Not many national parks have the majestic beauty of Doi Inthanon, either in Thailand or elsewhere in Asia for that matter. It is a very large park, located in the Mae Chaem district of Chiang Mai. As well as containing Doi Inthanon itself, which is Thailand’s highest mountain, the park has many hiking opportunities, and while I didn’t come close to exploring the entire perimeter of the park, I did nonetheless get a great experience of the northern Thai countryside – and probably lost a few kilograms in weight due to the strenuous exercise! The admission fee of 200 Baht is very good value, and once you have your ticket you can stay in the park as long as you want (theoretically for weeks, if you fancied camping!).
In many ways Doi Inthanon reminded me of YangMingShan National Park in Taiwan, even if here in Doi Inthanon there are no hot springs (well, not that I know of). I liken it nevertheless to YangMingShan because of the layout of the park, and the general atmosphere – and smell – of the place. If you are not careful, you could lost around here. In fact, as I was busy taking photos on the Ang Ka Nature Walk I came across an elderly couple who asked me for directions back to the front of the park. They were completely LOST! It upset me a little as I couldn’t speak Russian or Thai, and these were the only languages in which they were able to speak. I used my best sign language to intimate what I meant, and just hoped for the best. I hope they made it back safely, as when the mist descends on Doi Inthanon, it does so fast.
Unquestionably, you cannot come to Doi Inthanon without taking in the amazing waterfalls here. I got so many ‘selfies’ in front of these things it’s unbelievable! I think Mae Ya Falls were the most spectacular, and they were certainly the most popular, as tourists and hikers were eager to get themselves the camera shot of a lifetime! I never got the chance to hike right up to the top of Doi Inthanon mountain. I would like to say this is because I didn’t have the time, but ultimately I just didn’t want to go all the way up there and then back down again. I was told that it was very cold up there at the 8,500ft peak and this would have been a godsend to get away from the hideous humidity, but I just couldn’t be bothered. I wanted to spend more time exploring the beauty of Doi Inthanon National Park from ground level, and this included the magnificent waterfalls and rivers. I was also impressed with the ragged look of the jungle, which looked like it hadn’t been tamed for decades – despite the sheer number of tourists walking through.
There are also opportunities to experience bamboo rafting on the rivers here, and the chance to ride on an elephant for a jungle trek (and to cross the rivers). However, I do not really approve of riding elephants so I gave it a miss, although it must be said it remains a very popular activity for backpackers of all ages. I guess most of these backpackers were part of the guided tours that you can take of Doi Inthanon National Park in kitschy minibuses. I was told by other backpackers at my hostel in Chiang Mai that for around 900 Baht you can be toured around the whole park pretty much, and this includes a trip to a Karen Village and a trip to the peak of the mountain. I preferred, however, to go my own way and make my own plans – and that’s one of the joys of travelling solo!