Excursions, Chiang Mai
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.
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.
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 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
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
Mae Rim : North of Chiangmai is the suburb of Mae Rim. This area, only 16 km. away, was once the remote countryside. It is now an extension of Chiangmai.
Off to the west just 5 kilometers from Mae Rim is the beautified Mae Sa Valley, here are some of northern Thailand's beautiful orchid and butterfly farms and one of the most interesting elephant camps in the north. Along the Mae Sa Highway, are the Mae Sa Waterfall and a number of snake farms.
Move deep into the countyside, follow this road, it will take you to Samoeng, one of those precious sights nowaday rarely found near by big cities anymore. Surrounded by mountains on the east and the north, a quiet, genie enclave of farmers and florists set in the lush Mae Sa Valley.
Fondest memory: 9 March 03
Temporare pic from TAT :
Orchid Farm at Mae Sa Valley.
Meanwhile, south of Chiangmai and within easy reach of Samoeng are old Chiangmai areas that worthly to see.
The first is Harngdong, one of Chiangmai's famous handicraft areas. and Its sister village, Baan Thawai, are Chiangmai's antique and one of the best known centers for wood carving. About 16 Kms south of Chiangmai, this is a great area for sighting and may be for shopping.
Not far beyond Harngdong is Sanpatong. Here the local farmers and ranchers meet every Monday morning and hold their weekly cattle market, and Sanpatong and the surrounding area has more. One of the favorite sights for trekking on the outskirts of Chiangmai, the area around Sanpatong is home to many hilltriebs and stretches south- west into the mountains.
Fondest memory: Just temporare picture from TAT :
Baan Thawai Handicraft Village.
9 March 2003
One hour drive north of Chiang Mai with highway no.107 enroute to Tha Ton over Mae Rim Baan Mae Malai and Mae Taeng at KM 77 you will arrive in Chiang Dao Town.
Or take a Public Bus to Tha Ton or
Fang from Chang Puak Bus Station in Chiang Mai (6:00 - 15:30), you will arrive Chiang Dao after 1.5 hrs.
Chiang Dao town centre has charming old style wooden shops flanking the highway.
It is one of the few remaining Thai towns without a Seven Eleven.
Indeed the people around here are mainly involved with agriculture, and most people are asleep by 8.00pm!
They tend to rise very early for work.
The morning market starts at around 3.00am finishing at about 8.00am.
It is interesting to see the locals shopping here.
On a Tuesday Chiang Dao has a bustling market where people from the surrounding area, including many hilltribe folk come down to buy and sell their wares.
Not intended for tourists and well worth experiencing.
Chiang Dao, in Thai 'the City of Stars', is more than just it's famous caves.
Chiang Dao's most striking feature is
Doi Chiang Dao, Thailand's 3rd highest mountain at 2225m which plays host to an abundance of wildlife and nature.
It is one of the lesser-visited, but nonetheless interesting Thai birding sites.
Chiang Dao is an ideal base for people touring the area, whether on foot, cycling, in rented cars, or on motorbikes.
Elephant centres and river rafting are situated close by.
A wide variety of hilltribe villages are dotted around the nearby mountains which can be reached independently or as part of a trek.
There are also various hiking trails through the forest, or up the mountain.
It is also a great place to unwind.
Meditation at the temple, or just relaxing in a hammock.
It's such a beautiful, peaceful place, doing nothing is always an option.
Fondest memory: Chiang Dao Town is situated on the Ping river.
The river is relatively gentle most of the year and lends itself easily to safe and enjoyable bamboo rafting.
White water rafting it is not, but it is a relaxing float down a beautiful river, with a few faster flowing sections adding some spice.
The rafting is often included in one day tours from Chiang Mai along with Elephant rides.
9 March 2003
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.
It's not strictly related to Chiang Mai, this entry... however it was here that i discovered this "deep" piece of wisdom. Walking about the grounds of the Buddhist Universities young monks were hanging their laundry to dry. Everything - including their towels - was of orange colour. But was striked me most that even their laundry buckets were of the same colour. The only thing i did not see, and I looked around well, was underwear... do they wear orange undies? or don't they wear undies at all?
Fondest memory: taking those laundry embarassing pictures... I never felt so much ashamed. But then... I was curious!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Doi Saket :
East of Chiangmai on the road to Chiangrai is the charming country village of Doi Saket.
Set in a rich, green valley, one with natural irrigation from national dam and water protects, Doi Saket is one of the most beautiful settings in the Chiangmai area.
In the village, on a hill overlooking the valley, is the Doi Saket temple. This temple, set half in a forest and half on the open hilltop, has recently been expanded and shows some of the best of Chiangmai's temple architecture.
Fondest memory: Picture Coming
5 March 2003
Doi Inthanon: Thailand s highest mountain peak, is a beautiful trip worth making for the sights available from the mountain top.
38 Kms up a winding road from the junction at Jom Thong, south of Sanpatong the road to Doi Inthanon also has other attractions.
One third of the way up is one of farms,
here on a hillside near an Hmong Hill tribe villages, the beautiful and colorful fields of orchids.
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
The guide starts dinner at the family home and gives the host family around 50 Baht for having them. It is now evening and the guide asks who wants to smoke opium. Some in the group will probably say yes. The guide then buys the opium in the village for maybe 400 baht from which can supply around 20 or more pipe loads. The guide then sells it again to the tourist for maybe 100 to 200 baht a pipe load. This is big money for the guide. Mean while the children in the village see the foreigners smoking opium and think that they do the same everyday. In their mind they think they can smoke opium, go to college and make lots of money like the tourists do.
It is now a year later and the village has no culture to speak of any more. There is no cultural interaction between the villagers and tourists as the visitors are looked upon only as a source of income. The tour operator and guides decide to now leave this village for new villages without tourists and the process starts all over again. Now this village has no more tourists. They have no place to plant crops anymore as the fields they stopped planting have been taken over by nearby villagers. This means they now have to buy food and basic necessities but have no money. Many are now addicted to opium or heroin and even sell their children to keep up the habit.
This is a worst-case example but has happened and continues to happen to this day.
So what can you do?
Please be careful with trekking operators that advertise new area or village. Find out why they have to go to a new village or area. Most good eco-culture friendly operators go to the same area and villages year after year. They have an excellent relationship with them so everything is in balance and harmony so they do not need to go to a new area.
Fondest memory: Most hill tribe villages do not have handicrafts as they spend most of their time working in their fields. There may however be elderly women in the village taking care of young children that do make handicrafts. In this case there will be one home or area where handicrafts can be viewed and bought. No one will bother you to buy anything and you are not looked at as a major source of income.
Make sure you are not allowed to give candy to children or money for pictures. As a matter of fact nothing should be exchanged directly between you and anyone in the village. A village is a very communal place and what belongs to one belongs to all. Jealousy and hate between villagers can arise because one family or person received something from you and they didn’t. It is true that many villages that are visited by tourist drop drastically in population because of jealousy. It is the lucky ones that move away to a different village, usually that of another family member that has already moved because of marriage to a village member.
Ask to meet your guide first. Talk alone with your guide. Find out how much your guide knows about the village as you can. Tell your guide you want to smoke opium and if he or she says no problem find a different operator and guide. Many tour operators don’t know their guides are selling drugs to tourists so you need to ask your guide. If you go on a trek and the guide tries to sell pipe loads of opium and you see the tourists smoking turn the guide into the tourist police as soon as you return to the city. Do not say anything to the guide or tour operator just go to the police. This is the only way this can be stopped.
Read more in Part IV