So first up, where in the world is Sop Pong?! When it comes to Thailand, most people usually travel to Bangkok, Phuket, or the beaches like Koh Samui, Phi Phi Island, and the list goes on. But not many have been to Sop Pong or even heard of this place before! Hopefully after reading our post, all you adrenaline junkies will be inspired to check out Sop Pong next!
Where is Sop Pong?
Sop Pong is located in Northern Thailand, approximately 4-5 hrs drive from Chiang Mai. It’s very near the border of Myanmar, and just 1 stop away from Pai (supposedly a backpackers’ favourite).
How to get to Sop Pong from Chiang Mai?
We bought the bus tickets directly from the Arcade Bus Terminal 2 in Chiang Mai city. Take note that Bus Terminal 2 and 3 are directly opposite each other. Don’t end up at the wrong terminal like we did.
Once you enter Bus Terminal 2, walk all the way in till the end until you see this standalone red shop that says Avia Booking. This is the only shop at the terminal that sells tickets to Sop Pong. Or you can choose to book your tickets online instead, which we’ll highly recommend.
Tip: If you can, book your tickets online in advance.
Albeit having a bus almost every hour, the chance of it being full is very high as the mini van only holds up to 12 passengers!
We took the chance and headed to the bus terminal the same morning that we’re heading to Sop Pong to get tickets. Unfortunately most of the morning buses were full already and we had to take the bus at noon, which means we will only reach Sop Pong at around 5pm. So we kinda wasted one day travelling.
If you’re prone to motion sickness, you definitely need to pop your pills before this ride. The winding road to Sop Pong lasted for 2 hours and was almost unbearable!
Caving in Sop Pong
This was the main reason why we bookmarked Sop Pong on our to go list! We being adrenaline junkies, when we saw that Sop Pong was the king of caving tours, we knew we had to visit this place! There are more than 200 over limestone caves in Sop Pong!
Sunset at Tham Nam Lod Cave
One of the most famous and easily accessible caves in Sop Pong. It was only a 5-10 minutes walk from the lodge where we stayed at! Due to lack of time, we didn’t go for a tour inside the cave. So instead, we headed to the exit of the cave during sunset, where we knew 300,000 swifts will be flying out. Our first thought was that wow, this cave was massive! And there were so many fishes in the water! We really liked how raw the cave felt, with no board walks, fancy light installation or whatsoever. Just us, and nature.
It almost felt like a scene out of a National Geographic documentary when 2 swifts knocked into each other, fell into the water and a huge fish immediately bit one of the swift and refused to let go. The poor bird struggled and flapped its wings frantically for a good 5 minutes, before it was all calm and silent. It was quite a sad scene, especially for a bird lover. But, c’est la vie. It’s a dog eat dog world after all yeah. Moving on.
1 Day Caving Adventure Tour at Tham Nam Hoo
We honestly had such a tough time deciding which caving adventure tour to go for! There were like 8-10 different tours for us to choose from! After much deliberation, we finally decided on Tham Nam Hoo, seeing that it’s the most popular and apparently must-go tour according to the staff.
The tour started off with a 30 min drive, followed by a 45 minutes trek to the entrance of the cave. The trek was a relatively steep downhill all the way (which means we had to climb back up later!).
The entrance of the cave was quite narrow, and we had to clamber on all fours to get inside of the cave. That’s the fun part right?
But once we were inside, we were all in awe of the massive and unique looking stalactites and stalagmites! We’ve been to many caves before, but someone this cave’s formation trumps it all?
Despite it being the driest month of the year, the water level was easily up to our neck! Don’t worry, this cave is closed during the wet season. Also, we were given a backpack with a dry bag inside of it where we could keep our valuables dry and safe!
The entire caving tour lasted about 5 hours inside the cave, and we really enjoyed ourselves! We loved the uncertainty of not knowing what to expect next, and of course the climbing around inside of the cave.
Tip: Wear a good pair of lightweight waterproof shoes (preferably high cut) to protect your ankles when you step on loose rocks! And don’t forget to wear thick high cut socks to prevent abrasions from the sides of the shoes!
We had on our North Face Ambition series Safien shoes, and we were very impressed that the shoes didn’t feel heavy at all despite them being 100% soaked in water! Also the shoes had solid grip which made us feel safe when stepping on the damp rocks in the cave. (Ps. we weren’t paid to say this!)
There was actually an even more epic tour that was supposedly harder and more exciting. We wanted to go for that, but there was a minimum of 5 pax, and the other 2 guests with us didn’t seem keen. If I don’t remember wrongly, it should be Tham Nam Lan. But better to check with the staff there! The owner described this tour as the most epic tour.
Where we stayed in Sop Pong
There weren’t many options for accommodation in Sop Pong. We knew we wanted to go for a caving tour and decided on Cave Lodge since they specialised in organising the caving tours!
It was not bad staying here, the rooms were nice and cozy. They had a restaurant which served pretty good authentic Thai food, slightly pricer (average 60-160 baht) but it was worth it for the convenience. We read that there’s some eateries down the road from Cave Lodge, but we were too lazy to do that.
Cost of staying at Cave Lodge: 850 baht (S$36) per night for a private room.
How to get to Cave Lodge from the bus stop in Sop Pong
Where the bus drops you off at Sop Pong, there’s a mini mart. Just head in and ask the staff there for transport to Cave Lodge. The staff arranged a pick up truck for us at 300 baht 1 way for the 2 of us. Other options include getting a motorbike taxi (70baht). We didn’t see them though, so we went ahead with the pick up truck instead.
Our verdict on Sop Pong – is it a must go?
ABSOLUTELY! We just wished we had more time to spare in Sop Pong as we would have loved to go for a few of their caving adventure tours! Wed didn’t know that there were so many caving adventure tours available! They also have some very good treks to the villages in Sop Pong, which we didn’t go for due to lack of time.