STOP 2 on DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK TOUR
The Siriphum Waterfall is tall, pretty waterfall.
The waterfalls are actually twins, two parallel streams of water, named for His Majesty King Bhumibol and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.
The name of these falls comes from a combination of Queen Sirikit and King Bhumibol, so you might sometimes see this waterfall referred to as Siribhum instead of Siriphum
An excellent view of the waterfalls can be enjoyed by walking along the track that forks left from the main road - just beyond the entrance to the guesthouse compound.
Another lot of pretty waterfalls in Doi Inthanon National Park.
LOCATION.....At the 31KM MARKER, highway 1009 Jam thong - Doi Inthanon
STOP 6 on DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK TOUR
The entire mountain is a national park (482 sq km) and Thailand’s highest peak, the 2565m Doi Inthanon is located here.
THE VIEWS FROM DOI INTHANON ARE BEST IN THE COOL DRY SEASON FROM NOVEMBER TO FEBRUARY.
January is the coldest month, and temperatures can drop to minus 8c.
I think you could expect rain, as the yearly rainfall is 2,500mm a year.
You can expect the air to be quite chilly towards the top, so take a jacket or sweater. It was cool in June, when I visited, probably the Fog & Rain didn't help.
FOR MOST OF THE YEAR, a mist, formed by the condensation of warm humid air below, hangs around the highest mountain.
Make sure you have your photo taken beside the notice "The highest spot in Thailand"
Walk some trails, and maybe take a break at the Cafe. Toilets are also located here.
STOP 1 on DOI INTHANON NATIONAL PARK TOUR
Vachiratharn Waterfall is a 70 meter high waterfall with a high cliff on the opposite side, and is located within Doi Inthanon National Park amongst nice rainforest.
The parking lot is at the base of the falls and it is an easy short walk to see the beauty of the falls.
The water when I visited, was thundering over the falls, and there was plenty of mist and spray coming off it!
There is a trail to the left of the falls which will lead you to the crest of the falls.
Be careful climbing AS IT IS WET & SLIPPERY.
You will get drops on your camera lens too. You can get photos from the top and bottom as well.
Walk further along from the bottom, for more nice rapids and rushing water.
The Vachiratharn Waterfall is a good place to take a break during your trip to the summit of Doi Inthanon.
There is a nice restaurant which has the basic Thai rice and noodle dishes.
Toilets are here as well.
At the Waterfall, there are many caves, including Borijinda Cave, a large cave with stalactite and stalagmite, located in the east of the National Park.
Really nice waterfalls.
LOCATION......The Vachiratharn Waterfall located about 7km from the summit of Doi Inthanon.
Take Route 108 out of Chiang Mai, then between the towns of Khuang Pao and Chom Thong, turn right into Route 1009 which goes all the way to Vachiratharn Waterfall.
Being our virgin trip to Chiang Mai, we were surprised on the organized road infrastructure and clean city. People are beautiful, warm and friendly. Doi Ithanon is definitely worth a trip as beautiful view from the tip of Savannah. Elephant ride is definitely something not to be missed.
Fondest memory: Breathtaking view from Doi Ithanon and beautiful flowers at the King and Queen's pagoda garden.
Our guide Pong, speaks relatively good English and has a wicked sense of humour! Gave good tips and we would have probably blew our budget if not because of him (email@example.com)
When you stay in your own bamboo home or bungalow in a hill tribe village they know that is your space. They will not bother you or burst into your home. You can visit them at your leisure and enjoy your privacy at the same time. The villagers are much happier as you are respecting their privacy also. The village headman or someone in the village will probably invite you into their home for a cup of tea. If you would like to see the inside of a hill tribe home always ask your guide first. The tour guide usually arranges visiting a hill tribe home in advance. The folks in the village know you are coming and a designated home is planned for your visit.
This type of hill tribe village stay promotes harmony in the village. The culture is not disrupted, everyone’s privacy is respected and you are treated like a friend rather than a source of income as a tourist. The building of the home is paid for by the tour operator to the villagers and a fee is charged for the overnight stay to be shared by all the villagers.
