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Spirit caves in Pang Mapha - Mae Hong Son

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Wooden coffin in a cave There are more than 200 caves found in Pang Mapha district in Mae Hong Son province (northern Thailand). This place close to Myanmar's Shan state is a house to several hilltribe mountain people. These tribes include Thai Yai (Shan), Mu Sir Daeng (Red Mu Sir), Mu Sir Dum (Black Mu Sir), Li Saw (Lisu) and Karen.

Inside several caves coffin-like log containers are found along with ancient artifacts such as pottery. Some tribe people believed that spirits or ghosts (of the deads) lived in these caves, and they did not want to go inside. Others who did not belive went inside and took away many of the artifacts and coffin-like log containers.

However there are still several caves where people can see the coffins. Logs were cut halfway along their length and dug out to become containers, like canoes. On each end there are handles some of them curved in pig-head shape. The lengths of these coffins vary and are average 5 meters.

Ping Yah cave (Sectional view of cave)
It is located one hour trek from Ban Ya Pai Nae village (see the map). The cave is around 50 meters deep. The chamber inside is roughly 13 meters wide, 16 meters long and the ceiling is 20 meters above the ground. Many wooden coffins have been found inside. However no bones nor any human remains have been found in the cave. The test shows the age of coffins as about more than 1600 years.

Bor Krai cave (Sectional view of cave)
This is not far form Ping Yah cave. But one must come from other way due to very difficult landscape. Please see the map to the direction. It is located 3 hours (moderate) hike away from Ban Bor Krai village. The 20 to 25 coffins found in this cave are still in good shapes. No human remains have been found in the cave.

Travel and accommodations
Buses run from morning till evening between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son. They stop at Pai, Sop Pong and Pang Mapha. Many budget accommodations are available in Sop Pong, Pang Mapha and places near Lod cave (one of the most famous caves). The area offers out of the beaten track trails, hilltribe village home stay and rafting trips.

Going into the caves will need a local guide, torch light; and for steep and vertical caves safety equipment.

Please take only photos, not a piece of artifacts.

Fon (14 June 2003)

Salawin river, Mae Hong Son province, northern Thailand
Hike & Hilltribe village homestay to Salawin river, Mae Hong Son