Summer Camp at the Cave Lodge

Upon arrival at the Cave Lodge, I knew that the small hassle to find this remote place in the wilderness of the Pang Mapha district was well worth it. I walked onto the main patio and was immediately transported back in time to the summer camp of my youth.

Backpackers lounged in hammocks and chatted.

Cave Lodge
My friend Nadine from London relaxes on a hammock at the Cave Lodge.

Families ate around the fire.

Camp fire at the Cave Lodge in Thailand.
Winter nights at the Cave Lodge mean warming up around the fire.

There was even the far-off sound of kids singing Auld Lang Syne:

“Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon…”

I would stumble a few days later on an actual summer camp for Thai children nearby, which explained the songs that drifted into the lodge. But, for that moment, I was content to lounge about the lodge making new friends, which was as easy as if it really were summer camp.

Making friends at the Cave Lodge.
Another new friend at the Cave Lodge.

Tham Lot

Adventuring is easy from a home base of the Cave Lodge, which is strategically located near the largest cave system in Thailand and within a day’s trek of the hill tribes that inhabit the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province.  

I opted for a day at the cave, walking toward Tham Lot through a small village until I reached the visitor center and was appointed a guide who would walk me – with the help of a hand-held lantern – through three caves and across the Nam Lang River by way of a bamboo raft.

The start of a caving adventure at Tham Lot in Thailand.
Waiting as my guide lit her lantern for the start of our caving adventure.

I tried to ignore this last part about the raft, given that I remain a bit dubious about water and boats, and I readied myself for the adventure by tucking the offered fish food into my bag.

Getting splashed by fish in Thailand's Tham Lot Cave.
Do you see those big fish? They are definitely going to splash me!

My smiling guide was nimble on her feet, quickly scaling narrow stairs and cruising over knotted paths, eager to show me the treasures of the cave.

My guide really wants to show you a painting!

She would move quickly among the paintings made by hunters some 2000-3000 years before, stating “painting!”

An ancient cave painting found in Tham Lot.
A closer look: A hunter may have painted this deer using burning bamboo for light.

Or the coffins carved by ancient tribes: “coffins!”

Coffin Cave
They call this cave Coffin Cave for the many coffins carved by tribes thousands of years ago.

Or the stalagmites jutting from the ground: “column!”

stalagmites in Tham Lot

Or the stalactites, formed by minerals and water dripping from the cave ceiling over thousands of years: “waterfall!”

Stalactites at Tham Lot

And finally: “booby!”

Stalactites in Tham Lot

Wait, did she say booby? Yes, yes she did. And, you know what? Yeah, she’s right.

Can’t argue with that.

And then it was time for the bamboo boat. This river is an underground passage in a subterranean world that feels ripped straight out of the Lord of the Rings.

Bamboo Raft in Tham Lot
Just rafting through a cave, no big deal.

All along the way there were fish bumping the boat to get to the food I was throwing.

Jumping fish!

There were bats overhead screeching, the overwhelming smell made more obvious by the periodic splat of bat poop in the water. All punctuated by the eerie sound of the paddle in the dark waters behind me.

Listen to the bats!

In short, it was awesome.

In moments, thousands of birds will fly through the mouth of the cave.
Wait for it…

I was deposited at the mouth of the cave where, moments later, as the sun set, thousands of birds flew into the cave for their evening rest within the confines of the cave.

Look really close to see the birds returning for the evening.

Morning Fog

Winter fog in the mountains of Thailand.
Winter fog in the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province.

I watched these same birds leaving the cave the next day from a perch in the mountains as the sun rose. I was at the cave lodge for Valentine’s Day, so I took myself on a sunrise date, a treat in the wintertime in Thailand, since the fog is thick before the sun lifts over the hills.

And then it burns off to reveal the beautiful countryside.

Sunrise in the mountains of Northern Thailand.

I wished that sunset over the wilderness of the Pang Mapha district would last forever.

Sunrise in Northern Thailand.
Good morning, Thailand.

1 Comments on “Summer Camp at the Cave Lodge”

  1. Pingback: Ten Things I Learned Traveling Solo Through Thailand | The Lens of Jen

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