Famous cave reopens to tourists

CHIANG RAI, 4 November 2019: Thailand’s Tham Luang cave that shot to fame in 2018 when 12 young footballers and their coach were trapped inside for 18 days prompting an international rescue mission reopened to tourists 1 November.

The Tham Luang cave has been closed to visitors since the Wild Boars football team were rescued alive from the flooded chambers and tunnels in July 2018.

In related news, the screenwriter of the movie “The Cave” will present the “the back-story” behind the making of the documentary movie to an open session of the Chiang Rai Expatriates Club 7 December. The movie is due to premiere in Thailand on 21 November.

The world-famous cave in northern Chiang Rai province reopened Friday 1 November and attracted 2,000 visitors on the first day.

The reopening ceremony involved officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation and provincial authorities who offered prayers to the spirit guardians of Tham Luang located in  Mae Sai district 60 km north of Chiang Rai town.

Visitors are allowed into the first chamber for a distance of around 100 metres.  Some of the rescue equipment left behind – including telephone wires, hoses and zip lines – could be exhibited inside the cave for visitors to view in the future, officials told local media.

The Wild Boars football team went into Tham Luang, 23 June 2018, for a routine hike after football practice.  They became trapped after heavy rains blocked the only route out, forcing them to retreat deep into the cave’s tunnels to a small chamber more than 3 km from the mouth of the cave. The entire cave system of corridors and chambers extends for 8 km around 1 km below the mountain range that separates Thailand and Myanmar.

It took nine days of intensive scuba searching in the flooded tunnels to discover the boys, who had miraculously survived the ordeal without food. They survived only on the water dripping from the chamber’s ceiling.

On 7 July 2018, the rescue began in earnest. The boys were sedated and fitted out in full-face breathing masks before being pulled through the submerged tunnels to safety. All of them were rescued safely and transferred to Chiang Rai General Hospital by 10 July.

Several books about the drama have been published, and the first film about the rescue premiered late last month at the Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

The premiere of The Cave a documentary-style movie will take place in Thailand 21 November but should be available for an exclusive viewing earlier in Chiang Rai according to promises made by the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s office in the northern province.

In a blurb for the movie, the producers say: “The Cave” is an account of an extraordinary 18 days during which acts of courage, kindness and humanity were performed almost matter of factly.”

Chiang Rai residents will also have the privilege of meeting seasoned screenplay writer, Don Linder, who co-wrote the story based on actual events, with some of the divers and local residents playing themselves.

He will be in  Chiang Rai, 7 December, to speak at the Chiang Rai Expatriates Club, 1400 to 1500, at the Legend Resort’s meeting room.

In its advance publicity, the club’s secretary welcomes residents and visitors to attend the presentation calling it an opportunity to the hear more about the “under-the-radar filming of The Cave and the back story of a rescue that “transfixed the world”.

It is understood that the Tourism Authority of Thailand office in Chiang Rai has contacted travel agents in Bangkok to organise a special package highlighting a visit to the cave. TAT is also having discussions with Central Pattana to organise a special screening of the movie later this month at one of Central Plaza’s cinemas.

Details on what the TAT office is planning with the travel agents remain sketchy as the office director has so far not responded to TTR Weekly’s request for more information.

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