Ban Tham

The race is based in the Shan tribal village of Ban Tham, and the HQ, start and finish is at the amazing Cave Lodge on the edge of the village.  The stunning main lodge house is built of teak with a huge traditional leaf roof and overlooks the beautiful Nam Lang River.  This area has a huge variety of things to do;  caving (alone or guided), kayaking, exploring the beautiful landscape with its valleys and limestone cliffs, visiting remote hill tribe villages, and watching the bird show in nearby Tham Lod cave, when approximately 300,000 swifts return to the cave each evening.

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This is karst limestone country, and so the towering red and white limestone cliffs provide a magnificent backdrop to the area.  This also means that the area is home to a network of hundreds of magnificent caves.  There are over 200 caves in the local area, ten of them are longer than 1km, and five are more than 4km long, with world-class, pristine formations.  Some caves are huge river tunnels with passages typically 20-50 metres high and wide.  One collapsed cave, the Spirit Well is 100m deep and 100m across, with sheer cliffs and an untouched forest at the base. 

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More than one hundred caves in Pang Mapha district were burial caves of the ancient peoples who lived here.  These are known locally as Spirit Caves (Tham Pi Man) and are important archaeological sites.  Artifacts include the remains of massive teak coffins (up to 8m long),  that have been carbon-dated to 1400-2200 years old.  Ancient pots and beads have also been found here.   Other caves shelter rare rock paintings, and there are also many rock shelters that were once prehistoric habitation sites. 

Just a 10 minute walk from the race HQ is Tham Lod (Lod Cave).  Here you can watch 300,000 birds fly into the cave every evening after sunset, in the twilight.  Tham Lod is an enormous river tunnel with three high dry caverns.  The cave walls are covered with massive formations, and columns over 20 metres high tower over visitors.  The third cavern shelters the remains of prehistoric teak coffins.  Nearby is a recently excavated archaeological site – a rock shelter where a 20,000 year old human skeleton was found – the oldest in Northern Thailand.  

You might even find yourself doing this:

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Also in this area are some great rivers for kayaking, and blackwater kayaking through Tham Lod cave can be arranged at the Lodge. The local tribes in this area are Lahu, Karen, Shan and Lisu. There are several villages locally that can be trekked to independently or with a guide.