You’ll be passing hundreds of caves hidden along your journey on the Southern Line, and they’re pretty incredible places.
Most caves in Thailand are solutional caves, or karst caves, formed out of the limestone this country is so rich in. Limestone is dissolved by rainwater due to its presence of carbonic acid. As it seeps through the soil, reacts with and erodes the limestone to create cracks, holes, and sometimes even huge sinkholes. As water trickles through the cracks and collects to create underground caverns with the familiar surreal landscape, with stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and a menagerie of other oddities that produced over millions of years.
Thailand has some real doozies, but they’re different in this part of the world largely because of the way humans interact with them. Caves have been considered sanctuaries and mythical or holy places in many cultures, and explorers have found and documented prehistoric cave art and ancient burial grounds in Thailand. But most commonly, you will find Buddhist alters and temples, which is what you will find in the Khao Luang Cave.
The practice of creating cave temples originated in India and spread with Buddhism. Sites were often chosen for their scenic beauty, and suitability as a quiet focus of worship and meditation for monks and visiting pilgrims and traders. Often cave temples were located along the trade routes and used by merchants as banks or warehouses.
Colourfully painted Buddhist images and statues are usually arranged in the caves according to a strict iconographic program, and are either carved directly from the rock or crafted from mixture of clay and straw built up around lattices of wood or metal.