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Sri Lanna National Park -National Parks for your Northern Adventure in Chiangmai's Northeastern Area

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. I just thought you had to know this before I wax eloquent about the magnificent national parks to the south of Chiangmai.

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.

Thailand, prides itself in the number and condition of its national parks. There are no fewer than 23 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.

Sri Lanna National Park

MANY OF US, especially those who live and work in a city habitat with all the ensuing pressures, long to "get away from it all" and escape into a more natural environment. National Parks are the answer for many who like to experience nature, relax with the touch of soft breezes or the feel of Mother Earth between their fingers.

Now that you are here holidaying in Chiangmai or Chiangrai, there is a golden opportunity to visit one of northern Thailand's most lovely wilderness areas. It is Sri Lanna National Park which, with an area of over 100,000 hectares, is the sixth largest in the Kingdom. A Park of valleys, mountain ranges (running in a North/South line), rivers, waterfalls and lake reservoirs. It offers visitors a "back to nature" experience which can be as relaxing or energetic as they like.

Scenes and map of Sri Lanna National Park

In 1973 there was a serious high flood in Inthakhin and Chorlae subdistricts. The Mae Ngud River destroyed a local dike built by the villagers. It was built in a primitive way so the structure was not strong. The villagers requested the government to build a permanent dam for them.

The Irrigation Department undertook a feasibility study to determine the appropriate size to benefit the farming villages in this area. When King Bhumibhol and Queen Sirikit visited that area on January 21, 1977, the Irrigation Department presented the project for their advice. King Bhumibhol advised that the project which would benefit the most people should be selected. The huge Mae Ngud Somboon Chol Dam had been under construction since 1977. This project has benefited the people in many ways such as: irrigation and distribution of the water resources; allay high floods; fishing for hobbyists; and an outdoor attraction for the families of Chiangmai.

There are two entrances to this vast park. One easy way to reach Sri Lanna National Park is via the Chiangmai-Faang Road (route 107) which after about 41 kms, will bring you to a Directional Sign for Mae Ngud Reservoir. Follow this sign for a further 12 kms and Sri Lanna National Park is to hand.

Or get to the park by heading northeast out of Chiang Mai-Prao Road (route 1001). This scenic highway eventually brings the traveler to the enormous Sri Lanna National Park, this huge tract of land includes Mae Ngud, Mae Taeng and Chiang Dao forests. The wildlife is abundant in this largely undisturbed wilderness of rolling mountains, which is the source of the Mae Ping river.

At the dam, there is a viewing point at the peak. Located there is a long-tail service to ferry guests to the house-rafts or simply to enjoy an hour ride on the lake. At the lake's edge one can see blackened gnarled tree trunks and large black water buffaloes swim and forage for tender grass. Beautiful dark blue kingfisher birds gracefully fly and soar through the air.

As can be expected with a national park of this size, there are various areas of interest and relaxation. Completed in 1985, the Mae Ngud Lake Reservoir is one such area and it provides visitors with peaceful, floating cottage accommodation, plus "float houses", with restaurant and refreshment facilities. A gentle boat trip along the fringe of the forest-studded lake side is another way of enriching those relaxing hours. Mae Ngud Reservoir is the heart of a water catchment area approximately 1,281 square kms in size.

The activities for visitors to enjoy are: sail boating, fishing, and bird watching. For peace and tranquillity "off the beaten track" in northern Thailand off the beaten track visit the Mae Ngud Somboon Chol Dam.

There are many places of special interest that can be visited in this huge park. These include Mon Hin Lai Waterfall, close to the park's main entrance.

Another national park area for exploration, and close to the Park's Prao highway entrance, is the Mon Hin Lai Nature Trail. From the Trail's starting point, you may hike through a magical landscape of rushing streams, ferns, stands of bamboo, a grotesque banyan tree and raw, evergreen forest until one reaches the crashing, picturesque with its six separate spectacular cascades. The best time to see these tumbling torrents is from July to October.

No less interesting a trek for the enthusiast is the Huay Mae Wa Nature Trail. Again there are ferns from the Trail's Starting Point but they give way to a unique "thin" forest. Trees, from large to mid-range to small, struggle on infertile soil within a micro ecosystem. During the dry season, these trees shed their leaves and sometimes catch fire from seasonal lightning. Other interests along the Trail are "Piedmont" fan shaped, light screen deposits, water eroded round rocks and a red sandstone rock, called Hunter's Whetstone, which was used for sharpening tools in times past.

The Paa Dang Cave, situated in the heart of Doi Paa Dang Mountain, is another beautiful attraction which will enhance any visit to Sri Lanna National Park. But please, during your visit, do remember that it is a National Park and a National Treasure. Take care of nature and it will return a bountiful pleasure to all of us. As the slogan goes, "Take Nothing but Photographs and Leave Only Footprints".

The national park's fauna remains largely undocumented, but it is unlikely to include many large species.According to park rangers, a few White-handed Gibbons and Sambar Deer still survive in the more remote areas. Various squrrels, civets, porcupines, Common Barking Deer, Common Wild Pig and Burmese Ferret-badger undoubtedly occur. Birds are mostly those common in deciduous forest, including serveral species of bulbul, barbet, drongo, babbler, warbler and flycatcher as well as different birds such as Duck, Coucal, Bulbul, Egret and Barbet.

Mixed deciduous forest, deciduous dipterocarp forest, hill evergreen forest and coniferous forest blankets the national park with various plants such as Toona ciliata, Cinnamomum iners, Hopea odorata, Lagerstroemia calyculata, Tectona grandis, Xylia xylocayana, Shorea obtusa, S.siamensis, Dipterocarpus obtusifolius, D.tuberculatus and Dalbergia oliveri. Also various bamboo, fern and palm can be found at the lower part of the National Park.

The park is a safe haven for wildlife including serveral mammals such as Tiger, Sambar Deer, Asiatic Black Bear, Macaque, Common Wild Boar, Siamese Hare and Common Muntjak.

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