Tham Luang cave re-opens Sunday

WELCOMING VISITORS: A group performs a traditional dance on Saturday in front of Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai as part of a merit-making ceremony before the park opens for public visits on Sunday.

CHIANG RAI: Tham Luang cave complex in Khun Nam Nang Non forest park that came to worldwide attention in a cave rescue mission in 2018 will be open to tourists on Sunday after a three-and-a-half month closure.

Narongpol Kid-an, chief of Mae Sai district, on Saturday led a merit-making ceremony ahead of the reopening of the cave complex which was closed from July 1 until yesterday during the monsoon season.

Tham Luang park drew many visitors after the dramatic rescue operation but it was closed several times during the Covid-19 pandemic to help tame virus outbreaks. Authorities took the opportunity to improve the site for the reopening.

When the cave complex reopens to visitors today, tram services will be available to shuttle tourists free of charge. In addition to the cave complex, a natural pond known as Sa Morakot will also be open.

The site underwent re-landscaping during the closure which includes an access road linking Tham Luang to Sa Morakot and a new walkway to accommodate the elderly and people with disabilities.

An exhibition about the rescue mission is held in front of the cave while a sculpture, created by national artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, of Petty Officer 1st class Saman Kunan, 37, also known as "Ja Sam", who died during the mission, is on display.

Twelve boys aged 11-16 and their 25-year-old football coach entered the site on June 23, 2018 and were almost immediately trapped by rapidly rising floodwater.

They were rescued from the cave between July 8-10 in a mission that involved Thai Navy Seals, international cave diving experts and many other rescuers and experts from various fields. There have been plenty of movies and documentaries covering the high-risk rescue operation.

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