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Huay Naam Dang National Park, northern Chiang Mai Province, Thailand.

National Parks in this kingdom are as exciting and varied as Thai food. The latter can come hot and spicy or subtle and rich; the former can be rugged and challenging or tranquil and serene. I have tramped across a number of national parks in Thailand and never cease to be amazed by the stunning flora and intriguing fauna to be found therein.

The United States of America was the first nation in the world to create a national parks system, and that system was the brainchild of a Scotsman, John Muir from Dunbar. The magnificent national parks scattered throughout the province of Chiangmai ensures all residents can get away out of the hectic city using little travelling time. The magnificent national parks in the province of Chiangmai.

Thailand, prides itself in the number and condition of its national parks. There are no fewer than 19 such sanctuaries spread across the provinces of Chiangmai, Lumpoon and Mae Hong Sorn. Most national parks were designated by royal decree in this region. Apart from that, other fantastic national places have been taken to prepare for proclamation as national parks. Most areas are steep and ruggedly mountainous. Furthermore, they are very important as watershed of main rivers.

Chiangmai is mostly surrounded by countryside, so it doesn’t take long to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Visitors have several national parks, mountains, small quaint towns, rivers and lakes to enjoy in this region; all within a few hours drive from the city. Here’s an idea for those staying in Chiangmai for a while who want to experience a little getaway from city life.

One of the greatest things about Chiangmai is the city’s proximity to such an abundant variety of beautiful natural attractions. Few cities in the world offer such a combination of modern city dwelling, with all the associated conveniences, and yet have so many National Parks all within just a few hours drive in any direction One of these Parks, the Huay Naam Dang National Park is just 112 kilometers North-West of town.

Huay Naam Dang was declared the 81st National Park of Thailand by the Royal Forest Department on 14th August, 1995, commemorating the 100th year establishment of the Royal Forest Department and in celebration of His Majesty the King’s 50th year on the throne.

The National Park straddles the border between Chiang mai and Mae Hong Sorn Provinces encompassing four districts: Mae Taeng, Chiang Dao, Wiang Haeng and Pai. The National Park covers an area of approximately 1,247 square kilometers and is home to several Lisu hill-tribe villages.

Most of the Park’s landscape is mountainous as it is situated on top of a ridge of hills that are in the same range as the Chiang Dao mountains. The highest peak in the Park, Doi Chaang, is 1,962 meters above sea level and is the source of important streams that feed into the Pai, Ping and Taeng Rivers.

Visitors to the National Park come for the spectacular views of sunrise and mist-shrouded mountain views in the morning, especially during the Winter season. Cherry blossom during January adds charms to the attraction and the National Park also has abundant flora and fauna. The main plants found in this park are Malabar Ironwood, Teak, Red Cedar and several species of Orchids.

The climate is comfortably pleasant all year round with an average temperature of 26 c, dropping to 20-14 c in October to February and soaring to 36 c in March to April.

The quickest way to get to the National Park is along Highway 107 (Chiangmai_Fang) to Mae Malai Market at Km.37. Then turn left (West) onto Route 1095 (Mae Malai_Pai) and at Km. 65-66 make a right at the checkpoint. The National Park Headquarters is another 8 Kms further on. If you have time, I would recommend a quick excursion to see the countryside between Mae Rim and Mae Taeng on the way North. There is a side road on the left at Km. 18 on Highway 107 (Chiang Mai_Fang) just after crossing a small bridge. This back route will take you through rice fields, small farming villages, fruit orchards and along a beautiful valley to join Route 1095 at Km.8. A couple of kilometres before you reach the main road, there is a beautiful old Wat on the left with a courtyard and huge Yoba tree. The temple itself is several hundred years old and has lovely wall paintings inside and musty old holy books and relics. When you reach Route 1095 make a left at the intersection and continue West to the National Park.

Map of Huay Naam Dang National Park, plus more scenes from the park.

Highlights

Doi Gew Lom Viewpoint (จุ"ชมวิวทิวทัศน์กิ่วลม)

Doi Gew Lom Viewpoint is the star attraction at Huay Naam Dang. Thai and Foreign visitors come here to enjoy the panoramic scenery, stretching up to Doi Luang Chiang Dao. In the early mornings, especially during the winter months, a spectacular sea of mist fills the whole valley.

