Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park
’Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park’ (Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non) is located near Pong Pha village close to the border town of Mae Sai in Chiang Rai - Thailand’s northernmost province. As with other parts of the region, the park is blessed with natural beauty and features waterfalls, forests and caves.
Despite its numerous natural attractions, and the efforts of the authorities in Thailand (which include guided tours of the area between November and June), the area never really gained traction as an important travel destination. That situation changed almost overnight in 2018 when the park became the focus of intense global media attention.
Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non is home to a series of cave systems which include the now internationally famous ’Tham Luang Cave’ (The Sleeping Lady Cave) under the Doi Nang Non mountain range. The 80-meter-long entrance to the cave leads to a 10.3 kilometer network of narrow tunnels which feature flowing water and often fill during Thailand’s monsoon season. In June 2018 twelve members of the Wild Boars football team (aged 11 to 16) and their coach ventured into the cave and were caught by flooding. Trapped underground, it took an international rescue effort to free them.
Around 1,000 locals took part in the rescue of the team and their coach. They were joined by a truly international ensemble of rescue specialists which included Thai Navy SEAL divers, 30 US military personnel (including 17 Air Force rescue specialists), rescue divers from the United Kingdom, Australia, and Belgian, and other specialists from China, Japan, Laos and Myanmar. Media attention was further focused on the area when Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, co-founder of Tesla, and CEO of tunnel construction enterprise ’The Boring Company’, flew to Thailand and presented rescuers with an underwater rescue pod (which was ultimately not required). All thirteen were safely rescued, the last of the group brought out of the cave after a full nine days underground.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the global attention Tham Luang received piqued interest in the cave and Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non in general. It now regularly receives thousands of visitors on a monthly basis. While the park already had an information center, after the rescue a museum commemorating the event was immediately put under construction.
Visitors cannot go into the cave where the rescue took place, but they are free to look around the Buddha, Naga and Chamois caves located close to Tham Luang Cave. They can also buy souvenirs such as t-shirts from a small market near the site. Visitors can also pay their respects at the statue of Saman Gunan, a former Thai Navy SEAL diver who unfortunately died after volunteering to be part of the rescue mission. Chao Mae Nang Non shrine, which is also near the cave, is also worthy of a visit.
Details: Entrance to the park is free.
How to get there: A shuttle bus service to the entrance Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non is available from Mae Sai. However, it is also possible to drive to the site, which is about 6 kilometers before Mae Sai on the northbound road from Chiang Rai. There is a free car park at the start of the road which leads to Tham Luang Cave.
Contact: Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park.
Pong Pha, Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai 57130