An Overnight Adventure at the Cave Lodge in Thailand

Upon arrival at the Cave Lodge in Thailand, 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.

A guest lounges in a hammock at the Cave Lodge in Thailand
My friend Nadine from London relaxes on a hammock at the Cave Lodge.

Families ate around the fire.

A camp fire at the Cave Lodge in Thailand.
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 near the Cave Lodge, which explained the songs that drifted into the lodge. But, for that moment, I was content to lounge about the Cave Lodge making new friends, which was as easy as if it really were summer camp.

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

Adventuring from the Cave Lodge

Adventuring is easy from a home base of the Cave Lodge, which is strategically located near Tham Lot, 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 took 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.

Thailand’s Biggest Cave System: Tham Lot

I tried to ignore the 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 near the Cave Lodge in Thailand.
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 in Tham Lot in Thailand
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 near the Cave Lodge in Thailand

And finally: “booby!”

Stalactites in Tham Lot in Thailand
What…what?

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

Tham Lot Cave in Thailand
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 Cave in Thailand
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.

The mouth Tham Lot Cave in Thailand
Thousands of birds fly into the mouth of the cave at the same time

I was deposited at the mouth of the cave where, moments later, at sunset, 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.

Sunrise at the Cave Lodge in Thailand

I watched these same birds leaving the cave the next day from a perch in the mountains as the sun rose.

Winter fog in the mountains of Thailand near the Cave Lodge
Winter fog in the mountains of Mae Hong Son Province

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 near the Cave Lodge.

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

Sunrise in Northern Thailand.
Good morning, Thailand.

Thanks for reading this post about the Cave Lodge in Thailand! If you liked this post, you might like adventure travel. Here’s my resource on walking the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain.

I think you might also like my resource for meeting new friends when traveling:

meeting friends when traveling alone

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

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