Chai, caves and coffins

We loved our experience of the dawn over the mountains so much yesterday, that we got up again at 5.30 to do it again this morning. This morning had a few more clouds, so the colors were quieter, but just as beautiful with slanting rays of light through the break in the clouds. 

After returning to warm up, we walked to the local cave. To visit inside, you are required to hire a guide with a bamboo raft and a Tilly Lamp. It was many years since either of us had seem an old fashioned Tilly lamp lit. The careful pouring in of kerosene, the delicate adjustment of the gas mantle and the pumping up of pressure took us back many decades. Our guide, Chai, led us over bamboo bridges, to stoop beneath stalactites, up steps to enter amazing caverns the height and beauty of cathedrals. The Tilly lantern gave a bright, warm, radiant light (very unlike the flat quality of modern electric torchlight). Watching our guide, carrying his swinging lantern entering between pinnacles of glittering rocks gave a curiously ‘ Lord of the Rings’ feel to the scene. In the distance across the cavern, we could just see the shining of another lantern on the water as another raftman paddled his craft downstream. With the muted squeaks of bats,  the rushing of the stream and the dripping of water, it could have been the cavern inhabited by Gollum. We dropped fish pellets into the water and foot long catfish leapt for them in a thrashing feeding frenzy. Gollum would have loved it! There seemed to be hundreds of them. There were wooden coffins in the highest cave, dated around 2,500 years ago and a little prehistoric charcoal drawing of a deer on the rock face. 

Deliver safely back into the light by the raftman, we took a quiet walk through the jungle to the local Wat, arriving as a motorbike taxi roared up with a monk sitting sidesaddle. We followed the motorbike along the river past little homesteads with traditional bamboo huts and beautifully neat vegetable plots.


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