It was a 2 hour bus trip from Mae Hong Son to Soppong passing wonderful landscapes, green hills and 2 (or 3?) steep mountain passes. Soppong is a small village along one street with only few guesthouses, a couple of shops and NO! Seven-Eleven - this does not happen very often in Thailand.
I went to the River-Inn Guesthouse and was greeted like an old friend. I had tried to make a reservation beforehand, but did not get an answer. Anyway, they had a free bungalow and after the first night I could change to an even cheaper bungalow. No problem, it was nice, clean and not too expensive. What did I want more? I went to the wonderful terrasse overlooking the river, listened to the birds singing and just enjoyed this little paradies. The perfect place to write a bit of my diary. It was so peaceful. But it did not last long, as a french lady joined me ;-). She was a travelling pensioner and we had a good talk about travelling, life, nature..... by sharing a beer. Christine had been in Pai for 2 days and did not like it at all. She moved on to Soppong as it was much quieter. But the downside of Soppong is, that all the interesting things are far from the village. Well, I told Christine that I wanted to rent a scooter the next day to explore the surroundings. As she was afraid to drive on her own, she asked me if she could come with me on my bike by sharing the costs, of course. That was a good deal even though I was not sure if she would be safe with me ;-) (well, I am not really used to drive around on scooters, especially not on poor streets).
We met the next morning, rented the scooter and of we went to Mae Lana. We had decided to start there and drive to Tham Lot Cave in the evening, as the bats come out of the bat cave at 6 pm and we wanted to observe them. Mae Lana is a tiny village on a high plain surrounded by mountains. The streets were horrible, potholes everywhere and sometimes it was extremly steep. Sometimes we stopped to take some pics of the wonderful landscape. In Mae Lana we visited a Wat and continued on the same road till the cave. The entrance fee to the cave was 200 Baht including a guide. As Christine was travelling on a really low budget, she wanted to spent her money only on the entrance to the biggest cave and we decided to skip this one. It seemed to be a bit of a tourist trap anyway. The drive was so beautiful that we did not care and Christine was tough sitting on the back seat. She told me that she did not mind the shaking on the bike as she had been a horse riding instructure for a couple of years. Spontanously, I decided to go a bit faster ;-). When we arrived at the cave, I young australian guy was waiting happy to see us. The entrance to the caves included up to 3 people. That was perfect - we 3 started to explore the cave with our guide happy to have saved some cash. Tham Lot-Cave is consisting of 3 huge caves which can be easily reached by foot. 2 caves can be reached from the front entrance and the Bat-Cave is accesible from the rear entrance (for which you have to walk through some nice jungle). As we were lucky to have a great guide and a "full service" program, we could float through some parts on a small raft. That was amazing as there were lots of huge fishes. At 6 pm we waited at the entrance of the bat cave till the bats would come out. Right on time the sky started to be very busy with bats and birds flying around. We were really happy and enjoyed every minute of this natural theater. We ended the day with a nice dinner at the River-Inn (they do have some very decent food there).
The next morning I returned the bike, packed my stuff and went to the bus terminal. Again I had to leave a place I wanted to spend more time at. But 1 highlight was still waiting for me - the tuesday market. This is a huge market and I enjoyed some time on it. I had a great breakfast there and loved the hustle and bustle of the locals. At 10.50 am the bus arrived and after the driver had crossed the market and bought his goods we were on our way. Next destination: Pai.