Nearby is the Silver Orchids Palace, the Palace of Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana. There are also two nature trails; Ueang Ngoen Nature Trail and Chom Doi Nature Trail. Each trail covers a distance of approximately 1.5 kilometers.

The best way to enjoy Mother Nature’s early morning show is to stay at the viewpoint. There are several bungalows available for rent which can accommodate up to 6 people (1800 Baht/Night) and camping is available as well.

Doi Chaang Viewpoint (จุ"ชมวิวทิวทัศน์"อยช้าง)

Another attraction is Doi Chaang, located 20 kilometers beyond the Huay Naam Dang Viewpoint and only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle. The highest spot in the National Park and the origin of several waterfalls, Doi Chaang offers delightful mountainous scenery and the early morning sea of mist. There is also the added bonus of seeing the beautiful mountain orchids that are indigenous to this area hanging from the tree branches all around you. Camping is possible provided that visitors bring their own tents and food.

Doi Saam Muen ("อยสามหมื่น)

Doi Saam Muen is thirty kilometres from Doi Kiew Lom. During the winter season visitors are treated to the spectacular sight of the Bua Tong (sunflower) blooming, turning the hills into a sea of bright yellow. The name Doi Saam Muen means thirty kilograms, named so because travellers to this area used to have to carry that much rice to feed themselves.

Pong Dued Geyser (โป่งน้ำร้อนโป่งเ"ือ")

Pong Dued Geyser, also known as Pa Pae Hot Spring (น้ำพุร้อน ป่าแป้), is a powerful forest geyser that spurts up from underground at a temperature of 99 C and reaches almost two metres high. It has the distinction of being the highest Hot Spring in Thailand. The boiling hot water flows through the forest creating clouds of steam in the woodland. Its natural properties are good for the skin’s complexion and there is a Mineral Bath (50/20 Baht Adults/Children) to soak all the road weariness away and local Thai Traditional Massage available.

There is also the Pong Dued Nature Trail, which covers a distance of 1,550 meters. (call 053-229636 for more information). For those of you who cannot tear yourselves away from the Local Spa, accommodation is available right next door. There are eight bungalows, each can accommodate 4 people and cost 3,000 Baht a night.

For the more adventurous of you, once you have had your fill of the Spa, why not take a Bamboo Rafting trip down the Mae Taeng River. The trip starts from Pong Dued Hot Spring and there are various alternatives including treks to Baan Paang Pa Kha (7 kms) (บ้านปางป่าคา) or Baan Pa Khao Laam (9 kms) (บ้านป่าข้าวหลาม). The longest trip takes two days and one night to travel the 27 kilometers to Ban Sob Kai.

Tha Pai Hot Spring (โป่งน้ำร้อนท่าปาย)

This is another attraction in the area of Huay Naam Dang National Park. The hot spring is two kilometres off Route 1095 at Km. 87 and about 30 kilometers from the Park Headquarters. It has an average temperature of 80 c. Steam from the spring permeates the site in the morning creating fascinating sights. The area is also rich in Teakwood’s and is suitable for overnight camping.

There are also a number of Waterfalls within the Park’s boundaries, although they are a bit tricky to get to. Huay Naam Dang Waterfall has 4 levels and is 50 meters high, surrounded by evergreen forest and marvellous rocks. Mae Yen Waterfall (น้ำตกแม่เย็น) is about 30-40 meters high with 2 levels and Mae Haad Waterfall (น้ำตกแม่หา") is a 4 levels and 50 meters high.

Given that your entry ticket into the Huay Naam Dang National Park is also valid for all National Parks on the same day, I would recommend skipping the waterfalls in Huay Naam Dang and visiting the impressive Mawg Fah Waterfall (น้ำตกหมอกฟ้า) which is part of the Doi Suthep_Doi Pui National Park. The Waterfall is located 2 kilometres off the Mae Malai_Pai Road (Route 1095) at Km.19.


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