Chiang Dao Cave
Entrance Stairway To Chiang Dao Caves
- The cave of Chiang Dao is located 70 kilometres north of Chiang Mai on the road to Fang. The Chiang Dao Caves penetrate in to the Doi Chiang Dao which is a massive outcrop of rock rising to a height of 2,175 metres to be the third highest in Thailand. The mountain is usually shrouded in cloud and the area is home to Lisu, Lahu and Karen villages.
- The caves penetrate up to 14 kilometres into the mountain but access for the tourist is limited to 1 kilometre due to the location of illuminated lighting and how far the local guides will take visitors. Local guides (with electric lanterns) are recommended due to the the fact there are different levels one can wonder into and soon become lost in the dark (it is very dark).
- The Caves have had a significant presence for the locals for over 1,000 years as is evident by the ancient Shan Chedi near the entrance and the folklore surrounding the Caves. The caves are venerated by the Thai and Shan people as is evidenced by the offerings, statues and decorations present at the entrance and inside. At various locations within the Caves are small temples and statues of the Buddha.
- The Caves are interesting for the experience of being in such a location, the dripping stalactites, and other stalagmite rock formations.
Inside Chiang Dao Caves
- Located 70 kilometres due north of Chiang Mai on the road to Fang, Chiang Dao shelters beneath the impressive bulk of Doi Chiang Dao, a massive outcrop of rock which rises steeply over the town to a height of 2,175 metres. The peak Thailand's third highest is usually shrouded in clouds, and is home to a number of hilltribe villages, including Lisu, Lahu and Karen settlements.
- Chiang Dao is a small, rather traditional town of two-storey teak shop-houses and quiet back streets which have little to hold the visitor's interest for long. About 5 kilometres distant, however, on the eastern side of Doi Chiang Dao, lies the entrance to the extensive subterranean network which makes up the Chiang Dao caves. Various stories and legends surround these caverns, which are reported to extend as far as 14 kilometres under the mountain though they are only illuminated by electric light for the first kilometre or so.
- One legend holds that the caves are inhabited by an Indian recluse who has lived there for more than one thousand years. Another, more complex, tradition tells how a group of hermits who live in the caves once called a meeting of deities and angels to create seven sacred objects. A demon called Chao Luang Kham Daeng Khun Yak was appointed to guard these sacred artefacts which are hidden beneath the mountain. Local people say that if one penetrates deep into the caves, the first thing encountered will be a stream which flows from the pedestal of a golden Buddha. Still further in is the legendary town of Laplae, where may be found the cloth of the gods, a great lake, the divine city of the Nagas, heavenly food, a sacred elephant, and the resting place of the hermits themselves. Here, too, is the great golden Buddha from which the stream springs.
- Locals, whilst professing to believe in this legend, say that nobody has ever seen these marvels because no one has ever gone far enough into the caves. People have, however, heard the howling of a huge dog signalling, according to customary belief, the approaching ghost of a Buddhist monk who died within the caverns long ago.
- Perhaps moved by the new spirit of ecological awareness that is growing in Thailand, the people of Chiang Dao strongly support the belief that anyone removing anything from the cave complex even a fragment of rock will become hopelessly lost in the eerie, dripping passages, detained forever by the magical powers of the place.
- The Chiang Dao caves are reached by a well-maintained road. At the entrance there is a parking area with numerous refreshment stalls, an old Shan style chedi, an ornamental garden and a small, crystal clear mountain stream which flows into a karst pool containing huge ornamental carp and catfish. Entrance is via a covered stairway leading to the first chamber. This section of the cave has long been venerated by local Thai and Shan peoples, as is evident from the great number of statues, offerings and decorations present in various stages of disrepair.
- Visitors can penetrate some way into the caves on their own, marvelling at the dripping stalactites and weird rock formations which abound. Enthusiasts who wish to explore further the secrets of the mountain's roots can hire a guide with an electric lantern for a modest fee.