A reason to leave the city would be to witness the beauty of nature. So, we escaped with our friends from the grip of Chiang Mai for the greener pastures of Chiang Dao, a small town a 1 1/2 hours north of the city. We rolled into the bus station looking very stylish.
The bus ride was surprisingly comfortable. We expected an old, beaten bus, but our 40 baht ticket ($1.20) got us a modern, fast and cool bus. There was not a lot of people on the bus, so we spread out on the narrow seats and had all the children sit in the back row.
We rented a few scooters and then drove to our Malee’s Nature Lover’s bungalows, where we were staying…er…or not. We got a bit mixed up. Malee had rooms available and told us that the place where we had reservations was small with no space for the kids. We considered staying there, but ultimately went to where our real reservations were waiting for us.
And we were so glad we did. Malee turned out to be a cunning little woman who tried to get us to check into her place. When we finally arrived at Nature Home Guesthouse, a lovely private bungalow awaited us on an expansive fruit orchard. (Malee…you shouldn’t lie to steal business away. *tsk tsk*.)
At $15/night for a private bungalow with heated showers,2 twin beds, wifi and hosts that look like this:
this place was awesome. It had a huge fruit orchard where the kids played, climbed trees and were out of sight. The owner even swept up the fire pit in the middle of the mango and lime trees so we could have an evening bonfire.
We slept well among the chilly air of the mountains and planned to explore the nearby cave temple. But first, Alisa gets a quick lesson on how to drive a motorbike…successfully. And we drive the quick 8 minutes to the cave.
Outside the temple complex, there was a small market that sold all kinds of tubers and gingers and other underground wonderlings. I especially wanted some of these:
We spent a few minutes walking around the grounds of the temple area. The buddhist temples are so ornately decorated with gold everything.
The Chiang Dao Cave
The entrance to the cave is equally decorated.
We paid our 40 baht admission, bought some fish food to throw to the overstuffed fish in the pond to ‘make merit’ and entered the cave.
The cave itself is a nice retreat from a hot day even though it’s not as cool as most caves we’ve been in. Parts of the cave are self-guided and other parts are well worth having a guide. The beginning is a series of temple altars.
This part is open and not claustrophobic. A 2 minute walk beyond the first temple is the part where a guide is recommended. We decided to go for it and walked up the steep stairs into the dark part of the cave. (The guides have torch lamps to help light the way).
The guides do not speak English and are not knowledgeable about the cave`s geological features. The only words they seem to know are `look like elephant` or `look like egg` when pointing at certain rock formations, which was plenty of information for the kids, but not for the adults. An explanation of the cool formations in the cave would have enriched this experience.
Some of the passages are very narrow, quite steep and slippery. Some we had to crawl through.
We minded our steps with care. However, I forgot to mind my other appendages and my hands landed in a big pile of bat guano.
There are several buddha variations throughout the cave, but the most interesting thing for Miss I was the sand that was too irresistible to play in.
A recommended tip of 100 baht per person is required to avoid the scorn of the ‘volunteer’ guides, which we paid, but the insistent demands of more fees once inside the cave is annoying.
Part of the cave is concrete sidewalks with lights, which makes it easy to get around.
Final Thoughts on the Chiang Dao Cave:
It was a great place to spend an hour touring the cave and having this experience. And it’s an easy cave to do with kids if you don’t take the more adventurous route with the guide. If you are an experienced caver…this isn’t for you. This is more like temple that just happens to be in a cave and you may be sorely disappointed. The entire experience did reek a little like a tourist trap, but then you see the devoted people paying tribute inside the temple and realize that this wasn’t set up just to entertain tourists. That there is a life and energy within this temple and people have recognized it for many years. For that, we pay respect to it.
More in Chiang Dao
Afterward, we gathered our bags from our bungalows (they were so kind to hold them for us) and headed into town to a special Wednesday market that happens once every 2 weeks. Nalini, the manager and daughter of the owners of Nature Home Guesthouse, was there with her German husband selling delicious apple turnovers that were exceptional. Her husband came here to climb the mountain and never left, eventually falling in love with Nalini.
We enjoyed being the only
white people foreigners there. This is the experiences we love…true, local and rich with the culture of the area and not set up to entertain tourists.
We had already eaten lunch, but enjoyed the various sweets on the street.
Bellies full, we head back to the street.
Buy a bottle of water from a lady that wouldn’t sit up from her reclined position
and wonder why we hadn’t come up here earlier. When we notice the bus back to Chiang Mai coming down the street we abandon thought and run to the bus station. “Quick! Let’s Go!” We jump on…totally pumped that we got to experience a bit of a Thai mountain beauty. I could live HERE!
Read a more detailed post about the Cave of Chiang Dao on LivingOutsideoftheBox.com