The day after the Hot Springs in Pai, our motorbiker gang took to the road again, this time going to a waterfall (unimpressive- but to be fair it's dry season) and Lod Cave (hugely impressive) some 40 or 50 kilometers away in Soppong. The park authorities strongly recommend visitors hire a guide and lantern to explore the cave, but, partly due to how expensive it was (relative to a Thailand budget) and our spirit of independent adventure, we wanted to see how far we could get on our own. Just inside the mouth of the cave, however, I misjudged the solidity of a step and fell into a big mud pit. And when I say "mud," that's wishful thinking. The roof of the cave is home to thousands of bats. This, plus the idea that Gollum-like creatures would adore dark, damp real estate like this, plus a stubbed toe or two, made me call game over. I went back and hired a guide.
She was worth it for her powers of illumination and the guidance to the remote corners and crannies of the cave, but her narrative was limited to pointing at different rock formations and saying, "looks like popcorn," "looks like alligator," or "looks like Buddha." What a script. It seemed like fun though-- like imagine if you got to walk people through a museum of clouds pointing out what you thought the formations looked like: "this one's a pony... and this one over here is Oprah."
In one part of the cave we climbed up multiple steep staircases so littered with bat droppings you dared not touch the railings. If this cave were a tourist attraction in the US, you can bet it would be run differently. There would be warnings: wear suitable shoes, not recommended for the elderly or pregnant, beware of Gollum, etc. And there would be disclaimers: the park is not responsible if you're too cheap to buy a lantern; the park is not responsible if the bats choose to poo on the provided safety structures. Seriously though- the place was kind of hazardous. In the cavern we had to climb up to, there were four coffins. "Looks like coffin." No, they didn't belong to tourists who wore unsuitable shoes-- they were thousands of years old. I can't imagine how people succeeded in getting them up there pre-stairs, pre-lantern. What a job for the pallbearers. I can just picture some ancient loin-clothed man stubbing his toe and muttering "why couldn't we just cremate the guy..."