Ah yes, trekking. National parks are meant for this – after putting your body through ridiculous torture, you feel that you appreciate the view and the sites on a different level (although maybe this is the lack of oxygen due to strenuous activity?).
Doi Inthanon National Park is about 2 hours from Chiang Mai and is about 1,000 sq km in size. There are hiking trails, waterfalls, and, of course, stupas to check out on your way up to Thailand’s highest peak (Doi Inthanon, 2,565 m above sea level).
There is also a drastic temperature change through the trek – you start hiking when it’s about 25C and by the time you reach the peak, it’s only 12C and startlingly chilly. But to be honest, this was a welcome relief when hiking (although I’m not ashamed to say that I did wish I had a sweater after a while).
The park has a total of eight waterfalls but I only popped into to see two of them on my way up the mountain.
The Face Plant Heard Round the World
What’s a blog post without me talking about how I injure myself due to clumsiness?
Early into the hike, I stopped to check out Nam Tok Wachiratan (waterfall) that plummets about 50 m. There are old wooden stairs of various lengths and heights (some in better condition than others) leading up to a viewpoint where you can get some good photos and a nice peek at the waterfalls.
So, as I am mindfully making my way up the stairs (because I know that I am capable of tripping over air), there was a malfunction between my brain sending the signal to my feet to say “whoa Nelly! This step is a little different from the last one, watch it” and I totally face planted into the stairs.
Now, this wasn’t your average “oh ooops, I tripped” moment. Oh no, nothing but the best for me.
To get the full effect, you need to imagine a slow motion fall, in which both water bottles loosen from my backpack (I have managed to defeat you mesh side pockets) and fly over my head, my sunglasses are thrown from my head as if a poltergeist has seized them, and of course, my camera topples to the ground and somehow turns the flash on (if I had somehow managed to get a photo, it would have been my crowning jewel).
In my imperfect perfect coordination, I somehow managed to line up my chin with one step, my right shoulder with another, and my left knee with another step.
Oh, and did I mention that this happened in front of about 20 Chinese tourists that were dropped off by a tour bus just in time to witness my face plant? I’m a little worried to google “idiot tourist face plants at waterfall 2016” – I’m almost certain I’ll pop up in Google Images. (And if you just googled that sentence, please don’t tell me if my photo came up – I like to pretend I have some semblance of pride and dignity).
Once I picked up my belongings and the pieces of my shattered pride, I left several layers of my epidermis behind and continued to ascend the “stairs” to check out the waterfall. Was the waterfall worth it? Hmmm….no. After seeing Kuang Si Waterfall in Laos recently, Wachiratan is pretty but not as impressive.
So, to be clear, I am capable of trekking in rough, rocky, muddy and slippery trails, hopping over fences and fallen down trees but under no circumstance am I even remotely qualified to walk up some stairs. I can’t even lie and say they were dimly lit – it was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day.
Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon
Yeah, say that three times fast.
About 3 km before you reach the summit of Doi Inthanon, you come across two stunning chedis built by the Royal Thai Air Force to commemorate the king and queen’s respective 60th birthdays (What did you get on your last birthday?). Kind of like his and hers chedis.
The chedis are also surrounded by beautiful gardens of interestingly shaped shrubs and exotic flowers.
The views from the top are different from what I expected. This is because a dense mist formed by the condensation of warm humid air below, hangs around the top of the mountain creating an eerie and mystical effect.
The Way Down
After catching my breath at the top, snapping a few photos and checking out orchids and moss, I rented a mountain bike for the cruise back to base. All I can say is that this was awesome – when you’re not convinced that you are going to wipe out or get sideswiped by cars or motorbikes. It’s an incredibly steep ride down a twisty, turny, narrow road. But a great thrill and it totally beats walking down.
After reaching the base, I got in a transport van to head back to Chiang Mai for some well-earned dinner at the Kalare Food Night Market. The dinner part of the plan was somewhat delayed as the van broke down on the side of the road (sounded like the battery just decided to die) and I had to wait for 1.5 hours for another shuttle van to come.
This was bound to happen – I have been far too lucky with modes of transportation and that is very unlike me.