BANGKOK: Visitor numbers to the area around Tham Luang cave and park have soared since it reopened, while work is under way on a museum dedicated to the rescue.
The park and cave complex in northern Thailand where a youth football team was trapped for 17 days over the summer has become an unlikely tourist hotspot since it reopened this month.
Tham Luang-Khun Nam Nang Non forest park in Chiang Rai province was a sleepy backwater until the successful rescue mission of the 12 young Thai footballers and their coach made headlines around the world in June. Since the cave complex in the park reopened, on 16 November, it has received thousands of visitors..
The park is at the base of densely forested hills in an isolated part of Thailand. Visitors to it can now see Tham Luang cave from a short distance away, through a chain-link fence, and can explore three of the park’s other caves – Buddha, Naga and Chamois. Meanwhile, work is under way on a museum celebrating the rescue, as well as commemorating diver Saman Gunan, who died in the rescue attempt. A tented resort for tourists is also being built near the entry road to the park.
Last week, huge crowds lay flowers near the entrance to Tham Luang cave, which has been closed since the rescue ended on 10 July as Thai authorities consider whether it can be safely reopened for public access.
The lined up in a long, orderly queue to pose for a selfie in front of the sign for Tham Luang cave. For 17 days this name was associated with fear and anxiety. Now Tham Luang has the opportunity to become a place of joy and opportunity.