Songkran / Tham Lod

It was another eventful Songkran this year. Essentially it is a giant drunken water fight for 3-4 days each year to celebrate the Thai new year. On a deeper level it is a astronomical date set when the dry season starts transitioning into the wet season, as such there are a number of Buddhist ceremonies to wash and cleanse the various statues of the Buddha and bring good luck. We decided to have a few people over for breakfast on the first day and then hit the moat for some fun. Luckily we only stayed one day to "play water" and then left for the north.

the interns in front of the shop
Noah's first swim in the moat...

classic combo, Chang and buckets

rock.

a roadside party, with complimentary scantily clad women

Max had a farmer theme going on

free drinks, why not?

Buddhist parade








Noah was giving us a lesson on how to take caffeine pills, even though he was the only one taking them, with a Chang. Keeping it classy.


We have been trying to slowly widdle down our Chiang Mai / Thailand bucket list for some time now. Songkran gave us a perfect opportunity to head to the hills and a secluded area called Cave Lodge. We had to first brave the early morning splashers to the Chiang Mai bus station and then proceed to manage hangovers while taking the 900 turns to Pai.

The town of Pai has been a hub in the northern regions for generations and is situated in a beautiful valley along the Mae Pai River. However, in the last few decades it has slowly been commercialized into some sort of hippies dreamville. Everyone you meet in Pai, that isn't Thai, either has dreads, no shirt on, no shoes on, wearing some strange amalgamation of cloth that is supposed to be clothing, or all of the above. This area used to be a trade route for opium connected to the Golden Triangle. As such the early visitors were usually junkies trying to get a cheap, high quality fix. After the break down of the opium trade and the state funded "progress" initiatives it has just become over run with smelly farang that have no business being on a motorbike. That being said, we rented motorbikes and headed up to Tham Lod.

Tham Lod is a local cave system that is still being formed by the river and attracts a number of tourists every year. Most of the local eco-tourism attributed to trekking and caving in this area can be attributed to John Spies and company. John came to Thailand in the late 70's and just never left. He has a quick unique history, which can be read in his book "Wild Times" at Cave Lodge. As an avid caver and cultural student his book was mind blowing. There are tons of caves in the region that still are unexplored, not to mention endless potential for climbing routes...

We took a tour of Tham Lod on one of our days at Cave Lodge, and I have to say I was really impressed. It is quite intact for the amount of traffic it sees. We paid for a local woman to guide us through via bamboo raft and a archaic rank smelling kerosene lamp. Many of the features I had never seen before in Thai cave systems, and there were even +/-2400 year old teak coffins in the upper chambers. The coffins had a number of coins thrown in them as offerings  and our guide told us the money was for the village as she safely funneled them into her pockets (yeah right lady!).

pit stop with possibly the worst bikes ever


pretty ok


electricity isn't consistent


John's autobiography, worth the read

Hill tribe man at the entrance of Tham Lod
6c behind the spirit houses

bamboo raft style



entrance



our guide referred to this as "popcorn rock," its a technical term

confusing Thai style signs

the guide chuckled when she pointed out the breast shaped feature on the left

paleo painting of deer, faded by the heavy cave traffic




teak coffins









stalactite city

clean limestone walls, everywhere




funny thing about the old bridge, it used to be called the new bridge


Katie reenacting a drunk


cave lodge