Hiking in Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand

I haven’t been running as much lately, mostly because I was in Thailand for most of November!

Jason and I had an amazing trip exploring the temples, volunteering at the wonderful Elephant Nature Park and experiencing the Yi Peng (Loy Krathong) Lantern Festival.

We also went on a pretty epic hike or “trek” through part of Thailand’s forests in Doi Inthanon National Park on November 16. Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s highest peak (“Doi” means mountain in Thai), and although we didn’t summit it, it was a challenging hike nonetheless.

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We booked our hike through Pooh Eco-Trekking, choosing the advanced trek as an option. We figured that considering the kinds of hikes (Mt. St. Helens) and runs we do, we could handle anything.

Booking through them was really nice. In addition to local guides, they provided (and carried!) our lunch for us. We also learned more about the edible plants from some of the guides who knew the area and belonged to the local Karen hill tribe.

It was only an hour or so from the city of Chiang Mai to the start of our trail. Thankfully, the change of elevation provided a much-needed drop in temperature. If it had been hotter, I’m not sure I would have survived the hike!

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After hiking a bit, we were given a delicious lunch of fried rice and egg, neatly wrapped up in a cute banana leaf package. Compostable dishes!

In addition to our guides, three other tourists joined us; a couple from Belgium and a guy from Germany. It was fun to meet the both of them and chat about the hike.

The hiking sticks the guides cut for us came we very useful for stream crossings and steep portions of the route.

The hiking sticks the guides cut for us came we very useful for stream crossings and steep portions of the route.

The trail was created by water buffalo who seasonally wander the forest, but it was a pretty good path. It was very steep and muddy in some places, but no worse than some of the scrambles we encountered when hiking Elk Mountain. In fact, sometimes the hike really did remind me of home. But I was always reminded how different it was by the different plants and insects. The forest just smelled different than forests from home.

At home, orchids only grow in fancy greenhouses, not on trees.

At home, orchids only grow in fancy greenhouses, not on trees.

During some of the really muddy downhill portions, I also learned something else. If you are slipping, grabbing the bamboo will support you. The trunk of the banana tree may look thicker and sturdier, but it will bend like a giant rubber hose and dump you on the ground. Actually, I never did fall throughout the entire hike, but most of the others weren’t so lucky.

In lower elevation areas, near the streams, there were whole groves of banana trees. This was truly the most Jungle-like part of our trek.

In lower elevation areas, near the streams, there were whole groves of banana trees. This was truly the most Jungle-like part of our trek.

I had hoped to see some exotic animals, but just like at home, they are adept at hiding. After all, I’ve never seen a cougar and they’re pretty common in my area. I didn’t mind too much— we had just spent a week among elephants.

We did encounter some massive spiders in equally massive webs. The size of my hand, they had black bodies highlighted with yellow and iridescent blue with long spindly legs. They were very cool, but I’m also rather glad spiders at home are much smaller.

The hike, including two stops for lunch and then fresh watermelon as a snack, took us about 4 hours. We ended the trek at a small local village, where our driver picked us up. By the end of the hike, we were sweaty and tired, but we had so much fun.

Excited to be hiking in Thailand!

Excited to be hiking in Thailand!

The hills and forest are beautiful. To some of the others in our group, they had never seen such geography before. Again, I was reminded of home and how lucky I am with beautiful forests, mountains and hills nearby.

The next day, I found out how hard I had worked. I was so sore! To top it off, the next day we went to the famous temple at Doi Suthep. The iconic part of Doi Suthep? The amazing Naga stair with 309 steps to the temple.

Ready to tackle the staircase on sore legs!

Ready to tackle the staircase on sore legs!

Out of pride, we refused to take the tram. Stairs for us!

Distance: Roughly 6 miles?
Elevation: Estimating using Jason’s GPS tracker, our net elevation loss was 1,643ft (start at 5,249ft, end at 3,606ft). Of course, that wasn’t straight down, but a lot of ups and downs!
Hiked with: Jason and others!

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