We made the decision, since we assumed there is not much going on in Soppong, to take a day long detour from Mae Hong Son north to the Pang Ung Forest and then further north, almost to the border, to Rak Thai. The forest was our lunch stop. It was peaceful and pretty but I thought there was going to be more in the way of hiking trails. There weren’t. There were rafts for rent which would have probably been a nice ride. If you have the time I think it’s pretty enough to deserve a visit.
Rak Thai is tiny, as are most of these small towns. It seems that every shop there sells all kinds of dried things so if you’re in the market for a snack this is a good place to get out. Most of the shop-owners will let you try a piece of the dried fruit/vegetable so you can make up your mind. We tried a bunch of stuff and decided on some sour plums; the dried tomatoes were . . . interesting.
After that detour we made it to Soppong. They have a small night market, but besides that the food options are slim. Although our guesthouse had a kitchen we decided to check out dinner at the Soppong River Inn just for a change of scenery. It was peaceful and delicious, probably much like it would have been at our guesthouse.
As a side-note, and if you’re interested in mediation, Wat Pa Tam Wua Forest Monastery sits between Mae Hong Son and Soppong. We stopped there to look around and saw a lot of mute people in white flowy robes looking bored, confused, and at peace?
There are not many places to stay in Soppong. Maybe two or three other guesthouses along the main drag. And Soppong consists only of the main drag. Little Eden was very nice, the owner/manager speaks beautiful English and you have a range of rooms to choose from ranging from a little bungalow to, I believe, a whole house. We chose the in between and were quite happy.
If you walk to the back of the Little Eden property there is a whole trail back into the wilderness you can wander on for about an hour. It seems like there are several branch off trails but we tried to stay on the main one. The trail markings aren’t great and we got lost once but it was a nice walk and ends in a garden.
The following morning we left Soppong and drove 20 minutes north to visit the Tham Lot cave. We were originally going to stay at the Cave Lodge but decided to just see the cave and go on to Pai. The tour of the cave is no longer than two hours and there just didn’t seem to be enough to do to warrant an overnight stay.
To go into the cave you need to hire a guide. Once you pay at the main desk a guide is assigned to you. The tours last about an hour or so depending if you visit all three caves or just caves two & three. You can also decide if you want to take the raft back or walk back.
The tour itself left a lot to be desired. It would have been better if we spoke Thai since our tour guide spoke no English. Therefore, there was no education involved. She pointed at formations that looked like popcorn and said ‘popcorn’ and formations that looked like a crocodile and said ‘crocodile.’ There were a few signs teaching you the difference between stalagmites and stalagtites, again, but let’s face it, I will never be able to remember which is which.
There is also a peculiar thing that happens at night at the mouth of the cave where swifts and bats exchange places. Although we didn’t see that, I don’t think I’d be able to take it depending how long it takes. The smell of there poo, that was everywhere in that part of the cage was overwhelming. I couldn’t wait to get out. Maybe caves just aren’t my thing.
Road conditions: fair to good