• Barry

Camping in Doi Inthanon National Park (Pt 2)

The main attraction of Doi Inthanon National Park is without doubt Doi Inthanon itself, the 'Roof of Thailand' or Thailand's highest peak. However, the surrounding area has many places that are worth hunting down and at times to do this you have to go exploring. Tour groups will lead you to the top attractions but in reality they are only the top attractions because that is where the tourist guides take tourists to. These places are often just visited for the sake of convenience, because it is on the way to somewhere, or even worse because the owners of the shops/restaurants pay the guides for bringing in customers. In any case one of my favourite things to is to drive off without having any particular place in mind to go, these exploration trips usually ended up with me sat in beautiful surroundings, eating delicious Thai food, and not understanding a single word the locals were saying to me and vice versa. On one occasion I ended up spending a couple of hours walking around the area below taking photos, videos and drone footage, all of which I somehow managed to lost except for this one photo. This was exactly as I suggested above and walking around this little village was my idea of a perfect afternoon, these villages are everywhere in Thailand they are just not on the tourist route.

Above the campsite and within walking distance are views looking out over spectacular waterfalls which originate around Doi Inthanon I stopped to admire the view and grab a morning coffee and the owner of the coffee shop led me to believe that the area never runs dry of water so unlike other areas in Thailand the waterfalls flow year round. Although this may be true Thailand was at this time in the middle of a serious drought so although there was still a good flow of water this was probably much more reduced than might be normal, this seemed to be the case with the three sets of falls I would come across on my travels.

Inthanon Royal Project Research Station is a project started by the late king in 1979 in a bid to stop the growing of opium in the region. The local hill-tribes grew opium as a means of making a living, to eradicate this and also prevent deforestation the research centre aimed to bring in alternative crops such as strawberries and fruit trees and adapt the surroundings to grow these, becoming self-sustainable without the need to grow opium and destroy more forest land. The hill tribes consisted largely of Hmong and Karen people and what started off as a local project became the basis of a national programme aimed at helping various hill people improve their lives. Today the lines between the project and tourism are a little blurred, homestays, fruit picking, eco-tours into the villages and buying from the Hmong market near the National Park Hq all help to support the project. Eco tourism is very clearly a major factor in the region.

So while there are many things to do in the region my main enjoyment came from riding around exploring all the things that are not in the tourist guides handbook. Doi Intahanon's peak was very underwhelming, the Royal Pagoda's the opposite. The campsite was possibly the best I stayed at on my trip for facilities, for location it was by far the best. I arrived in early February and it was cold at night but perfect riding weather during the day. Would I recommend this as a place to visit for a day from Chiang Mai, no I wouldnt, any visit should include at least a one night stay in the area, camping or in a guesthouse would both be fine, but the camping was fun here.

For now it is back across to the Myanmar border and Mae Hong Son Province. Coming soon.

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