Globally memorable: Tham Luang Cave in Thailand

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

If to select one of the most memorable headlines in the news industry, undoubtedly, the rescue operation of saving thirteen lives from the cave “Tham Luang Khun Nam Nangnon” in the northern part of Thailand would make it to the list.

Because five years ago, eyes from all over the world were with the incident of thirteen people: twelve teen football players and their coach from the “Wild Boars” team, who got trapped inside Tham Luang cave by monsoon rains.

The search and rescue operation required global collaborations from many countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, India, Israel, Laos, Japan, Myanmar, Russia, the Netherlands, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States as both Thai Navy Seals and international cave diving experts led the mission.

The two Danish divers: Ivan Karadzic and Claus Rasmussen, and the Finnish diver, Mikko Paasi, also participated in the rescue effort.

It began on 23 June 2018 and had taken a total of seventeen days until the boys and their coach were successfully retrieved from the cave on 10 July 2018. However, one life was lost at the time as the former Naval Lieutenant Saman Kunan or “Sergeant Sam” from the rescue team died while transferring air bottles to various points in the cave.

This phenomenon has been considered one of the most complex rescue operations in the world’s history due to the special conditions of the cave itself and the rainstorm. But prior to the Thirteen Lives incident, only a few people would have heard about Tham Luang Khun Nam Nangnon cave.

Photo of Mr. Sutud, Tham Luang director taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

Mr. Sutud who has been working as one of the cave’s directors for over thirty years shared that several years back, Tham Luang was seldomly visited, mostly by European and American tourists.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

Tham Luang Khun Nam Nangnon National Park is a large limestone cave located in Mae Sai district, Chiang Rai province, Thailand, close to the Thailand-Myanmar border. It has been ranked the fourth longest cave in the country with 3,846 meters long, according to the surveyed distance data from 2019.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

Inside, the cave is a pathway of stalactites, stalagmites, and streams. In the past, the tourists would be given a gas lamp to use for exploring the natural architecture of the place. The lamp would last about an hour before it extinguished.

If they wouldn’t come out of the cave by then, the directors would be sent to bring them back, added Mr. Sutud.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

Normally, Tham Luang allows people to access during the dry season (December- June) and closes in the rainy season (July-November). After the success of the thirteen lives rescue mission in 2018, it has dramatically changed the cave into one of the most attractive locations for both Thai and international visitors.

Crystal clear, the world came to an applaud when the entire Tham Luang rescue was accomplished. The situation not only drew global attention to the actual location in Chiang Rai, but it also inspired entertainment production to produce various films and documentaries about the incident such as “The Cave,” “Thirteen Lives,” and “Thai Cave Rescue” and the story was written into books as well.

Today, Tham Luang has been developed by the authority to make it more proper for tourists’ visit. Starting by the tram services that are available to shuttle tourists free of charge to the front of the cave.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

At the cave’s entrance, there is an exhibition about the rescue mission consisting of actual tools used in the operation and belongings of the twelve teen football players and their coach, a diagram of the cave, and a summary of the incident.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

They already installed the light in the cave, improved the walkway, and only allow visitors to go into the cave as far as 200 meters away from the entrance with the cave’s directors guiding for the safety of the tourists.

Photo taken by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana.

Also, there is a monument of Sergeant Sam built to honor his contribution, a museum cave which presents the rescue operation in detail, and a souvenir shop.

Any tourists coming to Tham Luang Khun Nam Nangnon National Park with no intention of using personal vehicle, you can fly from your destination to Mae Fah Luang – Chiang Rai International Airport, take a public bus to Chiang Rai Bus Terminal or Mae Sai Bus terminal before taking a public bus or public motorbike to the cave.

The distance between Mae Sai Bus terminal to the cave is about 4.4 kilometers and takes less than 10 minutes. Besides, there are several accommodations in Mae Sai district that feature the beautiful view of the Nangnon mountain, which would bring you closer to natural scenery worth seeing with your own eyes.

About Kanlayakorn Pengrattana

Kanlayakorn 'Princess' Pengrattana is a freelance writer at ScandAsia.

View all posts by Kanlayakorn Pengrattana

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