May 1, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
If Chiang Mai is your destination of choice for an overseas medical placement, you are in for a real treat. From scuba diving and elephant camps to Buddhist temples and jungle treks, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in this enthralling city. For something totally off the beaten path, try and fit in a visit to the spectacular Muang On Cave system, located in the Chiang Mai area.
According to local folklore, several centuries ago, the area around Muang On was often invaded by Burmese and other invading armies. Whenever there was an invasion, the local villagers would gather their families, belongings and sufficient food supplies and hide out in the caves till things settled down.
Muang On Cave is situated at a distance of about 30km away from Chiang Mai, near the famous Hot Springs. The road that leads to the caves winds its way up the side of a hill to a small car park. At the car park you have to get off the vehicle and climb up a steep, 180-step stairway before you reach the entrance to the cave.
You have to pay a nominal entrance fee, which goes towards the upkeep of the caves. Once you’ve paid your fee, you’re all set for an intriguing adventure through the network of caves.
As you enter and walk around, you will come across several steep staircases going down along with several flat walkways in between. What’s particularly interesting is that you do not need to duck your head as you walk around as all of the caverns within the system are surprisingly high. Fluorescent lights have been artfully placed around to light up the place while retaining the look and feel of natural rock formations.
The winding concrete pathway along the cavern floor allows you to wander along till you finally reach the end of the caverns. As you walk around, you will see several little shrines or grottoes all along the path that have been erected over the decades. Another thing to watch out for is the amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations. As you get to the main cavern floor, you will come across a gigantic, 30-foot long reclining Buddha statue amidst the stalactites. Above the statue is what, according to legend, is a fossilised dinosaur skeleton!
You can take your time and wander around anywhere within the network of caves for as long as you want, which is great because you will want to spend at least a few hours here. Walking around, you will come across plenty of unique sights along with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Be prepared for the long climb back up the staircase to the cave entrance once you are done.
A visit to Muang On Cave is an excellent idea for a day trip especially if combined with a visit to the Hot Springs. On the drive, you can stop and shop at the numerous handicraft centres and factories that line the roads all along the way.