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Mae Ngao National Park - Chiang Mai northern areas

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.

Mae Ngao National Park

The rainy season is almost upon us, the trials and tribulations of surviving Songkran’s ice buckets and organized mayhem is just around the corner and it’s getting hot!!! very hot!!!. So why not break free " head out into the countryside that surrounds our beautiful city and find some peace and quiet, not to mention the cooler climates of the highlands and forests of Northern Thailand.

The 412 square kilometre Mae Ngao National Park is located in the Mae Hong Sorn, Taak and Chiang Mai provinces of North-Western Thailand. The topography of the park consists of high mountain ranges, which are the source of many of the areas rivers. These all flow westwards feeding into the Salawin River which marks the border between Thailand and Myanmar in North-West Thailand. The Ngao River is the longest and most important of these waterways, running through the National Park for approximately 42 kilometres starting from Baan Sob-Khong (บ้านสบโขง), flowing northwards to Baan Sob-Ngao (บ้านสบเงา) and meeting the Mae-Yuam River (แม่น้ำยวม). The river serves as a major transport artery for the hill-tribe people of the Sob-Moei District (อ.สบเมย), especially during the rainy season.

Scenes from Mae Ngao National Park, north Thailand

The National Park comprises various kinds of forests, including Mixed Deciduous, Evergreen and Timber forests, containing among others Teaks, Redwoods, Rokfa, Kor, Moss, Ferns, Orchids, Ginger, Rang, Pluang and Malacca.

Historically, there has been a diverse and bountiful number of mammals, bird species, reptiles and amphibious animals found in these forests, including Wild Boars, Asiatic Black Bears, Monkeys, Flying Squirrels, Foxes, Asiatic Wild Dogs, Wild Rabbits, Small Bamboo Rats, Red Jungle Fowls, Singing Myna, Turtle Doves, Blue Magpie, Cobras and Baanded Krait, although these days you will be very lucky indeed to catch a glimpse of any of these other than in exhibits at the park headquarters!

The climate is typical for the Northern Thailand with the rainy season falling between June and October, followed by cool months of November till February. Then comes the hot season in which average maximum temperature has been 35บ C. Accommodation in the park is limited to camping but rustic accommodation is available in Baan Sob-Ngao (Km. 190).

As with the other articles in this series, I suggest getting there is half the fun and there are several ways of reaching the Park, depending on your available time and preference. The driving is exhilarating, the scenery breathtaking and which ever route you take, this part of Thailand is glorious. Magic is just around the corner (and there are lots of corners!!!!); awesome vistas await.

The most direct route to the Park is via Highway 108 (Chiang Mai _ Mae Sariang). At Mae Sariang turn south onto Highway 105. Baan Sob Moei is 25 kms and after a further 15 kms you will reach Baan Sob-Ngao (Km. 190). Make a left hand turn onto a dirt road (which can only be used in the dry season unless in a 4WD) and the National Park’s office is 5 kilometres. In the rainy season, you may access the National Park by taking a boat from Baan Sob-Ngao. Depending on time constraints, you could visit the Park as part of a southern loop through Chiang Mai, Mae Sariang, Mae Sord and Sukhothai (Highways 108, 105 12, 101 and 11). The route south on Highway 105 is remote and picturesque, especially as far as Mae Salit (แม่สลิ") (120kms). Mae Sord has a vibrant and colourful morning market, jewelry shops selling Burmese gems and a vibrant night-life (the town has a large foreign NGO presence). You can also cross the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge into Miyawaddi (เมียวว"ี) for a day visit.

More scenes and a map of Mae Ngao National Park, Thailand


Major attractions in the Mae Ngao National Park include:

* Rafting on the Ngao river (best in the rainy season)

* Visiting the Thaam Pla cave with its sacred fish.

* Trekking through virgin jungle to the OhLo-Gro waterfall

* Hiking up to the Doi Pui viewpoint

Thaam Pla (-้ำปลา)

The topography of the caves in Mae Ngao are similar to those found in Pla-Pha Sua National Park. The cave is situated to the north of Baan Om-Loh (near the Mae Ngao River). The local villagers believe that the carp inhabiting the cave are sacred fish and whoever eats them invites upon themselves bad luck and disaster, thus the resident fish are both numerous and huge!

OhLo-Gro Waterfall (น้ำตกโอโละโกร)

A large and beautiful waterfall flowing throughout the year, OhLo-Gro is situated near Thaam Pla cave to the north of Baan Oom-Loh (บ้านอุมโละ). The Waterfall is about 150 meters high and surrounded by virgin forests. There is no vehicle access and reaching the waterfall entails a 2 night and 3 day jungle trek (round trip). On the way to the Waterfall, you need to stay overnight in a Karen village, then travel on foot for approximately 3 hours to the Waterfall; and on the way back, you again need to stay overnight at the Karen village. For further information contact the Park’s Headquarters.

Doi Pui Luang ("อยปุยหลวง)

At present, there is no vehicle route to the mountain ridge of Doi Pui Luang, except a jungle route, which takes you 2 days for round trip on foot. The Sightseeing Spot is located at the altitude of 1,600-1,700 meters above sea level. The mountain ridges extend to the area of Om-Koi District (อ.อมก๋อย). In winter, you can view the beautiful sea of fogs (although be warned, the weather gets cold and breezy).

Mae Wa-Luang Waterfall (น้ำตกวะหลวง)

The Waterfall is a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall, situated at Baan Mae Wa-Luang. The path starts at the National Park’s office.

Other attractions include the waterfalls of Burana-Prapa (น้ำตกบูร"ะประภา) (500 meters from Baan Mae-Wei Boki and accessible only by foot), Mae La-Or (น้ำตกแม่ลออ), (near the Mae Sord-Mae Sariang road and a 400 metre walk) and Mae-Jae Waterfall (น้ำตกแม่แจ) (at Baan Mae La Kee (น้ำตกแม่ลาคี) and a kilometre walk). There is also a beautiful cave near Baan Mae Om-Ki (น้ำตกบ้านแม่อมกิ) with weird and wonderfully shaped stalagmites and stalactites inside.


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