sign in a cave in Laos

30 November 2023

Atlas of Great Caves & karst of Southeast Asia, 3rd edition

 Atlas of the Great Caves and the karst of Southeast Asia, 

3rd edition

Hot off the press, Dec 2023 

Available for sale from the publisher in Germany. Contact me for details.

See more on BHB website, look under 2023.

13 November 2023

Oldest human fossils found in Vietnam

 The VnExpress on 2 Nov 2023 reported on "Vietnam uncovers oldest human remains". 

Skeletal human remains dating back 10,000 years have been found in a cave, making them the oldest human fossils ever unearthed in Vietnam. The remains were found last March at the Tam Chuc Pagoda Complex in Kim Bang District, in the northern province of Ha Nam.

At the Tam Chuc complex, archaeologists discovered three graves of children and adults, with the people buried in a kneeling position. There were also mollusc shells and teeth bones of small animals, which could have been food sources for ancient people. There were sea molluss shells along with stream snails. At the top of the mountain they found pieces of pottery lying alongside mollusc pieces.

At 10,000 years, these are the oldest human remains to be found in Vietnam. This means they date back to the late Pleistocene to late Holocene age, or 10,000-12,000 years ago.

Excavations at two caves in Kim Bang revealed prehistoric paleontological and material culture remains including animal fossils and reddish-brown rope pottery fragments belonging to the Dong Son culture. Dong Son was a Bronze Age culture in ancient Vietnam centered in the Red River valley of northern Vietnam from 1000 BC until the first century AD.

Photo taken from VnExpress -

9 November 2023

Earthquake affects Phi Hua To cave, Krabi, Thailand

 An earthquake off northern Sumatra on 7 Nov 2023 apparently caused cracks in the rock at Phi Hua To cave, Krabi, Thailand. The cave has been closed indefinitely after there were small rockfalls and cracks appeared.

The cave is in Than Bok Khorani National Park, in Ao Luk district. See Bangkok Post report.

I visited the cave on a canoeing trip in 2002, and wrote two blogs, "Canoeing in Than Bokkhorani Park, Krabi" and "Canoeing around Krabi - Star".

The cave is best known for its petroglyphs and is known as the Big Headed Monster Cave.

7 November 2023

Tham Phu Pha Phet, Satun, Thailand

 In 2011 I wrote a blog about Tham Phu Pha Phet in Satun, Thailand, which I had visited with the Axbridge Caving Group in 2001. 

The area now comes under the Satun UNESCO Global Geopark, designated in 2018.

On 6 November 2023, Nature published a report "Unravelling the hidden diversity of cave mycobiota in Thailand’s Satun Geopark". In 2019 researchers had studied the mycobiota or fungi, in two caves in the Geopark, Le Stegodon and Phu Pha Phet Caves.  

From the article :
"Satun Province in southern Thailand, recognized as the "Land of Palaeozoic fossils," became the country's first UNESCO Global Geopark on April 17, 2018. The Satun UNESCO Global Geopark encompasses four districts in Satun Province, known for diverse karst topography and abundant fossils from the Palaeozoic Era. Phu Pha Phet Cave, or "Diamond Mountain Cave," in Satun Province, Thailand, is the country's largest and the world's fourth-largest cave, with a length of 536.65 m and an area of 0.16 hectares. The cave has over 20 chambers with dazzling stalactites and stalagmites resembling diamond flakes, accessed via a wooden bridge and illuminated by lighting. Tourist visits are allowed with restricted access for conservation and sustainable tourism purposes, resulting in limited visitation and moderate human interference."

I don't know the definition of largest cave in this context. It is obviously not length, could be they are referring to volume. 

These are the surveys from the 2001 ACG visits :

15 September 2023

Gunung Kanthan cave monastery in danger from destruction 2023

It looks like the Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery at Gunung Kanthan, Perak is in danger again. The Court of Appeal’s recent decision means the likely forced eviction of the occupants of the monastery. The Court has made a unanimous decision in favour of Associated Pan Malayan Cement (APMC), a subsidiary of YTL, in a land dispute case under Order 89, against the Malaysia Dhamma Sakyamuni Monastery. APMC won its appeal after the company sought a High Court order in Ipoh in January 2022.

Once again there could be imminent destruction of the century-old monastery and also the Gunung Kanthan unique distinctive karst landscape, as well as the endemic flora and fauna.

