An elephant dressed in a Santa Claus costume perform for students ahead of the Christmas festival at a school in Ayutthaya province on December 24, 2012. The event was held as part of a campaign to promote Christmas in Thailand.
Chiang Mai Province. Here are a few of the many reasons why one should visit Doi Inthanon National Park: the eponymous peak is the highest in Thailand; the Park includes 1,274 plant species, 90 of which are orchids (31 of which are found uniquely there); and the area is home to 466 animal species, 385 of those being birds (including the Green-tailed Sunbird). Besides being rich in floral and faunal life, the Park is dotted with a number of waterfalls of various sizes.
Doi Inthanon has something for everyone, whether day-trippers or those planning to thoroughly explore the Park. The day might be filled with a visit to the highest point in Thailand, which can be reached by car, and is clouded with mist all year round, the temperature never exceeding 17º C. This may be followed with a 30-minute walk along the nearby Ang Ka nature trail. The neat, elevated wooden platform with railings leads through the moss covered forest, where mixed plant-societies on single trees can be observed.
Toward the end of the trail, there is a path leading to the shrine of Chao Krom Kiat. The small spirit pavilion is built on a piece of helicopter wreckage as a memorial to Air Chief Marshal Kiat Mangkhlapruek and the late national park director who died on duty in a crash at that spot in May 1971. The rest of the day might be spent touring the waterfalls. The most enchanting are Wachirathan, Mae Klang, and Mae Ya. These falls are easy to access by car, with trails leading up to different levels. Picnic areas and restaurants are available. The first two falls are on the same road after the first checkpoint; only Mae Ya stands alone south of the main national park area, on the 14 km road that branches off Highway 1009 and meanders through a residential area.
A Whole Day Trekking
Doi Inthanon also offers an array of treks. Most treks run all year round, and only a few routes require a ranger or local guide (contact National Park Headquarters at Km. 31 for information and arrangements). One of the most interesting routes is the Kio Mae Pan trail, which is open only from 1 June to 31 October, as its fragile ecosystem needs more time to recover than most. The distance of this circular trek is only 3 km, but discerning trekkers may take a whole day to complete it.
Bird lovers should not forget to pack binoculars, and should try to visit between October and March. If an English speaking guide is required, just cross the street from the Park Headquarters to the Inthanon Bird Centre. The Centre has been there since 1962; its customer service attested to by walls lined with name cards from satisfied clients.
How To Get There
From Chiang Mai, take a local taxi from the bus pool at Chiang Mai Gate to Chom Thong. From Chom Thong, take the local taxi going to Doi Inthanon or to Mae Chaem, and ask to be dropped at the Headquarters. The best way to get around within the Park is to either charter a local taxi in Chom Thong or at the Park entrance, or hire a car from Chiang Mai. Make sure the car is in good condition and has a skilled driver behind the wheel.
Nam Wa River white-water rafting is the main adventure activity of the Mae Charim National Park and is considered one of the hardest and most enjoyable white-water areas in Nan Province Thailand. The difficulty ranges from Level 1 all the way up to Level 5 depending on the season. The difficulty of rapids is at Level 3-5 during June to October, at Level 3-4 during November to February, and at Level 2-3 during March to May. The suitability of the different parts of the river is also dependent on the season as well. The upper portion of the Nam Wa River is more suitable for rafting during the cool season after which the water level drops and surfacing rocks become obstacles to the inflatable rafts. The middle part of the Nam Wa River is suitable during October to February while the lower portion of the river is suitable all year round. The Nam Wa River is about 100 km long making it impossible to journey down the entire river in one go. The rafting route is therefore split into three areas as follows:
Part One: “Upper Nam Wa River”
It begins at Sapan Village and ends at Sop Mang Village at a distance of 35 km. The early part takes you through pristine forest and jungle. On the banks, you may see rare birds, as well as animal tracks. After about 20 minutes, you will begin to come across large rocks and other obstacles; such as, whirlpools and waterfalls that come together to form the Level 3-4 whitewater rapids; such as, Kaeng Suea Ten I, Kaeng Pong, Kaeng La-u, Kaeng Sop Huai Luang, Kaeng Hia, Kaeng Kot, and Kaeng Sop Pat. Then comes the Level 5 rapids, Kaeng Tum Hok. The highlight of the Upper Wa River is the area in which you cross in rapid succession; Kaeng Hua Meang, Kaeng Wang Ling, Kaeng Sop Huai Pa, Kaeng Wang Chang, Kaeng Suea Ten II, Kaeng Wang Put, Kaeng Wang Kaeo, Kaeng Wang Kom, Kaeng Luea Ngam, and Kaeng Sop Hua O because the distance between the various rapids is only 20–30 m. Afterwards is various smaller rapids until you reach the end at Kaeng Sop Mang.
Part Two “Middle Wa River”
This part of the Wa River starts from Sop Mang Village and ends at Wang Lun Village, which normally takes around two days to finish the 85-km route. You will have to navigate your boat through 100 large and small rapids with the difficulty level up to 5. Both sides of the waterway are green with forest vegetation. Because the river here is wide and deep, the water tends to flow very quickly and strongly. The obstacles in the area include whirlpools and large waves. Some rapids are like a small waterfall that can easily suck rafts to flip over. Traversing them requires a considerable amount of energy and skill; therefore, it is only recommended for experienced rafters.
Part Three “Lower Wa River”
With a length of about 12 km, it is the smallest and lightest of the 3 parts. With the difficulty level less than 3, it is suitable for adventurers of all ages. Starting from Kaeng Pong, you will enjoyably traverse numerous large and small rapids, including floating around and splashing about, before ending at the elephant camp. The last part of the Wa River takes approximately 3 hours.
From Nan, take Highway 1168 to Mae Charim District and continue on Highway 1243 until you reach Ban Huai Sai. Then, turn left to the National Park.
N18° 36.052’, E100° 58.73’