Most tourists who travel up to Mae Hong Son province’s northernmost subdistrict, Soppong, are drawn towards the fascinating caves and spectacular mountain scenery. Visitors can add Lang River bamboo rafting excursions to their guided Lod Cave excursions or simply admire the scenery from the Pang Mapha Viewpoint. The normally sleepy village of Soppong comes alive each Tuesday during a weekly market close to the bus stop.
The one and a half kilometre long Lod Cave (or Tham Lod) is one of the most easily accessible caves in all of Thailand. Lod Cave may not be the largest of Soppong’s several prehistoric caves, but spelunkers will nonetheless be impressed by its 50m main chamber, smaller interior coffin cave, and spectacular stalactite formations. Late afternoon is the best time to tour Lod Cave because a frenzy of bats fly in and out of the cave when the sun goes down.
Floating across the Lang River on bamboo rafts is another highlight of Lod Cave, but some parts of the cave may be blocked during the rainy season. It takes about two hours to explore Lod Cave, and all visitors must be accompanied by guides with lamps. Soppong’s Shan villagers maintain and build all of Lod Cave’s walkways and ladders.
PANG MAPHA VIEWPOINT
The Pang Mapha Viewpoint boasts one of northern Thailand’s most outstanding views towards both its western and eastern ends. Early morning is the best time of day to soak in the mountain scenery as few tourists come to the viewpoint during this time. The viewpoint is easy to spot along the main route from Pai to Mae Hong Son. There are also shops, restaurants, climbing bars, and even a giant swing which can hold up to four people near the viewpoint.
Soppong may not be big enough to have its own nightlife scene or walking street, but the community’s busiest event is the Tuesday market which takes place near the bus stop. Fermented dried tea leaves, soya bean paste, and thanaka bark are a few of the rarer items sold by the hill tribe farmers and vendors who sit on mats beneath parasols at this traditional market which opens before dawn and ends at noon. Tuesday market patrons can also sample grilled meats and local delicacies like khao soi.