On 13 Sept 2023, Badan Warisan issued a media statement about their concern on the Court of Appeal’s decision involving the forced eviction of the occupants of Dhamma Sakyamuni Monastery at Gunung Kanthan, north of Ipoh in Perak. See the statement.

There is also a petition "Save Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, Save Gunung Kanthan ", which needs as many signatures as possible.


Media reports :

FMT 8 Sept Cement company wins appeal to evict century-old Perak monastery

NST 9 Sept 100-year-old Buddhist monastery in Perak faces eviction after losing court battle

NST 12 Sept Preserved by a century old monastery, five-million-year-old limestone hill may now make way for cement factory

NST 12 Sept Abbot of century-old Buddhist monastery expresses disappointment over court eviction 

NST 15 Sept Abbot of century-old Perak Buddhist monastery not moving out, will continue fight

NST 16 Sept SAM disappointed over court decision to evict Buddhist monastery in Gunung Kanthan

FMT 17 Sept Perak govt sets up panel to study eviction of century-old monastery

NST 17 Sept Special committee to study Gunung Kanthan monastery issue

Star 17 Sept Committee formed to look into Dhamma Sakyamuni Caves Monastery, says Perak MB

Astro Awani video on youtube 18 Sept Consider This: Gunung Kanthan — Perak’s Quarrying Dilemma

Star 18 Sept Kanthan land dispute case to be mediated by state govt

FMT 26 Sept We’re not budging from cave monastery, says abbot

SUN 1 Nov Research work on tropical limestone karst landscapes to protect Malaysia’s unique heritage

Star 1 Nov Research on tropical limestone karst aims to protect Malaysia's unique heritage

14 June 2023

86,000-year-old human bone found in Laos cave

 News emerged in mid June 2023 about 86,000-year-old human bone found in Laos cave. The cave is Tam Pà Ling, or Cave of the Monkeys, located about 3,840 feet (1,170 m) above sea level at the top of Pa Ling mountain in northeastern Laos. See Wikipedia on Tam Pa Ling. 

Hominin fossils have been found by researchers since 2009 and there were more significant finds in 2013. Dating the bones  indicated a maximum age of 63,000 years, this would be the earliest skeletal evidence for the presence of Homo sapiens in mainland Southeast Asia.

The articles released in June 2023 reports fragments of a human shin bone and skull have been dated at 86,000 years. This pushes back the earliest known date of Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia. The study was reported in Nature Communications on June 13 "Early presence of Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia by 86–68 kyr at Tam Pà Ling, Northern Laos". 

See also an article in Live Science and another in New Scientist.

26 April 2023

Batu Caves now part of a new Geopark

 In March 2023 it was announced that the new Gombak-Hulu Langat Geopark had been established. This is in Selangor, Malaysia. The Geopark includes Batu Caves and Damai park, as well as Bukit Takun, and the Klang Gates quartz ridge.

The Gombak-Hulu Langat Geopark (GHL) was certified as a national geopark on 13 March. 

See article in The Star 23 April "Malaysia's new geopark is a geological wonder that's just an hour from KL". 

It is the 7th national geopark. Others with karst area are Langkawi, Kinta Valley and Lenggong.

26 March 2023

Tourist dies at Tiger Cave viewpoint, Krabi. Thailand

 In March 2023 an Australian tourist died at the viewpoint above Tiger Cave near Krabi. Thailand. 

Tiger Cave temple or Wat Tham Suea is a popular tourist attraction, just outside the town of Krabi. The cave is at ground level. It is a Buddhist meditation centre. There are other caves in the area.

Another attraction is climbing the stairs to the viewpoint at the top of the hill. When I was there in 1995, there were 1237 steps up a single stairway. But the stairs have been rebuilt and now there are 1260 steps to the top. At the top is a large golden statue of Buddha and Buddha's footprint.

The Australian man died at the top of the viewpoint.

The view in 1995 ! :

There are lots of macaques around the area

Signboard in the valley showing some of the other caves. The forested circular valley is a wang, with a sacred tree in the centre and the caves are around the cliff walls. 
The caves are : Miusua Cave, Loogtan Cave, Loop Cave, Pla Lai Cave, Lublare Cave, Chang Kheaw Cave, Snake Cave, Jaed Chan Cave, Theawada Cave.

See accident report in TheThaiger , and on MSN news.

See more on Tiger Cave in Wikipedia.