Jun 11 2012
Chiang Dao is a small provincial town located in the Ping Valley about an hour’s bus ride north of the capital Chiang Mai itself. Chiang Dao is the name of the town as well as the district, the nearby national park, the mountain that towers over the town (one of the highest in the country), but it’s probably best known for its famous limestone caves — the, yes, Chiang Dao Caves. It’s an approximately 12-kilometre tunnel and cave system located at the foot of the eponymous mountain in the eponymous national park.
The cave entrance is a few kilometres west of town, past the new ring road and a moto-taxi or songthaew ride from the bus station but within easy walking distance of the clutch of guesthouses on the road leading to the mountain. There’s a 40 baht entrance fee and the main chamber is well lit and easily visited on your own. Near the entrance is a small cave shrine; keep walking past a series of stalactites and stalagmites and you’ll reach a second shrine at the far end of the main tunnel which is about as far as you can go on your own.
There are plenty of smaller side passages which are not lit up so you’d have to hire a guide and lamp (going rate 100 baht plus tip), if you wish to explore these. Note some of these can be tricky and even if you’ve brought your own torch it wouldn’t be wise to wander off piste without a guide. The limestone features aren’t the most spectacular you can find in Thailand so it’s probably not worth wasting hours here unless you’re a very keen speleologist, but it’s certainly worth a stop off.
There’s also plenty of good cheap Thai food cafes in the car park and several coffee shops but also interesting are the numerous herbal medicine and jungle product stalls. (By forest products we mean edible mushrooms, medicinal roots, nuts, berries and bark and so on. not endangered animals — this isn’t Laos!)
Anyway, there are some cracking spots to stay in Chiang Dao and some excellent eating spots, so it’s a great overnight trip from Chiang Mai or a worthy stop off if you’re travelling that way.
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