) for the tour, including transportation and guide fees. It was also meant to include time at a nearby waterfall that we were pretty pumped about, but torrential rain that unleashed as soon as we were back in the van meant we skipped that stop.

It’s more than possible to visit on your own via motorbike, with the guide and bamboo raft costing 550 baht flat for up to four people. I’d recommend bringing your own torch, if you travel with one, as well as some baby wipes, if you can score a few — the stairs are pretty tricky to navigate and you will be clutching those guano-coated handrails.

Regardless of how you get there, I’d add Tham Lod to my list of must-dos for any trip to Pai. Show us something cool? They knocked it out of the park — or should I say cave.

What’s the coolest cave you’ve ever been to?

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28 Comments...
  • Jenia from HTL
    February 2 2015

    This reminds me of the Tham Kong Lo cave in Laos! You also get to explore on foot, and by boat this gigantic stone kingdom. Thought this cave in Pai has distinct advantage of taking just 40 minutes to reach. We spent two (really fun!) days on motorbike to get to Tham Kong Lo.
    Jenia from HTL recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 2 2015

      Wow! That is quite the mission. I admire your dedication! This was definitely easy peasy to do 🙂

  • Zoe
    February 3 2015

    great post!

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Thanks miss Zoe 🙂 So love seeing your name pop up here.

  • Carson Ford
    February 3 2015

    I admire your adventurousness immensely! It seems so unreal to simply say take me “somewhere cool,” but I can see that is how you can create some amazing memories of the beaten path.

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      There is so much cool stuff to see around the outskirts of Pai, I knew we couldn’t go wrong 🙂

  • becky hutner
    February 3 2015

    i’m not a big caver but always find myself in one in se asia! like the old coffin caves in sagada. or the “hospital cave” on cat ba island in vietnam where the vietcong used to hide out, complete with movie theater & even a small swimming pool!
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Whoa… I really need to get myself to Northern Vietnam!

  • Your posts have me sold on Pai! I got to explore a cave in Halong Bay, but these look even better!
    Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      I love me a good cave on my travels, Karisa! Man, I can’t wait to get to Halong Bay someday too.

  • Beth
    February 3 2015

    Oooh! I love anything that allows me to climb and explore. I especially love the shots peering out of the cave and into the greenery.

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Thanks Beth! It was a really fun creative challenge to photograph in there with so little light.

  • Marni
    February 3 2015

    Wow those pictures are awesome and the cave looks phenomenal! I have yet to explore a cave (the only cave-like area I’ve ever been in was the Catacombs in Italy), but your adventures in them definitely make it appealing!

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      I have managed to find myself in quite a few over time, Marni! What can I say… I’m always up for an adventure and there usually seems to be some lurking in caves 🙂

  • Justine
    February 3 2015

    Those fish are crazy. I’m not sure why that picture creeps me out so much but it does! This cave looks awesome. It’s refreshing to hear about something different to do in Pai. I’m definitely adding this to my list of things to do next time I’m there. And I’m making a mental note to bring baby wipes because…eww!
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Ha, yeah… we didn’t have any and I can’t say I was thrilled about it. Oh well! At least it started raining soon after 🙂

  • Chris
    February 4 2015

    Love a good cave jaunt.

    Many are hit and miss, but this one sounds pretty good! 🙂
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      Some are definitely more impressive than others, but this one definitely lived up to the hype! And especially at that price…

  • Amanda
    February 4 2015

    I grew up in New Zealand, so the coolest cave I’ve ever been to is the Waitomo caves on a school camping trip!

    It was pretty intense – at one point I was flat on my stomach with the cave pressing on a back!

    Awesome fun though – I would love to go back one day!

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      I am SOOOOO dying to get to that cave one of these days! It looks absolutely unreal. New Zealand, I’ll get you someday!

  • Jess
    February 4 2015

    I’ve never been in a cave like that – it’s impressive! I would definitely need a good guide, though.

    Now I want to try going up to a tour agency and telling them to show me ‘someplace cool’ – random adventure time!
    Jess recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      February 4 2015

      With the prices in Thailand and the quality of stuff to see around Pai, I knew we couldn’t go TOO wrong 🙂

  • Camels & Chocolate
    February 6 2015

    What a fun day trip! I went blackwater rafting in glowworm caves in New Zealand (which we rappelled into), and those were by far the coolest caves I’ve ever been in!!

    • Meihoukai
      February 6 2015

      ZOMG, dying to get to those glowworm caves. Basically the biggest pull to New Zealand for me right now!

  • Louise taylor
    February 15 2015

    Semuc Champney in Guatemala is the best cave I have ever visited
    xxxx

    • Meihoukai
      February 15 2015

      That is a must on my list for Guatemala next month. I can’t wait!

  • Shane
    November 25 2015

    Very well written and informative blog. The caves are quite similar to those at Wat Tham Chiang Dao, just North of Chiang Mai, though there does not have a river running through it.

    • Meihoukai
      November 26 2015

      I’ll have to check those ones out next time I’m in the area. Thanks for the tip, Shane!