Half way between Mae Hong Son and Pai is Soppong, a small town best known for its caves.
I stayed in the village of Ban Tham about 9km from the main town and close to the main cave of Tham Lod. The owner of the lodge is an Australian expat who has lived in the region for 30 years and I'd planned to take one of his tours the following day. Unfortunatlly I was ill in the night and didn't end up making it the following morning but I did manage to see a bit of what I came for.
On Tuesdays Soppong holds a market in the centre of town (I say town, it's really just either side of highway 1095). Many of the people here are from the hill tribes and it was interesting to see women in traditional dress doing their shopping, even if you could occasionally see a knockoff Manchester United or Liverpool shirt underneath.
The main highlight for me (even though I was feeling awful at the time) was seeing the swifts at sunset. At the exit of Tham Lod cave thousands of the birds flock in as the sun goes down.
Once fully dark you should be able to see the bats come out but I didn't stay long enough for that, the lodge was a good 20 minute walk back down a forest path. Luckily there were a few of us at the cave and we walked back to the lodge together, otherwise I'd have been slightly worried about the two packs of dogs we ran into.
I briefly saw some of Ban Tham village too, though I really wasn't feeling up to too much exploring.
Soppong didn't go so well and I missed out on the caving but seeing as everything was available from the lodge (water, meals etc) it probably could have been worse.
More photos from Soppong on Flickr.