Wild boars soccer team at Tham Luang cave

Tham Luang Cave, Exploring The Greatest Rescue Site In History

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Ever since the daring cave rescue in Tham Luang Cave captivated our attention in 2018, we’ve been eager to explore Northern Thailand and witness the site of this challenging rescue. The perfect opportunity arose during our visit to Chiang Rai when we finally had the chance to venture into the depths of Tham Luang Cave.

Tham Luang Cave Rescue Site

The Tham Luang Cave in the Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park stretches for about 10.3 Km. With a multitude of unique rock sculptures within the cave, each telling its own story—stalactites gracefully bending, resembling bacon, straw-like formations, delicate curtains, sparkling popcorn-shaped structures, sturdy columns, flowstones, rimstones, and majestic stalagmites. As the light gently caresses these extraordinary creations, they come alive, shimmering, and sparkling with a mesmerizing beauty.

Rescue Incident

A youth soccer team called the Wild Boars, with a 12-member count and their coach, had gone exploring the Tham Luang Cave on the 23rd of June 2018 after their football practice. Little did they know they would get trapped by the heavy downpour blocking their way out. Over 20,000 skilled experts, workers, and volunteers from over 23 countries scoured the area, igniting a mass search. After a gruesome 9 days, 5 hours, and 41 minutes, the soccer team was found on a tiny beach about 4 km inside of the cave from its mouth, called the Nern Nony Sao, on 2nd July to the collective relief of the world. 

This successful rescue mission was completed on the 10th of July, 2018, stretching a heart-punding 17 days, 4 hours, and 29 minutes. This entire series of events was retraced in a Netflix documentary involving the kids who had gotten stuck inside the cave. Based on true incidents, we would recommend that you watch this documentary before visiting the cave to understand the complexity of the accident that had occurred and the intensity of the search and rescue operation.

The Legend of Doi Nang Non

The legend of Doi Nang Non

The appearance of this mountain range where the Thom Luang cave lies has an interesting story attached to it. Locally called the story of the princess and the horse keeper, it is a popular piece of folklore. 

In the enchanting tale of Junghong in Zishuangbanna, a princess deeply in love with a horse keeper embarks on a fateful journey. Fleeing together when they discovered her pregnancy, their path led them to the Mae Khong River. 

Tham Luang Cave mountain range

Tragedy struck when the horse keeper ventured for food, leaving the princess alone. He dies at the hands of the king’s soldiers. Overwhelmed by grief upon learning of her husband’s fate, the princess chose to end her own life, piercing her head with a hairpin (Doin Pin). The blood that flowed from her wound transformed into the Mae Sai River. Her lifeless form, stretching from the north to the south, shaped the landscape into Doi Nang Non (the Lying Maiden mountain). The contours of her body continued to weave the geographical tapestry – her vagina becoming Tham Luang, her pregnant belly forming Doi Tung, her head giving rise to Doi Jong, and her breasts sculpting the majestic Doi Mae Ya.

Visiting The Cave

Ride by the electric vehicle to the Tham Luang Cave

A five-minute ride in an electric vehicle from the parking lot will drop you right at the cave entrance. After climbing a few steps, you will come across the statue of Doi Nang Non. We paid our respects here.

Belongings of the rescued boys and rescuers

At the cave’s entrance, we also noticed a couple of bicycles used by the boys in 2018. You can see a few of their belongings, like torches, bags, footwear, clothes, gas cylinders, etc., kept on display. 

Tham Luang Cave entrance

As we descended inside the cave, we could hear the dripping sound of water echoing in our heads. The cave was lit, the lights being a recent addition, allowing tourists to explore the cave better. We could see the high-voltage electric lines and water outlets used during the rescue mission retained in their place. The visitors were allowed to enter Chamber One. When you attempt to see beyond this, it appears void and is pitch black. 

Inside the Tham Luang cave

You lose your breath when you stand in the cave and try to imagine a bunch of children and their coach being trapped there. With strong currents running through the water, the narrow passageways, sharp stones littered, and utter darkness seem brutal. There are no words sufficient to explain the horror they must have faced, with no food, waning oxygen, and the cold darkness greeting them daily. The thought left us heavy for the survivors and their loved ones. 

Our curiosity led us to a thought-provoking discovery as we marveled at the diverse rock formations. Outside, a dedicated gallery adorned with pictures crafted by the national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat commemorated the children and rescue personnel involved in the 2018 incident, with the artworks available for purchase. The continuous loop of live news broadcasts from that significant period played on television, offering a reminder. In another captivating gallery, a 3D model, intricately fashioned from sand and clay, depicted the unfolding events.

Saman Kunan Thai navy seal

Adjacent to the gallery stood a memorial honoring Saman Kunan, the former Royal Thai Navy SEAL who sacrificed his life during the rescue mission. Sadly, another Thai diver succumbed to a blood infection post-cave exploration. 

The premises also featured convenient shops offering snacks and drinks. Well-maintained restroom facilities were provided to ensure a comfortable visit.

Visitor Information

  • Timings: 8:40 AM – 4:30 PM. Closed during monsoons from July to November.
  • Entry Fee: Free for all, including foreigners.
  • Parking fee: 20 THB per vehicle.
Orange orchids near the cave

We discussed the possibility of seeing orange farms and their plausible locations. Our journey to Doi Tung pleasantly surprised us with vibrant orchards. Stopping our bike, we asked locals for a taste, and the experience of enjoying these fresh oranges straight from the farms was one we’ll never forget. The thin outer layer and heavenly flavor reminded us of biting out of warm sunshine.

A place filled with stories. Do not skip this place if you’re visiting Chiang Rai.

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