Ban Tham Lod, Thailand

Most known as the home of Cave Lodge, Ban Tham Lod Village which lines the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar, is the epicenter for caving in Thailand. Years ago, (around 1977) an active caver and present owner of Cave Lodge, John Spies came over to Thailand and discovered a number of caves. In 1983 he brought many of his fellow cave evangelists over to the country and together they uncovered over 100 caves in the area. He established Cave Lodge as a result and worked with the local community to help run excursions to the caves and surrounding areas to both help preserve the caves and also employ the local people. We were lucky enough to spend some time there, exploring with a wonderful group of people, the largest cave and some of the areas other wonders. Given our stay was focused on activities, this post will be brief, but if the chance presents, it’s absolutely worth the visit!

Must experience

Tham Lod. This is walkable from Cave Lodge and will cost about 300-400 baht / person. Once there, you board a bamboo raft and stop at three different points within the cave to see the various caverns- some which house teak wood coffins from hundreds of years ago. You are escorted by a guide who carries a traditional gas lamp. If you go around 4:30pm, you’ll be able to catch the “bird show” which happens around 6:00pm daily. Impressively, this is when thousands of swifts circle around the outside of the cave, and all at one time, start to fly in. Simultaneously, the bats who inhabit the cave all day, fly out. It’s quite a spectacle.

Must trek

Tham Nan Long. This is a truly epic experience for the adventure seeker. Starting at dawn, you trek up a mountain with walking sticks made on the spot from a chopped down bamboo tree, reaching the mouth of this cave just as the day starts to mature. You then descend into the cave backwards using a rope for guidance and support, and then traverse close to 3km into darkness. All the while, walking through underground streams, passing through waterfalls, listening to bats swarming the roof of the cave, and seeing the illuminated stalagmite and stalactite formations that have taken millions of years to form. A truly breathtaking, once in a lifetime experience.

Must adventure

Kayaking on the Susa River. This is a day long adventure down the Susa River. You can catch glimpses of gibbons along the way, swinging through the trees, sneak a look into how the locals catch fish via bamboo shoots hidden on the floor of the river, the electric colored butterflies that cross about your path as you float down the river, and skip a few rocks if you have a few minutes while you eat lunch.
Insider tip: You must climb up the waterfall once you’ve arrived at your final destination of the day. It’s an absolutely stunning view at dusk and an amazing feeling to feel so untouched as you sit within the pools that collect within the layers of the waterfall.

Insider tip: John Spies also published a book about the rise of Cave Lodge, highlighting what he came into back in 1977, the massive opium scene, the impact that betel nut has had on the culture, the fascinating look into how children (even infants) used to smoke from a pipe, and the life threatening experiences he’s faced along the way. The book is called Wild Times and absolutely worth the read.

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