For those looking for comfort and scenic beauty, visiting hill tribe villages but not wishing to stay in one, there are many options. Excellent fully furnished bungalows with air conditioning in a small town on the banks of a beautiful river surround with mountains in a fruit orchard is just one of the choices. For bird lovers there are wonderful resorts that cater to the birds along with the guests in total comfort. Many of these hotel/bungalow resorts are on large garden laden grounds with hike and bike trails. Bikes are available to take a leisurely ride through forest and small villages. They all have excellent restaurants serving Thai and Western food and yes a Jacuzzi and/or swimming pool.
Fondest memory: What ever your inside Thailand travel or accommodations needs there is the transport and place for you. Check around and find a good flexible tour operator that will give you many choices of transport, accommodations and tours to meet your needs and expectations. No need to reserve your hotel or resort for every night in one place. Many operators will say you can’t do this or that, take this package tour, stay at this hotel, take this flight, etc. If you do, you might miss out on a wonderful experience to remember for a lifetime.
First thing is deciding how you are going to get to Chiang Mai. There are many options for traveling inside Thailand. Your travel agent or airline Internet booking sites are limited in their knowledge on what is available or they just don’t offer all possibilities.
Most will point you to Thai Airways however there are now a few excellent budget airlines where you can book directly over the Internet and save loads of cash. Nok Air for example has excellent service and cheaper, Air Asia is the cheapest but no assigned seating on their 737 aircraft. You can save as much as 70% when flying Air Asia if you book on their web site a few months in advance.
Another option is the train. The great thing about the overnight train that it is cheaper than flying (except with Air Asia at times) and you won’t need to spend money on overnight accommodations. The 2nd class berths are fine but 1st class is the way to go. In 1st class you will have your own private cabin with 2 berths in each cabin. There are two bathrooms to share with only 20 people. In 2nd class you will need to share the small toilet space and sink area with more than 40 persons. Also you will need to keep an eye on your baggage as everyone in the 2nd class car has their luggage exposed to others. Not much room for your bags either.
The 1st class cabins are connecting so if you are a family you have a door you can open to the joining cabin. The porter is always cleaning the bathrooms and available during the complete trip to meet you needs. There is plenty of room to put your baggage in your cabin where it is not exposed to others. The 1st class car is locked at night securing it from the other train cars.
Food from the dining car will be brought to your room. A waiter or waitress will come to your berth for you to order. You can even request what time you would like to eat dinner and breakfast. The porter will have hot water, coffee or tea ready for you when you wake up in his service area of the car.
Fondest memory: The train is clean, safe, comfortable and fun. For 1st class there are two trains. The first one departs Bangkok at 6 PM arriving in Chiang Mai around 7:10 AM. The second train is for those who want to enjoy the beautiful north Thailand mountain countryside in the morning. That train departs Bangkok at 7:20 PM arriving in Chiang Mai around 9:40 AM.
Now lets talk about accommodations.
Most people do not know that there are excellent places to stay in the smallest towns and villages in North Thailand. These include everything from beautiful 5 star garden resorts in the forested mountains to clean bamboo bungalows in hill tribe villages with toilets and cold showers for guests only. To stay at anyone of these will enhance your Thailand Experience.
Spending an evening in a hill tribe village is an excellent way to learn about the culture of the people in the village. A good hill tribe village to spend your evening in should have a separate bamboo home, toilets and showers for their guests. Excellent Thai meals will be prepared by your guide or delivered fresh from a clean nearby restaurant.
Spending an evening with a family in a hill tribe village has many problems. Here is why.
First if there is a toilet and shower it is shared with everyone in the village if there is one at all. You will then have to wait your turn to go to the bathroom what ever your need. Most are very dirty and some with no running water. Second the cooking utensils; plates, spoon etc. are not at all clean. Many who spend an evening with a hill tribe family in a village become ill because of poor hygiene by the villages that handle and prepare the food, dirty dishes and eating utensils. Third is you are constantly bothered by the family trying to sell you something or to pay for a massage. They will invite neighbors into the home to do the same.
CONTINUED IN PART 3
Thailand is a fairly large country with many different cultures, scenery and attractions. If you plan your schedule carefully you can cover most of these on your first visit to the Kingdom. The main question is how?
Although a lot of this depends on how much time you have there are many mistakes people make on planning their visit so they miss out on experiencing the real culture and natural beauty of Thailand.
