Kaeo cave is a pitch black, seemingly endless cave which is in the same national park as the famous Phraya Nakhon cave, home to Thailand’s smallest temple, which I also visited on a day trip.
Not as busy but just as interesting
I will be honest and say that I went to Kaeo Cave by mistake. I was heading to Phraya Nakhon cave, following the signs along the road, when I saw a sign that directed me down this little dirt road. I didn’t look at the sign too closely and thought this was where I had to go. It turned out I was heading to a completely different cave. But I had just as good experience in this cave as I did in Phraya Nakhon.
Kaeo cave is pitch black with bats
When I arrived at the entrance of the national park there was a little lady sitting by herself in a small, open air room with a fan on her and she was on her phone. She looked up, asked how many and gave me a ticket, then went back to her phone.
I started to walk down the path and about 30 meters later a man was sitting in an equally open air hut, chatting with his mate, and he had a lot of small flashlights with straps – the kind you can wear on your head like a hat. He asked me if I wanted to hire one and for a fleeting moment I thought: I don’t need a light! But that changed just as rapidly to: clearly they’re renting out these for a reason, just get one. So I hired a head light for 40B ($1.30USD).
The path to the cave was like all paths I’ve experienced so far: long, hot and steep. There are even sections with rope to help you balance yourself and haul yourself up. Naturally the explorer in me made me walk up without touching the rope once. It was very hot and dry and I saw a big group of Chinese tourists heading in the opposite direction, most covered in sweat.
Musical rocks in the cave
I’d read about the wonders of the natural light of Phraya Nakhon cave, which is where I thought I was, so when I reached the entrance and climbed down the ladder into the cave I was a bit underwhelmed.
The light did come in from the hole you climb down, but it wasn’t the vast beaming sun rays I had imagined. It was lesser and only touching a small part of the cave
The inside of the cave was full of stalagmites and stalactites, and it’s amazing to look at. One thing I suggest is to tap the structures (gently), you’ll discover that they’re musical! I was amazed when I discovered this, some sound like rock but others must be hollow and they produce a pitch, much like a xylophone or vibraphone.
Once I’d finished tapping the natural structures I wandered further towards the back of the cave, then went even further, and gradually the light got less and less. I thought it was amazing that there were no safety fences or hard hats: we were literally free to roam wherever we wanted.
Deciding to keep the light off and explore in the pitch black
I clearly knew what the light was for, and it was becoming obvious that the cave went deeper and deeper. I reached a section where you sort of turned a few corners into pitch blackness. I decided to “be an ancient cave explorer and only rely on my senses”, so I decided to keep the light off as I went into the darkness.
I walked slowly into the darkness with my hands out, and after about 6 steps it was utterly dark. My hands were running along each side of the wall and my eyes were wide, darting around for any sense of shape or light. There was none.
Quickly I felt the cave floor rise slightly to a narrow point, like the top of a thin wall – without enough space to have both feet next to each other. So to keep stable I had to swing my right arm around to meet my left, twist my body and balance my weight on the wall opposite me. I was now walking in a sideways direction, I was slowly feeling my way using my hands and feet to walk. First my right leg and hand would move, then the left would join them.
After about 10 slow steps I thought: Okay you’re not an ancient cave explorer, just turn the light on. So with my left hand still leaning against the wall I reached into my right hand pocket, pulled the light out and turned it on.
Chasm of doom
What I saw below me gave me a bit of a shudder. I discovered that I’d been walking leaning over a 30 foot chasm. My feet were walking along the top of one of the chasm walls, my body had been leaning over the chasm, and my hands had been resting on the other side of the chasm wall. One slip and I would have fallen into a world of pain.
The really stupid thing was that now the small light was on I could see that behind me was a big, wide and flat path I could walk on. So I hopped off the ledge and stood with my feet firmly on the ground for a moment or two. I decided to use the light for navigation after this, without it it was utterly pitch black.
Deeper and deeper into the cave
As I went further into the cave it got quite low in points. It was so low I had to crawl on my hands and knees, I’d say about two foot high. It was flat above and below me, so if there was a cave-in I’d be splattered between the two giant pieces fo rock, like a Dan jam sandwich. Some weird things went through my mind while I was exploring!
Sections of the cave would also expand out into great openness. The thought again came to me that this was like a cave adventure tour, except with no guide, training or safety equipment. I guess the Thai government are very trusting that no one will do anything stupid.
Turning the lights off and sitting still
I’ve never experienced anything quite as black as this cave before. Sometimes when you’re in pitch-black your eyes can get used to it, and slowly vague shapes or pieces of light will reveal themselves. Not in this cave.
I found a nice rock to sit on in a nice big and safe open bit and sat down. After I sat I switched my light off and didn’t make a sound, just to see what it was like.
It was a very weird feeling, I kept opening and closing my eyes and couldn’t tell the difference, it was like my eyes were numb. After a while they began to ache from straining. I wasn’t wide eyed trying to find light, I was just looking normally, however there was nothing to be seen. I think my brain was confused that my eyes were open but there was nothing to register.
I heard the odd flap of a bats wing, and other strange noises which I didn’t know what they were. I assumed it was an animal or insect of some kind.
Light on in the heat!
After about ten minutes I turned the light back on, and suddenly I was bought back to the cave, back to reality. My imagination was quickly diluted and I just saw rock all around me.
It was very hot in there, for some reason I thought caves were cool, but I was sweating harder the further I went in. I used all my water before I even exited. After a moment or two looking around I made my way back down the dark passages until I saw natural light again. The sunlight was a very welcome sight, it was yellow and felt full of life. I climbed the ladder out and went back to my bike, dripping with sweat and covered in dust.
It was a great and sometimes scary experience, but I’m very glad I did it. If you go to Khao Sam Roi Yot national park I recommend you check out some of the smaller caves, who knows what you might find! You’ll also probably be the only person in it, so you can have a great solo experience away from the cameras and crowds of the other famous cave.
In the following few days I also visited Phraya Cave which is home to Thailand’s smallest temple: a place that is so magnificent it doesn’t look real. Also take a look at my Thailand page for other interesting posts about the country, from sleeper trains to New Years Eve in Chiang Mai and much more.