North Thailand is home to most splendid caves of the region and Tham Lod Caves in Sop Pong – สบป่อง ( (Also known as Tham Nam Lod and Tham Lot Caves at times) is one of the most impressive and easily accessible of them. Huge dark chambers, massive colourful stalactites and stalagmites, pre-historic teak-wood coffins, experience of bamboo rafting, and beautiful site of thousands of birds flying in and bats flying out every evening – Tham Lod offers multiple unique experiences at one place to make it one of the most memorable exploration trip for you.
Tham Lod Caves are situated in this remote Tham Lot village (Pang Mapha District), near Sop Pong -สบป่อง ( at times also pronounced as Sappong). After a fascinating scooter ride from Pai, we reached Cave Lodge Guesthouse at around 1 PM, dropped our luggage and left for the caves (walking distance from the Cave Lodge). After paying our entry fee (refer Entry Fee section for details), we soon were walking behind a guide with lantern. Main cave entrance is around 350 meters walk from the parking area. After a quick walk, we soon were in front of the cave entrance with green settings and Lang river flowing right into the entrance of the river and vanishing under it.
Inside Tham Nam Lod Caves – 3 Huge Caverns
The “Tham” in Thai means cave and “Nam Lod” refers to “a river flow through it”. Tham Lod, with a total length of 800 meters, is formed by the dissolution of limestone over million years and created a massive river tunnel with 3 huge side caverns –
- Big Column Cave: The first cave with beautiful stalactite and stalagmite structures has a big column of 21.45 meters in the middle of the cave.
- Doll Cave: This second cave, up slant stairs, has several beautiful structures resembling dolls, crocodile, snake and other interesting shapes. There is also a pre-historic deer painting in this cave.
- Coffin Cave (Pi Man Cave): There are pre-historic teakwood coffins (around 14,00 years old) and ancient human corpses found in this cave making it one of the most famous among other 80 caves in Pang Ma Pha District. Shan people (local villagers) believe that the these caves are made by spirits called ” Pi Man”.
Big Column cave and Doll cave
Here are the pictures from the first two caves inside Tham Lod –
Bamboo Rafting to Coffin Caves
Coffin Caves are situated at the rear Exit of the Tham Lod Caves and you have to on-board bamboo rafts to reach to these caves. The Lang river flows through more than a third of the cave’s length, giving you an opportunity to float through on bamboo rafts. Bat hangs from the top making screeching sound and you can see fishes jumping in the water below you. During monsoon, when river level is high, you can also go for kayaking through the caves.
Bollywood movie shooting at Tham Lod
When we were leaving for caves from Cave Lodge, they told us that some shooting is going on at caves with a famous Indian celebrity. Got excited, when we reached to cave exit, we realized it was Aamir Khan shooting for his movie ‘Thugs of Hindoostan‘. We could grab some pics of Aamir Khan and the crew shooting on the opposite bank of river.
Swifts and Bats at Tham Lod Caves
This would be the best part of your visit to Tham Lod Caves. The cave is home to large numbers of bats and swifts and each evening, thousands of bats fly out of cave mouth (both entrance and exit) and swifts fly in. It is an amazon site to watch this phenomenon. Phenomenon usually starts around 5:30 PM and goes on till 7:00 PM. But we had to wait longer as lights from movie shooting were still on. Once we switched off the lights, then we started seeing the magic. We went to the cave exit by walking a 1 KM trail on the cave side (refer above map for the details).
Things to take care for Tham Lod visit
- It takes around two hours to visit caves. Do carry a torch light to explore better in dark chambers
- Be with guide strictly. There are many dark zones and chances are that you may get lost alone or at least get hurt slipping in unknown areas
- Not for faint heart people – Especially dark and big caverns. Stairs to the top of Doll cave are really steep
- You need a good amount of fitness to walk across the cave, so extra caution needed if you are with children and elderly people
- Wear comfy shoes – A must
Where to stay for your Tham Lod visit
Cave Lodge is the best accommodation option in Tham Lot. Though rooms are basic but they provide excellent guidance to explore caves and area around. Owned by John who himself is an explorer and has explored many caves in the region, they offer multiple cave exploration, hiking and trekking options for which you can enroll on the spot.
Location of Caves and Cave Lodge: We had a scooter for our Mae Hong Son Loop backpacking and thus easily drove up to Cave Lodge using Google maps.
Tham Lod Caves Entry Fee and Opening Hours
You can not enter the caves without a guide. So your entrance fee is inclusive of guide fees and bamboo raft (must to reach Coffins cave through river). Total fee for 2 of us including Entry Fee, Guides and Bamboo Rafting was 450 Thai Bahts. It was worth the experience and also money paid goes to the Shan villagers, who also construct and maintain the bamboo ladders and walkways in the caves.
Tham Lod exploration was indeed an offbeat experience for us and we would strongly recommend a visit to these magnificent caves if you are on your way across Mae Hong Son Loop.
Opening Hours: 8 AM to 5:30 PM