Camping on "The Roof of Thailand"
After putting up the tent we were getting hungry and headed back to the Park Headquarters where they have two restaurants and small store. The store also has tents and blankets to rent for the same price as the park. You can also purchase bottled water, soda, beer, film, batteries and snacks and souvenirs. The restaurants are open from 7 am to 8 pm serving delicious Thai food at great prices. While having lunch we were told that a 7 man soccer match was being played this afternoon on the soccer field next to the restaurant on the Park Headquarters grounds. The match was between a Karen hill tribe village and a Hmong hill tribe village located in the park so we stayed and watched the action under the shade trees drinking ice cold beer. We made plans to do some hiking on the Gew Mae Pan Trail near the Doi Inthanon summit (above 2000 meters tomorrow) so today was for relaxing, which I myself am very good at doing.
Just before dark we ate our dinner, got our things from the park ranger and went to our camp grounds. In May there aren't many people in the park so a secluded place to put our tent was easy to find. We built a nice camp fire and I spent the evening reading while my wife did her crochet. The only sound was that of the crickets and with the smell of pine and clean fresh air drifting off to sleep was a total pleasure I haven't experienced in many months while living in the crowded city. The next morning we awoke early and packed up the tent and returned it to the park ranger and again he kept our bags for us. I checked the thermometer and it was a cool 18 degrees C.
|We ate our breakfast and headed toward the summit passing fruit and flower stands owned by Hmong hill tribe people. Here we stopped to have a look and across the street were green houses filled with beautiful flowers. The growing of flowers is a Royal Project so the hill tribe people can live in harmony with the park's conservation plans instead of doing their traditional slash and burn farming.|
The 2.5 kilometer Gew Mae Pan Trail begins about half a kilometer past the twin Chedis at kilometer marker 42. We decided to leave our motor bike at the Chedi and walk the horseshoe shaped trail to the end and return the same way. This turned out to be a good idea as the mountains were covered with mist and clouds and the view although beautiful was limited on our way out. On the way back the clouds had lifted and the view was spectacular.
|The trail begins through dense forest with lush ferns and moss covering the tree trunks. Wild orchids and colorful birds are plentiful. It's uphill most of the way, crossing streams and climbing over and ducking under logs. The temperature is perfect for hiking and the sounds of the many birds and creeks are very enjoyable. After about an hour you come upon a clearing looking toward the west. When we arrived clouds were rushing up from the valley floor to meet us.|
The next portion of the trail is through dense forest again crossing several streams. The park has provided small bridges to make crossing the streams easy. The last part of the trail is through a lovely evergreen forest with pine trees much different and larger than those found at our camp site.
|We returned the way we came following the trail to the clearing and this time the clouds had lifted leaving a spectacular view of the valley floor and surrounding mountains. Two hawks were circling above, diving to the valley floor then lifting again on the air currents along the cliff edge, their screeching echoing through the canyon below. |
We spent a total of six hours on the trail and saw only two other people. They were Thai photographers doing a story for a nature magazine. We could have stayed longer but hunger was setting in so we returned to the restaurant at the Park Headquarters.
|This evening was spent in our comfortable bungalow. We made reservations at the same time we rented our tent the day before. The bungalow has electricity and is equipped with a king size bed in the bedroom and a single bed with table and chairs in the living room. It has a big but simple bathroom with shower and Thai style toilet. Simple accommodations for only 300 baht per night and the bed was very comfortable and the night quiet.|
|The next day we spent visiting the many waterfalls in the park. The first one was very close to our bungalow and actually two waterfalls named after the King and Queen and called Siriphum waterfalls. The next two waterfalls were also close together and the road getting there was a little difficult but worth the effort. We went just past the second check point at kilometer marker 38 and turned left toward Mae Chaem and traveled about 8 kilometers. Here there is a sign where you turn right and travel the dirt road for 2 kilometers to the ranger station. From there it's a 500 meter walk to Mae Pan waterfall and 200 meters to Huai Luaeng waterfall.|| |
|Our last stop was on the way out of the park at Mae Ya waterfall. To get there you need to go back to Cham Tong and just before you get to highway 108 you will see the sign Mae Ya waterfall. follow the signs for about 14 kilometers from here. There will be a check point where they collect a 10 baht fee to enter. Just tell them you have been staying in the park and they will let you in for free. This waterfall is great for photographs and over 250 meters tall. Try to go on a weekday as the weekends are very crowded with Thais picnicking and swimming.|
We had a great time although we didn't see everything such as Brichinda cave. We would also like to spend some time bird watching. The Park staff was a great help and very friendly and I would recommend this trip to anyone. So next time it gets too hot in Chiangmai head to Doi Inthanon National Park.
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