After our fabulous trek in the jungle (see blog and photos), it was time to leave Soppong and move on to the town of Mae Hong Son (MHS) in the northeast of Thailand right on the border with Burma. We spent two delightful nights in Sopping. Sopping is located in the Mae Hong Son Province.
We left the car in Sopping and hiked up the hill to the famous Lod caves. We followed the road through the forest passing ethnic farming villages – it was about 8 Km and we eventually reached the caves. It’s necessary to go through the caves on a bamboo raft, using a guide with a flare. The water is quite shallow but there are thousands of large fish including carp. The caves are amazingly beautiful although some of them are a bit claustrophobic. Apart from the fish, the caves are populated with a large number of bats – their droppings leaves a distinctive smell! Arriving at the entrance to each cave, it was necessary to leave our raft and walk inside, over floppy bridges and climbing many steps and stones. However, we were rewarded with some excellent examples of stalagmites, stalactites and columns – we were asked to use our imagination when an elephant was pointed out! For some amazing photos in the public domain, open this link.
After the caves, we’d arranged for Toy, our travel agent for the trek on the previous day, to pick us up and drop us back in Sopping, where we picked up our car and got on the road for Mae Hong Son.
The drive to MHS was uneventful and stunningly beautiful. We knew this stretch of road rather well, having driven from Chiang Mai to Pai via MHS ( another adventure but a very beautiful albeit in error). We checked in to our hotel and agreed to catch up with Paula and Leo for dinner. Marilyn and Alf had visited MHS three years earlier. For some stunning photos in the public domain.
Paula and Leo explored the temple and the downtown area around the lake. Marilyn and Alf climbed hundreds of steps to the monastery at the top of the very steep hill and were rewarded with a fabulous sunset and stunning views over the valley (our photos will follow).
The next day we checked out at 7.30AM and set off for Chiang Mai, travelling on our very familiar stretch of road once again and back to Pai where we collected a forgotten item from our earlier stay there. We all shared the driving, which made it a bit easier as this was now the most challenging part of the drive, totally unsuitable for bad nerves and travel sickness!
We arrived in Chiang Mai late afternoon and returned our hire car to Hertz at the airport and got a taxi to our hotel and put our feet up!
Along with Paula and Leo, we were all meeting up with Janet and Tony for the evening. In case you missed the earlier blog, the six of us are friends from the Phoenix Walking Group in Cyprus. Tony had made a reservation at a touristy restaurant on the river. The prices were a bit of a rip-off for Thailand but the setting was pretty and the food was quite good or so we thought! An explanation follows in the following blog.