Chiang Dao Caves
The Chiang Dao caves are one of the main attractions in the Chaing Dao and are an integral part of the Chiang Dao area to the Thai people.
They have been part of Thai folklore for over 1000 years and are a longstanding place of worship.
They are situated roughly 70km north of Chiang Mai taking approximately 1hour 15 minutes by car. Upon approaching the caves you will see the famous Doi Luang Chiang Dao mountain range.
The price of entry is 40baht per person. This money goes toward providing electricity for parts of the cave.
After paying the admittance free you ascend the steps to the entrance of the caves then descend into a large cavern where you will see various buddha images and memrobilia.
It is here where you will also find the guide station. The Guides are local voulunteers who dedicate their time offering to show visitors around the caves.
Inside the Chiang Dao cave complex there are five main caves which are currently open to the public – two that are lit with electric lamps which you can explore freely by yourself, named Tham Seua Dao and Tham Phra Nawn, these caves contain many shrines, statues and buddha images.
The other three caves are unlit and mostly completely in the darkness. It is highly recommended to hire a guide with a gas lantern to lead you through the caves for 200baht.
It is very easy to get lost in these vast caves and there are deep unmarked holes. The guide will make sure you view the caves safetly whilst showing and explaining all the highlights. As the guides are volunteers it is encouraged to tip them after their tour.
These three caves are called Tham Maa, Tham Naam and Tham Kaew. In total there are supposed to be over 100 caves inside the mountain range extending 10-12 kilometres.
Before visiting the caves, make sure you have suitable footwear as the ground is uneven and can be slippery. Flip flops are not reccomended. The majority of the ground is natural rock flooring, sometimes there are little walkways and at one point there are some steps that have been cut into the stone itself.
The main duration of the time inside the cave you will be walking but at times you will be expected to crawl though small openings so please be aware of this before entry as this is the only way to progress in certain areas of the cave tour.
Unfortunatley this means the caves are not wheelchair accessible.
There are also numerous low hanging rock formations so be aware of these and keep your head down and move carefully throughout the cave. If you have a guide, they will warn you when you need to duck down to avoid injury.
Look out also for the small bats that are resident in the cave, and which can be seen sleeping soundly or flying overhead.
The caves consist of a combination of natural limstone and crystal rock formations along with many stalactites and stalagmites.
Stalagmites are rock formations that rise from the floor of the cave due to the accumulation of material deposited on the floor from ceiling drippings. They may be composed of lava, minerals, mud, peat and sand.
Stalagtites hang from the ceiling. They can not only be found in caves but also in hot springs or man made structures such as bridges and mines. They are formed when water containing dissolved calcium bicarbonate from the limestone drips from the ceiling of the cave.
As the water comes into contact with the air, some of the calcium bicarbonate precipitates back into limestone to form a tiny ring which gradually elongates to form a stalactite.
If you happen to visit during the rainy season, some areas near the underground river might contain water. Bathing in the river is forbidden and there is a 5000baht fine if caught breaking this rule.
In other seasons the floor is mostly sandy but you can still check the water marks on the walls to see how far the water level rises.
You are allowed to bring a water bottle with you for your journey through the caves to keep hydrated as it does get quite hot and humid when exploring.
Never remove anything from the caves. Superstition is a key part of Thai spirituality and its important to respect it. Thai superstition has formed legends associated with it and are the key to undertanding the caves.
Taking anything from the cave system leads to the famous story about the soldier.
Legend says a soldier stole a marble buddha statue from the cave and placed it in his house. The same day his son drowned. Believing the statue had caused this tragedy, the soilder wanted nothing more to do with the statue and gave it to his brother.
His brother was a pilot and suffered two plane crashes after recieving the buddha so he passed it on to his commanding officer to be rid of the bad luck he had received.
The commanding officer lost all of his belongings and then shortly after passed away.
The statue finally ended up in the hands of a man who treated it with respect however the curse was still strong as the new owners father died and his wife became ill.
The new owner read into the history of the cave and the same night was visited in a dream by Phrom Ruesi, the hermit who lived in the cave fror 1000 years, who asked him to return the statue or he would suffer too.
After returning the statue all returned to normal and the curse was lifted.
Remember the caves are treated as a sacred place so you will need to wear decent clothes. Please be respectful. No short sleeves, skirts or shorts. If you do happen to wear something inappropriate you can rent a scarf for 20baht.
Outside of the cave there is a small pond filled with catfish and carps that you are able to feed. You can buy the food at a stall situated directly next to the pond.
Buddhists believe feeding the fish brings better karma.
There is also a little temple on the grounds outside the cave with some ancient neglected buddha statues next to it which are slowly being covered in vegetation.
The most recent addition is the golden statue which was built at the foot of the mountain.
Opening hours are 7am – 5pm.