Made it to Cave Lodge in the small village of Tham Lot. The last time I was here was seven years ago.
I’m sitting on a hammock above the softly flowing river and the green valley. A deeply relaxing place. I arrived here a few days ago. We came on our motorbike taxis from the main road along winding green boulder strewn terrain, with cool air rushing over my face, and I felt exhilarated and deeply pleased to be in this landscape. A sense of congruence with my surroundings that I haven’t felt in ages. Then sitting on the wooden deck above the valley I felt pleased to be here – as if I finally didn’t have to fend off the ugliness or noise or crude commercialism of my surroundings. The ship had docked.
It was as if I could open all pores and let everything in, guard down (except for the occasional mosquito to be struck). The bioacoustics of this place lull and sooth. Crickets, gently cooing birds, water running softly over pebbles in the river below. Silence for the most. Then the sound of food frying in the kitchen. The soft clink of glasses in the kitchen and sometimes voices commenting in Thai. More green silence. A voice calls down the river. Vague scooter noise from up at the road. A couple of people loll and read up on the wooden deck near where I sit. They too are quiet. I look out and various levels and shades of green leaves, and tree trunks, rise up from the steep slope below me to high above. This place is perfect for this particular traveller. I don’t want to leave. A place I can be in without reservation.
The Nam Lang is a small river which runs through the valley below this village. The river passes through an enormous river tunnel called Tham Lot. Its one of the bigger caves you’re likely to encounter. I kayaked down the river yesterday and through the long, cavernous river tunnel. As you near the exit to the river tunnel light trickles along the walls, illuminating stone relief. Then you round the final corner and a cathedral of daylight shocks you out of a reverie in stalactite heavy darkness.
Elsewhere I’ve done some caving, and the country up here in the mountains is riddled with caverns and chambers.
One of the best things about being up here in the hill country is that most of the time you can make friends with a cheerful canine companion, who will most of the time be quite happy to accompany you on a walk through the valley. Maybe even two of them.
I swim in the river every day. Dogs and rivers, forest walks through deep green stillness, good food and a Chang beer at the end of the day for a very low price… rural south-east Asia and north-west Thailand in particular, does life well.