THAILAND ABOUNDS in National Parks, the bulk of which are situated in the North of the country. It would take a book to describe in detail each or all, but we offer a brief look at some of these fine parks in the province of Chiang Mai.
The most popular of Chiang Mai’s National Parks is that of Doi Suthep _ Pui National Park is just 12 kilometres outside the city of Chiang Mai, and begins at the base of the mountain where visitors and pilgrims can pay their respects to the statue of Kruba Sriwichai - “the builder monk” responsible for the restoration of many temples in Chiang Mai province and beyond. Higher up the mountain lies one of the country’s most revered Buddhist temples, Wat Prathart Doi Suthep, which attracts pilgrims from throughout the country and around the world.
Higher up the mountain one can see the Bhuping Palace, the winter residence of the royal family, which also houses a royal guesthouse for prominent state visitors from abroad. The king and queen of Denmark were the first overseas royal visitors to stay at the palace in 1962.
Doi Pui peak attracts all manner of visitors, from mountain bikers, bird watchers, botanists, butterfly enthusiasts to everyday nature trail hikers. The peak is also popular for those wishing to study the stars on clear, peaceful nights surrounded by the fresh scents of the forest.
As with all national parks in the country, Doi Suthep-Pui boasts several beautiful waterfalls, beginning with the Huay Kaew waterfall located close to the Kruba Sriwichai memorial at the foot of Doi Suthep Road.
Doi Inthanon which covers an area of 482 square kilometres and houses Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Inthanon, standing 2,565 metres above sea level. Temperatures at the summit in winter have been known to drop to around zero, and even in summer it remains relatively cool on the peak.
The park lies to the South of Chiang Mai: a 57 kilometre drive to Chom Thong, then a right turn and a further 30 kilometres to the park entrance. Doi Inthanon is home to more than 300 species of birds, and while animal numbers have dwindled owing to hunting, there are still to be found snakes, gibbons, deer, wild board and Red jungle fowl.
Hmong and Karen villagers harvest cool-weather fruits such as strawberries, apples and grapes, as well as many exotic flowers.
The park is home to many waterfalls, including one of the country’s most beautiful - Mae Ya waterfall. Visitors can swim or picnic at some of these falls, and they are very popular in the summer months. The park has nature trails that criss-cross the hills and valleys, and are very popular with bird watchers.
A few kilometres short of the summit of Doi Inthanon, the Royal Thai Air Force constructed two magnificent chedis dedicated to the King and Queen. The views from this area are stunning, and the gardens house many unusual plants.
There are fully furnished log cabins, or bungalows for rent at two sites in the park and at least one formal campsite. Bookings can be made up to 60 days in advance, with payment due three days after booking. The densely forested hillsides of the park provide welcoming shade for the many species of orchids and other tropical flowers and plants, including giant rhododendron bushes that grow nowhere else in the country.
Ob Luang National Park lies about 105 kilometres from Chiang Mai and can be reached by taking the Chiang Mai - Hod Road, then the Hod - Mae Sariang Road for another 17 kilometres to the park entrance.
The park is home to many species birds and wild animals, and some of its main attractions are the Thep Panom hot springs, or geysers, where the water can reach a temperature of 99 degrees Celsius, and the Tong Cave on Doi Pa Liang mountain. Another limestone cave that is popular with geologists is the Tu Poo with many stalactites and stalagmites, and can hold up to thirty people. Nature trails and waterfalls can also be found in the park.
Sri Lanna National Park is the sixth largest in the country and can be found by driving along the Chiang Mai - Prao Road. The park is host to the Mae Ngud, Mae Taeng and Chiang Dao forests, and is the source of the mighty Mae Ping River.
The large Mae Ngud reservoir provides an oasis for summer visitors who can stay at one of a number of floating houses on the water, or if visiting just for the day can enjoy a swim, fish or canoe.
Nature trails abound in this vast area, and visitors can enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna that can be found in the park the year round.
Huay Naam Dang National Park began with a development project initiated by His Majesty the king to solve the problems of forest encroachment and poaching, while enhancing the lives of the local hill tribe people. The park is part of the Chiang Dao mountain range and is home to many streams feeding the Pai, the Ping and the Taeng Rivers. The more adventurous visitors to the park can enjoy river rafting, Kayaking and canoeing on the rivers, while those seeking a more restful time can walk the nature trails, sit by hot springs, or simply wander through the lush forests and green valleys of this glorious parkland. The park lies 109 kilometres to the Northwest of Chiang Mai on road 1095 on the way to Mae Hong Sorn province.
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