The dramatic rescue of a boys soccer team from Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai, has turned the area into a sprawling tourist attraction. Drawing well over 1 million visitors since the 18-day ordeal captured headlines worldwide last year.
Souvenir shops have sprouted in the cave area of Chiang Rai, in Mae Sai near the border with Myanmar. Selling T-shirts depicting Tham Luang cave and the rescuers.
Mae Sai Chiang Rai will likely will enjoy renewed attention in the coming months. The motion picture “The Cave” depicting the rescue hits theaters in November.
Netflix has announced plans to produce its own original drama based on the event.
“This shop opened three months ago,” a 35-year-old attendant said. “Many people come on weekends.”
The rescue of the 12 members of the Wild Boars and their coach in June and July 2018 involved rescuers from 22 countries. Now, the cave is attracting unprecedented attention from visitors.
About 38 million people visit Thailand each year. But most go to the capital, Bangkok, or the southern beach resorts. For Chiang Rai, the cave offers an ideal tourist attraction.
“Tourists used to number 5,000 in a year, but the traffic jumped to 1.4 million,” said Kawee Prasompol, the state park official in charge of the cave. “The response was more than anticipated.”
Kawee said he hopes the site to be upgraded to a national park next year.
A Bronze statue of Lt-Commander Samarn Kunan Erected at Tham Luang Cave
A statue of Sgt. Maj. Saman Gunan, the retired Thai Navy SEAL who died during the rescue mission, stands near the cave entrance.Gunman was promoted to the rank of Lt-Commander after his death.
A nearby memorial center features a virtual cave, as well as oxygen tanks used by the rescuers. Tourists can pose for pictures by a large mural depicting the rescuers, titled “The Heroes.”
One tourist from Thailand’s Pattani Province, located a two days’ drive south, came with a 9-year-old son to take pictures of the statue.
“He’s a hero,” the visitor said. “The rescue really moved me.”
The park is considering allowing people to enter Tham Luang cave itself.
“We hope to open the cave to the general public by the end of the year once safety measures are fully in place,” Kawee told Nikkei Asian Review.
Tham Luang Cave a Huge Tourist Attraction for Chiang Rai