With the Internet you can find loads of information on Thailand but learning how to use this information is critical. It is easy to be overwhelmed with facts, suggestions, tour itineraries, hotel decisions, and ideas from others on where to go and what to do. All this information is great and of immense value if you can just sort it all out. I will try to help you do that here.
I have written many Thailand travel Blogs, journals and posted on several travel forums. I receive lots of email from visitors to these web sites asking about the Kingdom, culture, history, what to see, when, where and how. In almost every case it is impossible for them to enjoy the rich culture and natural beauty of Thailand away from the normal tourist crowds. Most have contacted me too late.
They have made several errors when planning their holiday/vacation so now they are limited to doing the normal canned tour offered by most tour operators. They could have enjoyed a wonderful experience that will be remembered for a lifetime if they made the correct decisions in the proper order during their planning, here’s how.
DO NOT book your hotels or transportation inside Thailand until you have decided what you want to see, do and enjoy!!!
This is the biggest mistake you can make. Lets start with visiting north Thailand first.
Fondest memory: Most of the email I receive is like this; “We have booked our flights Bangkok – Chiang Mai - Bangkok and 5 nights in a hotel in Chiang Mai. We want to go elephant riding, visit hill tribe villages, take a long tail boat ride, visit the Golden Triangle, Night Bazaar and Doi Inthanon National Park, is this possible in the time I have?”
Because they already have their flights and hotels booked they are limited to day trips from Chiang Mai. They will spend more time riding in a vehicle than enjoying the attractions.
Just to get to the Golden Triangle and return it will take 7 hours or more just riding in a vehicle. For Doi Inthanon they have just enough time to ride to the summit of the mountain, take a 20-minute trail walk, have lunch at a touristy restaurant, visit a few waterfalls and return to Chiang Mai.
For the long tail boat ride they will be limited to riding on the Ping River in town. If they choose to ride through the mountains it will be a 3 and 1/2 hour journey by vehicle, 3 hours in the boat and another 3 to 4 hours in a vehicle to return to Chiang Mai. Again, too much time in a vehicle. The elephant riding and hill tribe villages they visit will be close to town filled with tourists with not much real culture or natural beauty if any.
There is a much better way.
Decide on what you would like to see and do along with how much time you have first before booking your flights and hotel.
Now if the same person asked me; “I will be visiting Chiang Mai from Bangkok for 5 days, I want to go elephant riding, visit hill tribe villages, take a long tail boat ride, visit the Golden Triangle, Night Bazaar and Doi Inthanon National Park, is this possible in the time I have? We have not booked our hotels or flights inside Thailand yet”
Wow are they going to have a good time.
CONTINUED IN PART 2. WITH PHOTOS.
So what can you do?
Try to find such a tour or trekking operator. The most important thing is being willing to pay more for you tour or trek. The fewer people on the trek or tour the better the experience. This costs more but well worth it. Most guides that work for these eco- culture friendly operators are very dedicated to helping people including you. They go out and visit these villages and natural areas regularly if they have people to take or not. They have extensive training about the environment, animals, birds, insects and about the local people you will see and meet. They are paid much more than the normal commercial guide and are well worth it so be willing to pay more.
Eco-tourism is not cheap so before you go out to find the best price for a trek or tour, first think about who wins and who looses on a cheap tour or trek. No one wins. Think about it.
Ask how many persons are going on the trek with you and get it in writing as part of your receipt. Many people are told a small number later to find out there are up to 15 persons going on the trek. If they come to pick you up and there is more than what they wrote on your receipt when you paid for the trek get your money back. Go to the tourist police and file a complaint. If they do not give you a refund just make sure you have the number of persons in your trekking party written in your receipt. 6 persons should be the maximum and the fewer the better and a private trek is best. An eco-culture tour and trekking operator will keep the number of persons visiting a village small. The impact of even 50 visitors a month in a village is devastating and should not be allowed. Some excellent operators take visitor to village only once a week and then no more than 6 persons. They have many villages they can visit so they can take tourists daily to different villages.
3. The ability and willingness of the tour operator to donate some profits to the people in the villages they visit and in helping protect and improve nature and the environment.
