Apart from mountain ranges, tea plantations, Lanna-style temples and exquisite arts, Chiang Rai also offers natural attractions including caves and gorges. Caves that are worth visiting are Tham (Cave) Pum, Tham Pla, Tham Saohin Phayanak.
1. Tham Pla is located within the complex of Wat Tham Pla, Moo 5, Ban Huay Puu Kang, Pong Ngam subdistrict, Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province. To get there, make a left turn at the intersection in front of the police kiosk which is next to the intersection leading to Doi Tung. Keep going for only a short distance, then you should see the temple.
The temple consists of 2 main sections. One is the temple territorial unit to pay homage to, while the rest are caves, namely Tham Pla and Tham Ku Kaew. Tham Pla is the cave situated underneath a limestone mountain and there is a small stream flowing towards the entrance of the cave. The source of this stream is actually Huay Lang waterfall. Tham Pla is a stone cavity measuring 2.5 meters wide and 1.5 meters high. The water level in the cave is about 0.5 meter. Tourists are allowed to enter the cave in order to pay homage to Pang Song Krueng (a highly revered Burmese-style Buddha image dressed up in a full royal costume). There is a school of fish swimming in the stream. Originally, rare fish species could be found here. For example, Mahseer barb whose appearance resembles a cat-fish with blue fins and silver strips on its sides. Nonetheless, lately tourists have brought with them several kinds of ornamental fishes, e.g. Carp, Goldfish, Common Carp, and turtles. The cave is also home to a considerable number of monkeys which loves to beg for some food from tourists.
2. Tham Pum is at Ban Dong, Moo 2, Pong Ngam subdistrict, and is not far from Wat Tham Pla. This cave stands atop the hill, but the steps ascending to the cave is not too steep. Right above the entrance of the cave stands a 200-year-old sculpture of a mythical lion. The cave contains stalagmites that look like Thai decorative pattern known as Poom Khao Bin, and for this reason the cave was named Tham Pum. If you keep walking for 60 meters, you should see a cliff on your right-hand side. The cliff, measuring approximately 3.80 meters high and 1.50 meters wide, features a beautiful stalactites hanging from the roof just like the flows of cascade. If you continue for 28 meters, you will find the path divided. Turn right to admire a natural well with crystal clear water. The well has a diameter of 10 meters and is commonly referred to by locals as Bo Namthip (a well of nectar). If you proceed for 110 more meters, there are white and dazzling stalagmites and stalactites. At the end of the cave sits a prominent Buddha image to venerate.
3. Tham Saohin Phayanak is the final stop for this cave tour. It is located not far from Wat Tham Pla and Tham Pum. Visitors can get an access either by land or by water. In case you go there on foot, head south and use the path along the water reservoir. Tham Saohin Phayanak features tubular stalagmites that pile up until they resemble pillars, and for this reason Tham Saohin is the name given to the cave. The ceiling of this 3-story cave has an opening chamber, giving beauty glistering reflection every time the sun shines on these stalagmites. To reach the 2nd and 3rd story of the cave, rock climbing skills are required. Therefore, this cave is suitable for adventurers and thrill-seekers. For your safety, please bring useful equipment for cave exploration.
How to get there:
From Mae Chan district towards Mae Sai district, drive along Highway No. 10 and turn left at the intersection between KM. 877 – 878. The entrance is at Ban Tham market. There is a sign post saying Wat Tham Pla (temple) is 1.5 kilometer away. Keep going, the temple is located at road’s end. Tham Pla is on your left and is about 100 meters away from the parking space.