At 7.30am I went to Claire's room and she told me Archie was not at all well. He had been restless most of the night and had a sore throat and temperature and was still asleep. She said she would stay in for the day and I should go on the trip to Doi Inthanon National Park that we had booked a few days before.
I got picked up at 8.15 in a really old van which looked like it was ready for the scrap heap and sat next to a very nice German couple. The guide was a young Thai girl who was new to the job and I was aware from the start that she didn't know much about our trip. Oh well I thought, we will see how this pans out.
Our old van had to climb it's way up to the park and was overtaken often by the other newer vans. I thought we may have to get out and push at some steep places. The old van was chucking out smoke as it struggled up the mountain road!
Our first stop was at Wachirathon Waterfall where we stopped for twenty minutes and I had a quick coffee and took some photos. It was okay but nothing special!!
From there we got back in the van and made our way to a hill tribe village. I was looking forward to this part but unfortunately the tiny village was deserted as everyone was supposedly out working in the rice fields. There was one old woman who was weaving on a big loom and we saw a couple of houses and a puppy but that was about it!! Very disappointed. Our guide did not know much about the place but I listened in to another groups guide talk to find out a bit more about the tribe. Not many photo opportunities here. We all got back in the van and I was a bit peeved and the German couple were too.
From there we went to Sirithan Waterfall which was about 40metres high. Also quite nice but nothing special.
Then we drove up (if that's the term I can use!) to the highest point in Thailand. I was excited about this too but only to find a wooden sign at the highest point with no view whatsoever! It was a very comfortable temperature at the top - about 21 degrees and I felt rather fresh for the first time in four months!!
Here is a right up about Doi Inthanon National Park from the Lonely Planet Guide:
Thailand's highest peak is Doi Inthanon which measures 2565m above sea level, an impressive altitude for the kingdom, but a tad diminutive compared to its cousins in the Himalayan range. The 1000-sq-km national park surrounding the peak has hiking trails, waterfalls and two monumental stupas erected in honour of the king and queen. It is a popular day trip from Chiang Mai for tourists and locals, especially during the New Year's holiday when there's the rarely seen phenomenon of frost.
There are eight waterfalls that dive off the mountain. Nam Tok Mae Klang is the largest and the easiest to get to. Nam Tok Wachiratan (at Km20.8) is another popular stop with food vendors at its base and a huge frothy mane that plummets 50m. In February the village builds and races wooden carts down a steep incline. Along the road to the top are terraced rice fields and covered greenhouses tended by Hmong and Karen tribespeople.
About 3km before the summit of Doi Inthanon, Phra Mahathat Naphamethanidon and Nophamethanidon are two chedi built by the Royal Thai Air Force to commemorate the king's and queen's 60th birthdays in 1989 and 1992, respectively. In the base of the octagonal chedi is a hall containing a stone Buddha image.
The whole point of the park is to get as high as you can to see life in a colder climate, and the coolness is such a relief from the sweltering plains below. Thais relish bundling up in hats and jackets and posing for pictures among conifers and rhododendrons. Almost at the exact summit there's a chedi dedicated to one of the last Lanna kings (Inthawichayanon). From there, a lovely boardwalk through the thick, cool forest leads to a cafe, obligatory souvenir shop and the start of the Ang Ka nature trail, a 360m platform walkway through a moss-festooned bog. Walking through the forest on the nature trail is an enchanting experience.
The views from Doi Inthanon are best in the cool dry season from November to February. But don't expect a rewarding view from the summit, as for most of the year a mist, formed by the condensation of warm humid air below, hangs around the top of the mountain creating an eerie effect. You can expect the air to be quite chilly towards the top, so take a jacket or sweater. The views on the way to the summit are much better.
The park is one of the top destinations in Southeast Asia for naturalists and bird-watchers. The mist-shrouded upper slopes produce abundant orchids, lichens, mosses and epiphytes, while supporting nearly 400 bird species, more than any other habitat in Thailand. Most of the park's bird species are found between 1500m and 2000m; the best bird-watching season is from February to April, and the best spots are the beung (bogs) near the top. The mountain is also home to Assamese macaques, Phayre's leaf monkeys, and a selection of other rare and not-so-rare monkeys and gibbons as well as the more common Indian civet, barking deer and giant flying squirrel – around 75 mammal species in all.
After this brief stop at the summit we had lunch which was okay but nothing special and we were then driven to the King and Queen Pagoda's. One of them was being renovated and covered in tarpaulin and scaffolding but I climbed the other one and took a couple of photos as this was the only place we stopped at which had any sort of view. The gardens at the base were very nice and well kept.
After about 40 minutes we were then driven back to Chiang Mai. Luckily it was down hill all the way! I was absolutely sweltering as the old van's air con was not working and the sun was streaming in on me as the little window curtain was missing. The journey back lasted an hour and a half and it was really uncomfortable. Arrived back at Awana at 4pm feeling quite miserable as the day was very disappointing. I went to Claire's room where she said Archie was resting on the roof terrace and feeling a bit better as he had slept on and off most of the day. I told her she was lucky to have missed this trip and wish I had stayed behind too.
In the evening we went out for a quick bite to eat before going to bed. Sad day tomorrow as Claire and Archie will be leaving for the start of their journey back to Scotland. :(