Tham Lod is also known as Tham Nam Lod, which means “a cave with water flowing through it”. It’s located in the Pang Mapha District in Mae Hong Son province. The most common way to get to it from Chiang Mai is to go up through Pai, a very popular destination with tourists. Many people rent motorbikes in Chiang Mai to go to Pai. However you go, be aware that it’s a very windy mountain road with many hairpin turns. It’s not for those who easily get car sick.
Upon arrival, you will be required to hire a guide. It’s not possible to go-it-alone. For a group of 2 – 3 people, I recommend getting the full package for 450 baht. This will get you a tour of all upper caverns of the cave, including a tour of the main river tunnel on a bamboo boat. Fifty baht more will get you a bag of fish food you can feed the large cave fish.
The guides carry lanterns and flashlights but feel free to take your own lighting if you wish. They speak a little English, providing a good tour. Much like the cave guides in the USA, they point out formations that they think resemble a certain animal or person.
Good footwear is important. Although part of the tour is on a boat (more like a raft) you will be going up some very steep steps to the upper chambers and there are some slippery areas.
Once inside and seeing the large stalagmites, you begin to understand the enormity of the cave.
The first two caverns have some very nice and interesting formations.
The 3rd cavern is accessed via a boat ride on a bamboo boat.
You can feed the fish following the boat as you cruise along.
The end of the boat ride is at another cave entrance, where the river flows out.
Leaving the boat, some steep steps lead up to the 3rd cavern where ancient teak wood coffins were found. The steps have quite a bit of bat guano on them, so it’s not really a pleasent climb but great views are to be had looking out of the cave.
The main attraction at the 3rd cavern are the coffins. These teak wood coffins are around 1700 years old. No one is exactly sure who left the coffins in the cave but the local Shan people believe they were used by cave dwelling spirits.
After seeing the 3rd cavern, it’s back to the boat for a trip back to where it all began. Overall, the tour takes about an hour.
Heading back out to the parking lot, there is a sign pointing to an archaeological dig site at a rock shelter where 2 human, 12,000 year old skeletons were found. Many stone tools were also found there.
Tham Lad may be a long way away from the major city of Chiang Mai but if you’re going to be in Pai or Mae Hong Son anyways, this is a side trip well worth doing. And if you really like exploring caves, this area has more than you can handle.