Chiang Dao Cave

Well worth a look

Photo of Chiang Dao Cave , , Chiang Dao

What we say: 3.5 stars

In fact, the caverns are so numerous, and the passages so complex that visitors are not allowed to enter without a guide -- save for a couple of fairly unimpressive, permanently lit areas -- because being lost in a massive system of caves beneath Thailand's third largest mountain could possibly be a death sentence.

While the formations and an ancient stone gold-leafed covered Buddha within the cave are interesting, few would consider them spectacular, and it is more the scale of the thing that earns it its place in the higher echelons of northern Thailand's attractions. The biggest drawback, however, are the fees, small though they may be: expect to pay 40 baht right out of the gate for the dubiously named "electricity fee" and another 100 baht for a guide if you'd like to actually see any reasonable amount of the cave. On top of of that, a person with a camera will follow you around offering to take pictures of you and the formations every three minutes or so -- if you don't plan on using the service, do everyone a favour and make that fact clear early in the proceedings.

Once all is said and done, the guide will explain that they volunteer their time (didn't I just give you 100 baht) and will request a tip, likely an additional 100 baht. Assuming you don't have your unrequested cameraman take photos of you with eight different rocks that vaguely resemble animals and UFOs, then your total will come out to around 240 baht; not outrageous, just so long as you see it coming. If you work up an appetite from all of that subterranean exploration, a handful of basic Thai restaurants near the gates will fill you up. Also note the numerous herbal medicine and jungle product stalls.

Overall, it would be regrettable to come to Chiang Dao and miss the famous cave. While it is certainly not the most spectacular we've seen in Thailand, it's an iconic natural landmark that has had great affect in one way or another on the local people for many years.

More details
Opening Hours: Open 07:00-17:00
How to get there: 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.
Last updated: 6th June, 2013

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