sign in a cave in Laos

31 December 2011

Phu Pha Phet Cave, Satun, Thailand

Phu Pha Phet Cave in Satun province, in south Thailand is a very large cave. It is large in terms of volume, or chamber size. [Looking at Google Earth it seems the cave is just over the border in Phattalung province, but the road access is from Satun province!]

In Sept 2000 I saw a signpost to this cave on the road 4137 south of La Ngu, between Ban Prae and Khuan Kalong. However the cave is a long way from here. We started to drive to it but gave up when we saw no sign of any limestone hills.

I mananged to get to the cave in Jan 2001 with the Axbridge Cave Group expedition.

Again we were driving on the 4137 road, but this time we were going north. Although the cave is signposted, there is no distance marked. Our guide said it is 30 km. We drove quite a way, then turned right onto a rough track and saw a sign for 2 caves, Phu Pha Phet and Jetkod, 20 km and 9 km. The road became very poor and we had to go over a very dubious looking bridge.

After some km we came to a sign for Golden Bell Cave on the left.

Golden Bell Cave - we drove down a rough track for a few km, and passed some limestone hills. The cave is in a hill on the right. There was one resident monk.

The first cave was more of a rock chamber with Buddhas, and at the back was a small pool with stal and many toads.

The main cave is further along the track and has electric lighting. A small entrance leads into a complex of large sloping chambers and tunnels. All the upper chambers are reached by wooden ladders made from planks, some with bamboo handrails. There were 2 or 3 beds in the high chambers.

We missed Jetkod Cave, but were told it is a river cave near Golden Bell.

It was still around 20 km to Phu Pha Phet Cave along a very rough track. We seemed to be surrounded by limestone hills most of the way. One tower on the right had an archway right through near the top. Very impressive.

Some of the hills had jagged blocks or pinnacles up hill. All very interesting.

We finally came to a sign to 2 caves, Phu Pha Phet and Tham Khong Khalod.

Phu Pha Phet - the entrance is half way up the hill. A small rock shelter with a low stooping passage leads into the main cave.

The main cave is HUGE. Wooden ladders lead down and only then we realised just how huge the chamber is. Huge stals and lots of blackness in the distance. Everything is very dry.

We walked around the chamber which is packed with stals. 2 guides showed us around. We were in a rush so didn't have time to stop and really look.

However we returned twice more to explore and survey both caves. It was more than a 2 hour drive from La Ngu (70 mins from Pak Bara on tarred road, then 70 mins on the rough track).

Phu Pha Phet is home to bats and invertebrates. At the base of the main chamber a steep slope and climb lead up to a very large opening which is really impressive (pic from Google Earth).

A side passage leads to a chamber and we could hear a river about 50 m below.

The next day we went in Tham Khong Khalod, which is a river cave at the base of the hill. We stopped when we reached deep water with a lot of bamboo and wood debris floating. We could hear the river beyond but didn't fancy the rubbish.

We realised that both these caves are connected, part of the same system. We again went up to Phu Pha Phet to check out some things including a drop into a blind chamber.

We also tried to abseil down to the river but our rope was to short.

At the time there seemed to be nothing written about Phu Pha Phet. Even now it doesn't feature on many websites. I was amused to see this site

Phu Pha Phet Cave is situated in Village number 9 Pa Pon Community Pakm Pattang Subdstrict, Manang, Palm Phattana.
Phu Pha Phet Cave in Thailand is one of the must visited places when you visit Manang district in Satun, Southern Thailand. This well kept secret has only recently been exposed to international tourism and for those who enjoy some serious Eco-Tourism or love caves, this is the place to visit. Also translated as the Diamond Mountain Caves, this is the largest cave in Thailand, the third largest in the world and apparently unavailable in most international travel guide books.

It is not the largest cave in Thailand or 3rd largest in the world. It might however be the 2nd largest chamber in Thailand, and approximately the 16th largest chamber in the world.

A full report was published in ACG Journal March 2001 and the ACG website.

Apparently there are now guided tours into the cave and headlights can be rented, according to this blog and another blog.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

29 December 2011

Thale Ban caves, Satun, Thailand

Thale Ban National Park is in the southernmost province of Satun and borders onto the state of Perlis in Malaysia.

In fact the Perlis State Park compliments Thailand's Thaleban National Park and forms a transboundary park.
Thale Ban Park headquarters are just a couple of kilometres from Malaysia’s Wang Kelian border post in Perlis.

The Nakawan range of limestone hills runs through the west side of Perlis and up into Satun. In Perlis there are many caves in the range, but surprisingly on the Thai side there are few caves.

In 2000 I joined the Axbridge Caving Group (from UK) to explore caves in Thale Ban. In Feb 2000 we did a recce trip and the main expedition was in Dec 2000 - Jan2001.

