After visiting San Kamphaeng Hot Springs and eating jacuzzi-boiled eggs we set on our way back. It was an early afternoon and the sun started setting. It felt much cooler and nicer, and it seemed like we had a little bit of time to explore the area more. We took a left turn and followed the signs to the Muang On Cave. Caves in Thailand are always exciting. There are always tiny little altars, rock formations and, more often than not, they are not very crowded.
We followed a small road, passing some temples, small houses and a huge Buddha on a hill. Despite the fact that I had seen so many of them before, we had to stop to take some pictures. The statue looked so mysterious and almost holy in the tall grass and the afternoon sun.
From there it was a small ride up a curvy, paved road. The area around the cave was very quiet. There were a couple of stalls with food and drinks, but there were almost no visitors. After paying 10 Baht for the parking we started the climb up the 180 steps that lead to the entrance of the cave.
Because the cave is not in the Lonely Planet (yet) the entrance fee is just 30 Baht, which goes towards the housekeeping. You can rent a torch at the entrance. If you don’t have one in your phone it is a good idea to rent it there.
The entrance to the cave is tiny and very narrow, so be careful. There are also some steep steps, especially at the beginning.
As to the cave – I must say – it was the most interesting one I have been to. First of all, there are no guides trying to rip you off, like in Chiang Dao. The cave is well lit with some pretty and colourful lights. There are altars and Buddha statues in the central spots of the cave, the main one being the reclining Buddha, which is 30 feet long.
After you leave the Muang On Cave, climb the mountain higher and take the steps on the right hand side to the entrance. We actually didn’t know what we were signing ourselves up for. At the beginning it was a pleasant climb in the shade of the surrounding trees, but after a bit it became more and more tiring. That was the moment when I found out that my fitness level is very, very, VERY low.
I think I almost died climbing those stairs. Because of the trees and bushes we couldn’t see how close we were to the top and that didn’t encourage me to make more effort. At one point I thought I would just quit. But, we finally made it and it was really worth it.
On the top of the mountain there are a couple of shrines and if you climb tiny stairs, leading to one of them you will be rewarded with amazing views. We spent some time just taking it all in and resting. There was no one around, just us.
The climb down from the Muang On Viewpoint went much better. I no longer felt like I was dying, my legs didn’t hurt and I caught my breath, finally. The shops downstairs were already closed – this is a warning for you – don’t be blonde, buy a bottle of water before you go up!
Despite the beautiful gardens of San Kamphaeng Hot Springs, the amazing cave and the breathtaking views, that particular drive made Chris’s day. He finally, after living in Asia for a while, he saw monkeys in the wild. A whole big family of them was playing by the road, jumping from a tree to tree, chasing each other. One car stopped and a girl started feeding them, so they came up really close. Chris didn’t want to go. I think I will get him a monkey for his birthday.
San Kamphaeng, along with the Muang On Cave, is a great idea for a trip from Chiang Mai. The drive is beautiful, quite easy (if you’re thinking of renting your own two wheels), and the area is quiet and provides much needed rest from the fumes of Chiang Mai.