Spelunking the Wonderful Lod Cave in Pai
In a country full of amazing caves, Lod Cave near Pai stands out as one of the best.
A trip to Lod Cave is not just a quick in-and-out visit, this is a place with a lot going on. Located about 90 minutes outside Pai it’s a popular choice for a day trip and with good reason; it’s a great distance for a scooter ride if you’ve hired your own bike and the organized tours are pretty cheap and fun. The cave itself offers a mix of walking, rafting and communing with the local wildlife so there’s something for everyone. Here’s our rundown of how to make the most of a visit.
Bring Your Sense of Adventure
As soon as you turn up at Lod Cave, you get the feeling that this isn’t just going to be a wander along a manicured path. The local guides wait by the entrance to start their tours with hurricane mining lamps in their hands- if you have a torch then bring one as well, as relying on the small gas light once you’re inside can feel quite hairy! You have to go into the cave with a guide but trust us, you wouldn’t want to be without one…
A 15-minute walk through the forest takes you to the cave entrance, where you start to move inside over rickety wooden walkways constructed over the water and rocks. Watch your step, it’s pretty slippery! Once you’re properly inside and your eyes are getting used to the dark you’ll be ushered onto a bamboo raft. This is where the eerie quiet descends; your guide will start paddling you along the river in the dark as you feel the cavern ceiling open up above your head. Photos won’t work in the gloom so just enjoy the sensation of traveling deep into the middle of the earth.
Bring Your Energy
A few minutes into the raft trip and it’s your turn to do a bit of work. The cave is made up of three caverns and your guide will tie the raft up on a pebble beach and take you on a hike through all three of them. Lots of the sights are located high up on the cavern walls so you can look forward to climbing up some steep (and we really do mean steep!) staircases. If you’re scared of heights you may be pleased to hear that the place is quite dark so you can’t see the height of the drop!
Take some time to appreciate the rock formations and characteristics of the different caverns. The first one is the main grotto, the second one features cave paintings of deer and other animals and the third is home to some ancient coffins. It’s worth persevering through all three if you can, but be ready for the handrails on the staircases being COVERED in bat guano from the local residents roosting above. Take some antibac gel for your hands afterwards!
After your tour of the caverns, the guide will either offer to raft you back to the entrance or will let you walk back outside the cave in your own time. If it’s near to dusk then take the opportunity to see the daily migrations of birds and bats out of the cave to go and hunt, but don’t leave it so late that you miss your ride home!
There’s also the chance to buy some fish food in paper bags to feed the fish in the river. Is it environmentally responsible? No, not really, but the fish population here has exploded due to the increase in food on offer so now they’re reliant on being hand-fed by tourists. We’ll leave it up to you to decide about the ethics of that one!
How to Get to Lod Cave
If you’re a confident bike rider with a license and insurance then grab a scooter in Pai and make the ride yourself. There’s plenty to see en route and as always in northern Thailand, the landscape is beautiful and well worth a few stops along the way. If you’d rather let someone else take the strain then a minibus transfer will be about 500 baht per person and you might make some new friends on the journey!
A raft with guide (which can take up to 4 people) costs 550 baht and the money goes straight back into the local community, as many of the guides have worked here all their lives. Lod Cave is a fun and unusual place to visit which really does have the wow factor so charge up your torch batteries and enjoy.