Muang On Cave :
Home of Dinosaurs
MUANGON Cave in Sankamphaeng District means many different things to many different people. It's a chance to see a huge dinosaur skeleton, the opportunity to see the ghost of a long since dead monk or merely an interesting escape from the searing afternoon heat.
Located some 35 kilometers from Chiangmai, a visit to Muang On Cave is a pleasant day trip which can easily be combined with a visit to Roong Aroon or the Sankamphaeng Hot Springs, or with visits to the many factories which line Sankamphaeng Road. Access to the cave is gained high up on the steep sides of a small hillock from which the visitor can enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding area countryside.
At the cave entrance stands a small white washed jedee which houses the remains of "Pra Khru Ba See Wichai", a well respected monk in the Chiangmai area about 80 years ago. "Pra Khru Ba See Wichai" used Muang On Cave as a meditation retreat and cherished it as one of his favorite spots.
The proceeds from the entrance fee go toward the upkeep of the cave. There are two attendants at the cave entrance. From the cave entrance, a concrete stairway drops steeply downward into the gloomy cavern. After about a dozen steps, the visitor must stoop very low and squeeze through a narrow passageway. On the far side of this passageway the stairway descends further into the cave, but the visitor will probably want to stop for a while and let himself get accustomed to the unusual conditions inside this subterranean vault.
The cave walls are smooth and rounded in the shape of the swirling pools of water that formed them. Here and there a small stalactite dangles from the roof and an occasional petrified river of sparkling diamond like specks on the wall.
The steep pathway continues to the cave floor which is illuminated by eerie pools of soft light from florescent tubes that provide lighting along the way. About halfway down to the cave floor is a strange group of two foothing images resting on a large natural ledge. Four of these are old men and one takes the strange form of a cow's head on a human body.
Continuing down the next flight of stairs, a small cardboard sign announces, in Thai, that the adjacent wall is home to a fossilized dinosaur skeleton. And, sure enough, on the wall which is 245 million years old there is a distinct impression of a huge monster, complete with tall, oversized front legs, and even a head with eyes and nose. Whether this is real or not is a point of some debate. But if it's not, it certainly is as convincing.
Below the dinosaur skeleton is a 30 footlong"Reclining Buddha" named PRA GAROONA SAI YARS. Built four years ago, this relaxed 'fella' looks strangely out of place in an environment that most people find "spooky" to say the least.
The basement of the cave is littered with tiny images resting on small niches in the cave wall. These are dwarfed by a handsome meditative Buddha image that sits high up on a ledge just above a naturally formed basin of water.
But the centerpiece of this spacious grotto is a gigantic stalagmite named "Jedee Mae Nomm Fah". This awesome formation of nature is thirty feet high and ten feet in diameter. Wrapped around it are several brightly colored sashes in red, yellow and orange, resulting in projecting a surreal effect upon the entire scene, of the cave floor. It is an astounding sight.
For the more adventurous visitor to the cave, a trip upward instead of downward is possible. From the entrance to the cave, a rough path has been cleared that passes through a dry deciduous forest to a small shrine on top of the hill. Just left of the shrine a "Buddha's Footprint" is indented in the otherwise jagged rock. It's a 30 minute climb to the summit and the beautiful views from the top make the walk well worthwhile. From this viewpoint the 104 rooftops of Muang On Village lie scattered between a shallow lake and a hillside quarry. On the far side of the valley, one can see rolling hills, hazed over by drifting clouds of dust from the quarry.
How to Get There Head out of Chiangmai across Nawarrat Bridge and go along Charernmuang Road. Go straight ahead when you reach the superhighway and continue on past the silverware, lacquerware, textiles and carving factories through Borsarng umbrella village.
In Sankamphaeng take the left fork and follow the signs for Sankamphaeng Hot Springs. This road winds its way along an arid plain and you pass many picturesque villages. You will also see tall, square, windowless buildings along the way: these are to baccodrying towers.
Look for a small hillock on the left, topped by an orange flag flapping in the wind. Perched precariously on the steep sides of the hillock, near the entrance to Muang On Cave, you'll see a large circular 'sala'. At a small "CafecumPetrol" station leave the tarmac and turn left toward the mountain. The road meanders along to the base of the hill, then abruptly begins a winding ascent. This road is very rough and steep, so use caution and tell yourself to hold on tight as you go through the gears one by one until you're crawling up in first gear.
Eventually you'll reach a spot just below the 'sala', at a height of 420 meters above sea level, where an area of the hillside has been levelled off and a small thatched roof provides shade for parked vehicles.
Leading up from this area is a steep staircase of 187 steps. At the top lies a large circular 'sala' with excellent views of the surrounding countryside. Just above this is the entrance to the cave.