There are very few tour and adventure operators in Thailand that are willing to support this belief. The ones that do started their business out of love for nature and the people and wanting to share their experiences with travelers not just for the money. They know the profits will rise once previous clients talk to their friends and others about the wonderful time they had on their holiday. This means more money for the locals and the tour operator. They must work together without exploitation.
Fondest memory: The relationship that develops between the operator, guides, local people and communities when the tour or trekking company helps them is very important. This means you as a visitor can enjoy something special and richly rewarding instead feeling like of a source of income. You can develop true friendships with the people you meet and enjoy a spectacular natural unspoiled environment. You and your guide will be well respected by everyone you come in contact with. They also know that some of the money you paid for your holiday to visit them goes to help them and the local environment. They know their customs will be respected and their culture and way of life will remain intact.
Good Eco-aware tour operator helps in many ways in Thailand. They buy books and other supplies for local schools. They pay to build schools and pay for teachers to live in the remote villages. They provide blankets and clothing yearly to families and children. They pay for doctors to visit remote villages on a regular basis and provide medicines and money for treatments if needed. Some pay local remote villagers to keep a watch out for poachers in the jungle and rain forest and report any potential problems to local authorities. They also work with local police, park rangers and forest ranges providing funds for rewards when poachers or tree cutters are caught. They pay locals to plant trees where needed and teach the people about waste disposal and hygiene. Build toilet facilities and water wells or water gathering reservoirs in small mountain canyons. They pay for pipes and plumping from the wells and reservoirs to the village. The list goes on and on but the important thing is the tour or trekking operator wants to help.
Read more in Part V
Many villages now also use the streams to wash in because they know there is nothing left to gather or fish for. They don’t know why everything is gone but it was all-fine before the tourists arrived. They also figure if the well-educated, smart and rich tourists are using the water to bath why should we carry water when we can just do what they do.
So what can you do?
Do not bath in streams or waterfalls using chemical soaps and shampoos. There are biodegradable soaps and shampoos made that do not pollute so use these products. Another thing you can do is to carry the water down hill and away from the stream at least 20 meters. The best is not to use soap or shampoo at all while in or near the stream or waterfalls. Bring along a face cloth and add a little soap to clean your body and rinse off far away from the water source.
The people who lived in the rain forest or jungle knew in the past how important their water source was. It is a tragedy that these peoples had to give this up because of tourism. There are still several villages in Thailand that are pristine and still follow these good environmental practices. Their villages are in very remote areas far away from the normal tourist crowds.
These are the two main problems with tourism and the environment in Thailand today. For sure there are many others such as waste disposal that most of us already know about.
2. The ability and the willingness for proper control when visiting ethnic peoples and villages in such a way that they can continue to maintain their natural being, customs, traditions and lifestyle.
Fondest memory: These are the worst horror stories not only in Thailand but also throughout the world today. Almost all of the villages visited by tour operators today have lost everything their elders have taught them going back hundreds of years. Villagers are starving, addicted to drugs and they are selling their children to be used as prostitutes or slaves. Believe it or not the villages that accept tourists have the biggest chance of falling into this problem. Here are the ways it usually (but not always) happens.
A guide goes out looking for a new area and villages to take tourists. He (or she) meets the people in the villages and wants to bring tourists with the promise of a more prosperous life (money) than what they have now. There are no rules or guide lines set except that the villagers can sell trinkets and handicrafts (most bought and not made by them) to the tourists. The family that has guests overnight receives a small sum of money, a meal but must supply the rice (in most cases). If the villagers can supply opium for the trekkers to smoke, so much the better, as the guide will make lots of money from this. Once this starts the local drug lords will make them keep purchasing the opium.
After a year or two here is what happens to this once beautiful village. The once shy villagers rush to meet the tourists with souvenirs for them to buy. Most of these are made in Burma and not by the villagers themselves. They will not stop bothering people until they buy something and then leave.
The children ask and beg for money. Now, the villagers are looking at the tourist as a source of income not as a visitor. Most have quit working their fields just to meet and beg and sell junk to the tourists. Most of the hill tribe villages do not own land but are given an area to plant crops. If it is not used then another village will take over the fields. This is usually a nearby village that does not accept tourists.
Read more in Part III
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