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Pai Attractions to see

Lod Cave or spirt Caves of Mae Hong Son province

The Spirit Caves, (lod cave) in northern Thailand

If you are an intrepid adventurer and love to go off the beaten track, discovering places on your own that are off the usual tourist maps, and want to explore archaeological sites, then The Spirit Caves, Thailand, is just the place for you. Situated 650m above the sea level on the banks of a forgotten little stream, it is just 30 miles to the south of the Salween, one of the longest rivers in Thailand.

lod cave -spirt cave- Maehongson

How to reach the Spirit Caves

The Spirit Cavesare situated in the the Pang Mapha district of Mae Hong Son province, to the north west of Thailand. The cave structure is located off the Route 1095 connecting the quaint little town of Pai and Mae Hong Son, one of the important cultural centers in Northern Thailand. You can reach Pai from Chiang Mai either by a regular bus service or by car, the journey being of 3-4 hours’ duration; you can even trek the distance, for the road passes over stunningly beautiful lush green mountains and fast brooks that suddenly cross the path. Once you are in Pai, you can take a day trip out to the cave complex; travel about 18 miles to the north west along Route 1095 to reach Soppong, then trek 5 miles to the north to reach the caves. The Spirit Caves are part of a larger complex that also includes the Banyan Valley Caves and the Steep Cliff Caves.

History of the Spirit Caves

The Spirit Cave, or the Lod, as it is locally known, is an archaeological site of great antiquity, being occupied in the pre-historic era from 9000BC to 5500BC by the Hoabinhian hunting tribe. They were a Stone Age community of hunters and gatherers who used artefacts and tools of primitive workmanship such as short axes, hammerstones, tools made out of bones etc. the caves were first excavated in the 1960s by Chester Gorman, an American anthropologist and archaeologist, who detailed food items and implements used by the ancient Hoabinhians. According to Gorman, the Hoabinhians learnt the domestication of plants, as exemplified by the presence of leguminous plants at the site; a number of other fruits and vegetables, such as almonds, betel, pepper, bottle gourd etc were also used as food, condiments and stimulants, and for lighting purposes. Gorma’s work was further extended in 1972 when W. G. Solheim, the director of the Spirit Caves project, published an article in the Scientific American and claimed that the Hoabinhians had also learnt horticulture, and started using ceramics after 6800 B.C.

The spectacle of the Spirit Caves

The Spirit Cave complex is ideal for explorations, and while it will not offer you thrills at par with the underwater caving movie The Sanctum, it is still large and awe-inspiring enoughto make it a thing not to be missed.. It features colorful stalactites and stalagmites, and has small sub-caves leading off into dark interiors that you can explore to your heart’s content, for it was originally crammed with ceramics and other artifacts from the Ban Chiang era. The Spirit Caves actually consist of three connected caves, with the first one being a grotto, the second one containing pre-historic paintings of deer, and the third one containing pre-historic canoe shaped coffins. The Spirit Cave project, under the aegis of the Thailand archaeological department, offers guided tours to all the three caves, and there is even a fantastic boat ride to the third cave. The outlet will take you into the jungles outside, and you can trek back a couple of kilometers back to the parking lot.

lod cave Maehongson - spirit cave

Photos by Sasisimol K.


Staying near the Spirit Caves -  lod cave

There are a number of guest houses and plain bungalows along the road from Soppong to the Spirit Caves, one of which is located on the bank of a stream. There are also one or two interesting places nearby, such as the landscaped Tham Pla Park, the Tham Pla Cave or Fish Cave featuring a large number of carps (10,000, according to a legend), and the magnificent Pha Sua Waterfalls. The Fish Cave is supposed to bring you luck and merit if you buy food and feed the fishes.

To conclude, the Spirit Caves is a little adventure expedition out from Pai that you should make to to explore.

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