I have travelled to more than 20 countries over 4 continents and never wrote a trip report. I had to write this one as it was one of the top experiences I ever had during my travels. This was not our first trip to Thailand but was our first trip to North Thailand. Our expectations were good knowing it is difficult to have a bad time in Thailand. That being said what we did and saw was far better than what we could ever hoped for.
Because our report is long and detailed we will post 1 day at a time.
My girlfriend and I arrived in Chiang Mai by the 1st class overnight train, our guide Nui and vehicle driver were there to greet us with all smiles. We depated the train station for Doi Inthanon Natioal Park. Once we arrived in the park we picked up a local guide named Boom who is a Karen man and very polite. The first stop was the summit of the highest mountain in Thailand. Boon explained the importance of the park being one of the main watersheds in Thailand and the importance of the cloud forest. At the summit is the resting place of King Inthawichayanon who saw the importance of the park as a watershed. Before the King died near the turn of this century, he commanded that his remains be placed at the top of this mountain: his ashes at the summit stupa are visited by thousands of people each year.
From here we walked across the road for a short 30 minute hike on the Anka Trail. Doi Anka was the name of the mountain before it was changed to Inthanon in 1899, which is short for King Inthawichayanon. The trail is actually a boarded walkway above the marshes and springs through large evergreen trees covered in moss along with lichens, lianas and fern. It was surprisingly quiet as we were the only ones on the trail. Boon pointed out birds including a White-browed Short Wing scampering along the wet ground and small pools. A Yellow-bellied Fantail was showing off clambering up a moss covered tree trunk fanning his tail. The Chestnut-tailed Minlas were very friendly not paying any attention to us as they flew around our heads and near our feet landing on the hand railings and branches inches from us. Further along the trail a Chestnut-crowned Laughing Thrush was hopping just in front of us as we tried to keep up. All this time Liisa, my girlfriend, was trying to keep up writing down the names of the birds boon was showing us while I was snapping photos.
From here we were taken to a Hmong Hill Tribe market loaded with fresh organic vegetables and all kinds of dried fruit. As we walked by the stall with smiling ladies in colorful costumes and their cute babies everyone was giving us tastes of the colorful dried fruits. We made a few purchases of the dried fruit along with very delicious and tender baby carrots. Boon asked us if we were ready for lunch however we were so full from the tasting and eating our carrots we decided lunch was not necessary.
Boon asked us if we would like to take a swim under a beautiful waterfall or just hike along a nice trail for a few hours to his Karen hill tribe village. We thought the swim would be a nice treat during our hike so we took or small day packs with our bathing suites in them, bottled and our dried fruit and carrots and got out of the vehicle with Boon. The driver and Nui, our guide from Chiang Mai, left for the village where they would meet us later.
We then entered a small unmarked trail in the forest. After we walked about 10 minutes we came across a small clearing where a hill tribe family was growing beautiful flowering Mums in several colors. As we continued we could hear the roaring of the cascading waterfall never far ahead. We had to make out way down a steep trail through large bamboo using stairs and hand railing made of the abundant bamboo and came into a clearing. Here was the start of the waterfall and large stream. Boon told us that the little spring on the Anka Trail at the summit was the beginning of this stream. As we continues along the stream we encountered a bamboo bridge we had to cross with Boon’s kind help to get to the base of the waterfalls and swimming hole. I ducked into the forest and changed into swim suite. Boon then showed me the best area to get into and out of the water, depth and where to swim. The water was cold but I am used to it being from Eastern Europe so no problem. The pool was clear, clean and beautiful. The surrounding canyons, beautiful forest and mist coming from the waterfalls makes this a perfect setting for a swim.
From here we followed the stream for a while then came upon a clearing. The trail now was along a ledge and to our right was a small concrete channel dug next to the trail which is the water supply for the Karen village we were hiking to. To our left were beautiful mountains and in the valleys terraced rice fields. It was not planting season yet so buffalo and cows grazed in the paddies their cow bells clanging as they walked.
We then reached the dirt road that led into the Karen village Boon talking to the villagers in his native Karen language as they passed by tell us where they were going. The first place we visited was the village school for children under 8 years old. The teacher greeted us and shoed us around. The children paid little attention to us as they were busy playing in the school yard. The teacher said there were 37 children at the school all from this one village. As we moved on with a shout of Bye, bye from the children we came upon the village coffee shop. The villagers grow organic coffee beans and bring them here for roasting and grinding to sell in Chiang Mai and other areas in Thailand. We had a couple of delicious cups and purchased some to take home.
Here we met Nui and our driver, said our good byes to Boon, his beautiful wife and daughter and returned to Chiang Mai and over night at Downtown Inn. The hotel was nothing fancy but clean, comfortable and just right for the price. In the evening we walked around the night bazaar which was nothing special for us already having traveled to Thailand before. The shocking thing is every where was empty. We saw only a very few other tourists. We had a simple Thai dinner at Anusan Market. The service was excellent, because it was low season/not so many tourists, there were 2 waiters serving us, so no need to add extra coca-cola into your class, every time we had a sip a waiter filled it again instantly. We took the short walk to the hotel and called it a night in anticipation what we will see tomorrow when we travel to Thaton.
We would like to thank All Thailand Experiences who helped to plan this trip via SKYPE and especially Nui, Boon and our driver creating lasting memories for us. Each day got better, I am writing Day 2 experience now and soon you can read it here.
Gunnar and Liisa.