Chiang Dao / Tham Lod

Took a few mini trips outside of Chiang Mai since I have been back in Thailand, the first of which was a trip up to Chiang Dao with Katie. The town is named after the giant Doi Chiang Dao (doi means mountain), which is an impressive and awe-inspiring sight as you drive north into the hills. You can actually hire guides to take you to the top, from what I have heard its a bit touristy and a guide is mandatory. Still I would like to hike it sometime before I leave. Anyway, we stayed at the Nest near Wat Tham Chiang Dao, and it was amazing. Some of the best food and service I have experienced in Thailand. Our main objective of the trip was to find a climbing area developed by P' Sorn and a few of his proteges. After a pleasant ride into the country side we found the spot. With virtually no climbers ever venturing up there the routes were a bit dirty but super fun, if you discount how terrible the anchors were (word to any future bolter, never put rope through expansion bolt hangers and call that an anchor). It was a nice little vacation from the city and I hope to go back as soon as I can!

it took a few tries to get

inside the cave

Doi Chiang Dao

The second of the mini excursions happened sort of by chance and luck. I was able to contact an archaeologist, Khun Rasmi Shoocongdej, from Slipakorn University in Bangkok. After letting her know that I wanted to learn more about Thai archaeology and help out if I could, she promptly invited me to Tham Lod in Mae Hong Son province to her most current dig. The research team consisted of 4 ladies (Toon, Un, Ai, and Namkhing) that had studied under Khun Rasmi and were eager to learn as much from me as I did from them, primarily they wanted to practice their English for the upcoming archaeology convention in Siem Riep. Do to the nature of the site and its sensitivity I could not share any photos except the entrance chamber, and will only be able to describe the sight loosely.

Like many of the sights in this area the cave was used as a cemetery for generations, most likely by many different culture groups. The most recent and exciting of these groups is associated with teak coffins, which the cave had an absurd amount of, some of which were so large it is hard imagining how they got them into those tight chambers (evidence of cave modification was everywhere). I was able to help each member of the research team for one day digging units. This was my first time working with human remains and it was a bit intense at first, luckily lots of Thai jokes and smiles took the edge off. This work was some of the most physically demanding I have done in a long time, being confined to a small area, having to do intricate work, and to top it off all in a low oxygen chamber was exhausting........and these ladies have been doing it day in and day out for the last 6 months and most likely another 8........impressive.

Before we entered the cave each day we were asked to pray to the spirits, this was a courtesy to the local Shan people. I feel like this practice would be disregarded in a heartbeat in the states, it was refreshing to be around.

Beyond the cave the research team was wonderful, helping me learn some new Thai words and being light hearted. Something I realized while working with these ladies was how genuinely happy and easy going Thai people are, its a great environment to be in and part of, you can never stay sad for too long here. It was a great experience, but I need to let my body recover before asking for a second round.


Toon and the new cat Chewy (slowly)