The best known cave in Thale Ban is Tham Ton Din. It is a 400m long river cave, just across the road from Park HQ. I had been in here on a previous visit in 1999.
Black bands in the bedding

During the recce the caves we found were much smaller.

We went to Wang Prah Meadows and trekked to Tham Padew. We were accompanied by a guy from the Field Force complete with HK automatic rifle which he used as a walking stick on tricky parts. Another guy had a gun in his bag.
Tham Padew is basically a large rock shelter with an 8m long passage at the back. Total length about 35m.

The next cave Tham Nam, was even shorter, about 8m long, but it was an eventful visit. We nicknamed the cave Broken Leg Cave for 2 reasons – inside we saw a toad with one bare femur bone and no flesh, and outside Ronn badly bruised his leg, which lasted more than 2 weeks. Later in a bar a lady gave me some aloe vera toothpaste to rub on the bruise.
There was a hornet nest in the entrance which we had to squeeze past – Martin got stung once on the way in, and I got more than 8 stings on the way out, very painful. The small entrance passage led down to a stream, and we persuaded Martin to do a balancing/traversing act only to find it ends in a sump.

On another day we got a lift to Ban Thung Phatthana on the back of a truck packed with boy scouts.

An old man led us through a rubber estate, dry paddy fields and a swamp to Tham Krun Krang. There was a knee-deep pool outside the cave and a bamboo fence.
We swam through the cave to the other end and explored the side passages, but none went. The cave basically bisects the small hill.

We then hired a truck in the village and went to Tham Peng, which are 2 short caves both going through the hill.

Then we looked at a dragon shaped limestone hill but could find no openings.

Next we explored the longest cave so far, Tham Kubor Duson, which is a tourist cave in a recreation park! This is 22 km north of Satun.
According to this site :
Located in the Village No. 5 in Amphoe Khuan Don and about 22 kilometers from the Satun town, the Duson Irrigation Dike, Satun is a huge reservoir. As you move a further up from the Duson Irrigation Dike, Satun, you would come across a lush green patch of land, steep slopes and caves.

After these short caves, we went over to Koh Tarutao, which is an island in a marine National Park and visited Crocodile Cave, Tham Chorakhe.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

25 December 2011

Wat Khuha Phimuk, Yala, Thailand

Wat Khuha Phimuk, also called Wat Na Tham, is a cave temple in Yala province.
It is about 5 km west of Yala, lying to the south of the 409 Yala to Hat Yai road near Na Tham.

I've been there twice, in 1993 and 2000.

Stairs lead up to the main cave temple and in 1993 the dragon handrail looked quite new.

The 1st pic was taken in 1993, the next 2 in 2000
The statue is large as you can see people at the base in 2 photos.

The cave is full of Buddhas of different kinds including a fat Chinese one, one wearing a crown, some less attractive ones and a thin one.
The last Buddha was seen in 2000.

The main Buddha is reclining and 24.5 m long. This is believed to have been constructed in 757 A.D. and is of Sivichaya style Reclining Buddha.

There is a nice marbled floor but lots of bats mean the floor gets covered in guano.

Further along the hill is Shop Cave, just a small chamber with Buddhas and a Goddess of Mercy.

And walk a bit more and you reach the main cave. It is very extensive and maze like. It is electrically lit but is not used as a temple. The stal is old and dry but the floor is damp.

There is a second entrance by the lake and there are statues of Chinese mandarins. When I was back in 2000 this cave was locked.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

24 December 2011

Wind Cave at Bau, Sarawak, Malaysia

Wind Cave is a show cave located at Bau, near Kuching, in Sarawak, Malaysia.

There are many caves in the Bau area, and they were first described by Europeans in the mid 19th century.

Gua Angin or Wind Cave lies about 2 km west of Bau town.
There is an entry fee of RM3 (2007)

When Sir Hugh Low visited in 1845 he was told the cave was the habitation of dragons and bad spirits. The tales of dragons probably originate from the noise the wind makes when blowing through the cave, the wind that gives the cave its name. It can be an eerie noise when in a pitch black cave.

Wind Cave has three main entrances and a river flows through the cave and joins the Sungai Sarawak Kanan at the northern entrance.
There are also lots of bats in the cave, and the noise of their fluttering wings can also sound like wind. Other animals live in the cave, mostly invertebrates such as long legged centipedes, spiders, crickets.

There are also bird nests

The river flowing past one entrance

See Fairy Cave.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission

cave paintings at Niah

I've been to Niah National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia, three times. In 1987, 1997 and 2001.

Niah Cave is famous for the Niah skull, an approx 40,000 year old human skull found in 1958.

Also there are some paintings in the Painted Cave at Niah that have been dated at about 1200 years.

On the 1987 I was able to get close to the paintings at Painted Cave, but I don't have the photos here to scan. By 1997 the paintings were securely fenced off.

© Liz Price
No reproduction without permission