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A trek in the hills – North Thailand

Aa few photos and brief description of a hike to Mae Salong, Chiang Rai Province, Thailand

Some photographs from a recent All Points East 3-day trek in the hills of northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai province. Conditions are pretty perfect for hiking at this time of year: clear skies and relatively cool temperatures made for a great trip and we hope the group enjoyed it as much as we did!

Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai Province
Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai Province

Setting out from Chiang Mai City and heading north the route took us past some spectacular scenery such as the above – Doi Chiang Dao – a National Park and one of north Thailand’s highest peaks at 2,150 metres.

trek in the hills. Tha Ton, looking over the Kok River Valley
Tha Ton, looking over the Kok River Valley

Our starting point, Tha Ton Town, on the border of Chiang Mai and Rai provinces and a mere stone’s throw from Burma itself. We detoured to take in the spectacular view from the stupa-topped mountain overlooking the small town and stunning Kok Valley.

Heading down river
Heading downriver

The following morning our 3 day trek in the hills commenced with a boat journey downriver past paddy-fields, orchards and forest-clad hills.

Great scenery on the Kok River
Great scenery on the Kok River

The Kok River flows all the way to Chiang Rai but our destination was the riverside village of Ruam Mit at about the halfway mark, from where we set out for Yafu, a mountain top Lahu settlement.

trek in the hills. And more bucolic rural scenes on route from Ruam Mit to Yafu villages
And more bucolic rural scenes on route from Ruam Mit to Yafu villages

For the first section of our trek in the hills there was a choice between travelling on foot or by elephant.

Getting a lift
Getting a lift

A steep climb up to the village but views on arrival were spectacular, particularly in the morning with the ‘sea of mist’ effect cloaking the valleys as the rising sun warms up the air on the higher slopes leaving the early morning mist below. Our overnight stay as guests of the village teacher and his family was a comfortable one and thanks to Om and Tad for both a great dinner knocked up on a wood fire as well as, (vitally), ensuring that the beers were well chilled for our late afternoon arrival in the village!

Early morning at Yafu Village
Early morning at Yafu Village

Our second day’s hike took us through farmland surrounding Yafu and into forest, bamboo groves and along a stream bank where this picturesque waterfall made for a perfect lunch stop.

Small waterfall on the Nam Sai
Small waterfall on the Nam Sai

Riverbanks tend to have lusher, evergreen vegetation, flatter valley floors and lower slopes are cultivated with rice, corn and fruit whilst higher slopes have  stands of deciduous forest with even stands of pines growing at higher elevations.

Mountain scenery
Mountain scenery

 

Bridge over the Sai River
Bridge over the Sai River

 

Arrival in Aye Village
Arrival in Aye Village

Our second night was spent in the remote Akha village of Aye; a still very traditional village and pretty ‘rustic’ setting but again friendly locals, great food and a surprisingly decent night’s sleep! After a mixed dawn chorus of cockerels, village dogs and grunting pigs the following morning we set off on a short hike to reach the nearby road and our transport waiting to take us on to Mae Salong Town.

trek in the hills. Mae Salong - 'top of the world'
Mae Salong – ‘top of the world’

This spectacular mountain top village – originally settled by fleeing Kuomintang troops during the Chinese civil war – was a great place to finish the 3-day trip.¬† Not so long ago a centre for the Golden Triangle’s opium trade Mae Salong is now famous for tea growing and has become something of an off the beaten track tourist destination so, some frightfully civilized tea tasting, good restaurants and comfortable accommodation awaited us! From here it was on to the regional capital Chiang Rai and a return over the mountains to Chiang Mai. Excellent trip!

Cheers.