Following on from our last post, we arranged a Doi Inthanon National Park tour via www.bonvoyagethailand.com. This website was at least 500B cheaper what we were quoted when going to travel agents in Chiang Mai.
We had an early start in the morning, the earliest since we landed in Bangkok (excluding our Night Bus arrival in Chiang Mai!). We were up and ready in the lobby for 08:00 for the minivan picking us up.
It took approx. 90 mins to get to the National Park, whilst in the minivan on the way there we got a brief history about the park by our very enthusiastic tour guide, Julie. We learnt that the mountain in Thailand used to be called Doi Luang, which is Thai for “Big Mountain”. It was then later changed to Doi Inthanon in memory of the last king of Northern Thailand.
We stopped at a 7 Eleven for breakfast on the way, I opted for wasabi peas, Craig opted for chicken rolls and a huge family bag of crisps.
We started the tour near the bottom of the park at Sirithan Waterfall. It was in a beautiful jungle setting, measuring approx 40m high; we couldn’t get very close to the waterfall so got a few photos in front of it, before we knew it we were back in the minivan to the next part of the tour.
We went to the White Karen Hill Tribe next. All of the houses in the tribe were made from bamboo (or teak if you were more well off). The houses were all elevated to prevent animals getting in whilst seeking shelter during the wet season.
We learnt that the women at the tribe wear white dresses when they are single and still have their virginity, so men know that they are available, once they marry, they wear a skirt and top as opposed to a dress, and can wear any colour they like, except red, as the men wear red when they go hunting.
The Karen Tribe are experts in training elephants, they even have a special language that they use with the elephants. The Karen tribe also have their own language altogether, and they don’t speak Thai. We were taken to the rice paddies at the outskirts of the tribe’s land, there was not much to see as it was dry season, they get more green during the wet season.
We were taken inside one of the homes where Karen women were making scarves.
The smaller scarves take 3 days to make and sell for 250B. They also do throws for beds which can take up to two months to make. Considering the majority of the scarves were only made using two colour fabrics, they were stunning to look at.
We then went outside to have an explore and I tried some of the tastiest and strongest homegrown Arabica coffee I’ve had in my life. I am a bit of a caffeine fiend, however having been off the coffee for a few weeks it instantly started causing havoc with my stomach!
After the Karen Village we went to Wachirathan Waterfall. This one was approx. 70m high, and it was stunning, Craig said it was on par with some of the waterfalls he had seen on his trip to Iceland. We were allowed to adventure on our own with this one, and spent a good 30-45 minutes walking around and getting some photographs.
We then had a Thai buffet lunch with the group we were touring with (approx 15 people, Thai, Latvian, Canadian, Spanish and French). We had omelettes, chicken and green beans in a spicy curry paste, tom yam soup, sautéed vegetables and of course, loads of sticky rice. It was so tasty, and the seconds and thirds were inevitable. I then purchased a necklace made out of watermelon seeds made by one of the locals, one of my favourite purchases to date.
We then went to the Royal Projects flower garden. The Karen Tribe used to make their money by selling and trading opium, however once opium became illegal in Thailand, the king and the government came up with a plan. Without opium, the tribe had no source of income so the king devised a plan, he gave the tribe various seeds for plants that could not grow in hot city conditions. He gave them seeds for coffee, various flowers and fruits such as strawberries, for these could only grow in cooler conditions, such as those in the mountains as it higher above sea level. This was named The Royal Project. The tribe could then grow legal produce and receive money from the government in return.
We witnessed where the Karen Tribe were growing their new produce and the gardens were stunning, we had a walk around and got more photos and went onto the next part of the tour.
We then went to the highest point in Thailand; 2,565m above sea level. We were told that it was going to be cooler at the top of the mountain, however when we got there it was 29 degrees C, meaning that Chiang Mai town was approximately 40 degrees that day!
We saw the King’s Stupa were his ashes were kept and we got a photo under the famous “Highest Point in Thailand” sign.
We then made our way to the final stop (and the one we had been looking forward to the most), the King and Queen Twin Pagodas.
The King and Queen Pagodas were built in 1987 and 1992 respectively, funny enough the same years me and Craig were born, so it’s easy to remember. The King’s pagoda is mostly brown and the Queen pagoda is a lilac purple.
When we arrived the scene just took our breath away. It was a beautiful clear day and when we got to the viewpoint at the King’s Pagoda we could see for miles, I felt like I was up in the clouds. We visited both Pagodas, got some amazing pictures and had a wander around the flower garden next to the Queen Pagoda. The photos we got looked like something off The Lord of the Rings, with the surrounding areas of the flower garden reminding us of Hobbiton.
We slept all the way home from the park, we arrived back at the apartment about 17:30, a great day and money well spent. The whole day was everything we had hoped for and possibly more. We would recommend a Doi Inthanon tour to anyone who is visiting Chiang Mai, it really is a thing of beauty.
Next post, which will be the day after. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary!
Craig and Rach x