If you’ve travelled anywhere in Thailand on the beaten path, you know that this country can seem utterly overwhelmed by the tourist hordes at times. But you can also still find pockets of real adventure in Thailand, and the small rural town of Soppong is one of those places.
The area around Soppong is known as a caving paradise, with over 200 known caves existing inside the karst landscapes. Apart from the largest cave of Tham Lod, none of the other caves have been developed in any way, so no lights, no concrete paths, no nothing.
In fact, the caves are totally unmarked and impossible to find without an expert guide, who can take you through rural fields and partially overgrown paths to the entrances that are hidden behind rocks or bushes.
I stayed at the Cave Lodge in Soppong, which runs various hiking and caving expeditions in the area. I opted for a day-long guided trek, which took us to the Fossil Cave, Waterfall Cave and the Christmas Cave.
The second cave we went into was particularly adventurous. It had a stream running through it, and we swam through body-sized crevices and tunnels with just our eyes and mouths peeking out of water. This is definitely not for the claustrophobic. Upon seeing the first narrow passage one woman in our group nearly got a panic attack, but we talked her through it. She courageously made it all the way to the end of the cave, which is where the water suddenly drops into a magnificent waterfall.
Our guide was the 60-year-old Mr. Wat, who like some kind of Jedi master managed to zip through the caves on what must be the least suitable footwear: old worn out leather sandals with no bottom profile left to speak of.
If you want to have a caving experience in northern Thailand, there’s a lot of information to be found on the Cave Lodge website.