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Chiang Dao Cave offers glimpse into history

Caravan to China

Chiang Dao Cave offers glimpse into history

Remote Lisu tribe home-stays possible

Preeyanoot Jittawong

Buddha images brought from Shan State, Burma.

When Chiang Dao is mentioned, everyone thinks of beautiful places such as Doi Luang Chiang Dao, King Phra Naresuan Remembrance Pagoda, the hill tribes’ villages and Chiang Dao Cave. It is said that if visitors have not seen these places they have not truly been to Chiang Dao district.

The journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao is 72 kilometers, with Chiang Dao Cave being just five kilometers from the district line in Doi Ang Saloong. The cave is a deep one, running about 100 meters into the rock. The area here was wild and overgrown until in 1887 Phaya Intakaw persuaded villagers to clear away the jungle so that a temple and steps could be built in front of the cave.

Architectural works from the Chiang Saen period.

In 1913, a Tai tribe monk traveled to the temple and with the help of villagers built a pagoda and a Buddha image in front of the entrance to the cave. He also brought marble Buddha images from Shan State in Burma to place in the cave. Many visitors travel to the cave to pay their respects at the Phaw Luang Kham Daeng shrine.

Visiting Chiang Dao Cave is now very easy. There is a parking lot, a rest area, and a pool filled with many kinds of fish and with an ornamental stone boat in its center. The entrance fee is just 10 baht and there are other small charges for a guide and lamps.

Small Buddha images in different points inside the cave.

There are Burmese style sculptures such as the half-woman half-bird Kinnaree, and the King of the Nagas. There are beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Outside the cave there is an ancient building reputedly dating from the Chiang Saen Period, and information on the past is displayed here. At back of this building is an internment area for the ashes of the dead. The very famous pagoda of Chiang Dao, with its 25 roofs, is registered with the Fine Arts Department as a national heritage site.

Phaw Luang Kham Daeng shrine.

Another area that visitors to Chiang Dao Cave also like to see is the Lisu village of Baan Nalao Mai, just 10 kilometers away. Only 10 families live here and they follow the ancient, simple Lisu lifestyle. The village is surrounded by mountains and is a place of great natural beauty. There is home stay accommodation available for those who wish to stay overnight, and tour programs offer the study of the local culture and natural resources.

Burmese style sculptures, Kinnaree (half-woman half bird), King of the Nagas and Kylin.

Stalagmites and stalactites inside the cave.

Old bell in the cave.

Repository for the ashes of the dead.

25 roof pagoda.

Lisu tribe people.

Thai herbs distributed at Chiang Dao Cave.

Luang Paw Phra Putta Chinarat Buddha image and Phra Maha Chedi Rassami Jammadhevi Sriwichai Pagoda.

Doi Pha Nang Non.

Beautiful scenery at Baan Nalao Mai village.

Caravan to China

A new highway trail is blazed between Chiang Mai and Kunming

Chiangmai Mail Reporters

An old Tai Lue woman sitting in front of her house weaving silk.

Caravan tours have always sounded so romantic, and I have wanted to be part of such a journey. So when a caravan through the Thai-Laos-China route from Chiang Mai city to Kunming was arranged by Chiang Mai Tourism Business Association (CMTBA) in cooperation with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Northern office Zone 1, I booked my place.

The distance was 2,955 kilometers along a route called Khun Man Kong Lu. Khun means Kunming, Manku means Bangkok in Chinese, and Kong Lu means the road. It is a road of cooperation because both Thailand and China built and developed their own road sections but in part of Laos, the road was divided into three and Thailand, Laos and China each built a different section.

Journey’s beginning for the Chiang Mai-Kunming caravan was the Three King’s Monument. Our first stop was in Chiang Rai to make merit at the King Mengrai Monument before traveling on to Chiang Khong district with navigation provided by tourist police. Customs procedures at Huay Sai were fast and efficient, as the CMTBA had prepared the way. The brief free time we had after the long ride was spent visiting the evening market in Huay Sai. Then an auspicious rice ceremony was organized by Lao officials to bring us luck on the 2,844 kilometers left in front of us, followed by Wanthong, Huay Sai district director of TAT, who outlined future cooperation on tourism projects between Laos and Thailand.

Day two was early rising, and the checking of radio communications in all the cars, essential on a route with conditions where adjectives like rough and dusty are a compliment and where deep ravines are part of the scenery. Our Lao guide warned us repeatedly about road conditions that resembled those in remoter parts of Thailand 30 years ago.

For a distance of 123 kilometers we drove on Construction Street, a road being built with Thai assistance. The way sloped and wound along the hillside and there were machines working all the way to Viang Phu Kha. That day we had it all, the dust, the mud that looked like creamy chocolate, and the creeks.

A surprise awaited us when we arrived at 8 pm that night, in Boh Han in China, to be told that the local electricity system closed daily at 8 p.m. On top of that we were informed by members of a Malaysian caravan group that our aim for day three, to reach Kunming, was definitely not possible due to the road conditions over the 717 km distance.

Day three was more surprises and not pleasant ones. One car broke down, giving us a huge delay, there was an accident on the road obstructing the way, and the roads had a steep cliff plunging down on one side and the mountains rising up on the other, with the passing trucks giving us near heart attacks on several occasions. Not even the wooden houses of Tai Lue communities and the many Chinese villages with plants so fresh and houses which reminded many of us of stories we had heard from parents and grandparents helped.

The forced delays made stops impossible and also the visit to the Poo Eor rubber and tea plantations had to be cancelled, even though we had looked forward to this treat as Poo Eor tea could be said to be the best Chinese tea.

At 8 p.m. we still had 400 km to reach our night quarters but when this road is finished, the driving time will be reduced by 40 percent. With encouragement on the frequent foggy stretches, we reached Kunming at 3 a.m. We had made it!

Luckily, day four was dedicated to sightseeing and we had an organized bus tour around Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan. It was a soothing experience after the adventurous drive the day before. We visited Jew Chiang Cave and Sue Lin Rock Park. On the way, we also saw the historic railway, that was constructed by the French in 1904, from Kunming to Vietnam to transfer coal, tin and goods to Vietnam.

Jew Chiang Cave is decorated with different lights, there is a waterfall inside and blind fish, sightless from having evolved in the darkness.

Sue Lin Rock Park was a UNESCO World Heritage site with fantastic rocks and chasms. It was a highlight of the trip and eased our minds enough to prepare us for the long trip back to Chiang Mai.

For 123 kilometers we drove on Construction Street which is built with Thai assistance.

Road conditions were so muddy (we called it melting chocolate) that team members needed to give it all their attention.

Sue Lin Rock Park is a UNESCO natural world heritage site which made the trip worthwhile by itself.

Our navigator, caravan controller and mechanic, Khun Anusorn, had much to do during the trip.

Chiangmai Mail’s Anchana Kosawantana receiving Poo Eor tea, which is supposed to be the best Chinese tea from Mr. Li Sing You, Director of Tourism Authority of Xishuangbanna.

Jew Chiang Cave is as romantic as it is breathtaking in nature.

The team in front of the Three King’s monument with Thongchai Wongrianthong, Chiang Mai provincial vice governor and Junnapong Saranak, director of Northern TAT and his wife.