Looking for an active adventure and culture on your next vacation? Then read this review of Active Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains near Chiang Mai, as we think it may be exactly what you are looking for.
The Chiang Dao mountain range a national park located around 100km north of Chiang Mai. It offers a thrilling variety of mountainous Thai jungle, intriguing glimpses of hill tribe life, and challenging trekking trails.
Whether you are vacationing on your own, with family, friends or your partner Chiang Mai is a wonderful base to experience traditional Thai culture. It offers a vibrant atmosphere from its temples, to its markets and night bazaars.
Surrounding Chiang Mai is a mountainous region filled with majestic jungle, farmland and rural scenes. A tour around these areas gives you a good feeling for rural Thai life.
During my stay in Chiang Mai it was the Loy Krathong festival of light that occurs over November full moon. The land, water and air spirits are appeased by fire. Tea lights and candles are placed around buildings, set sail in small lotus leaf boats and sent skyward in floating lanterns. It was a beautiful experience!
Active Thailand is an established tour operator with offices in Chiang Mai. They offer a large range of tours in the region with experienced local guides. Their adventures include hiking, cycling, white-water rafting, kayaking and ziplining, they also combine them into multi activity tours.
The Active Thailand sightseeing tours cover many local attractions, such as Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep and Mae Ping river. Their one day trips start from around 1,500 Baht (approx £35/$43) and include hotel pick up and a Thai packed lunch.
Active Thailand also offer a range of multi day adventures. I joined the three day trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains. It costs 7,500 Baht (approx £175/$215) which including all transport, accommodation and food is very good value for money.
The three day Active Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains has a nice easy start with a friendly hotel pick up. During the journey to the starting point there is time to get to know the other members of your trekking party.
At a short stop at a local market to pick up provisions, our guide Todd showed us various Thai delicacies. Such as eggs containing unborn chicks, stinky durian fruit, calves placenta and a Thai version of steak tartare with pork, pig blood and chillies called Larb Moo. Fortunately, none of this was on our menu.
He also explained the traditional Thai Betel chewing that turns the teeth red showing its ingredients and preparation. Once the provisions had been purchased, we were presented with sticky rice cooked in bamboo with longan fruit as a snack for the short journey to the start of our trek.
The trekking starts on a flat track with a slow incline until you find you’re climbing steep trails and working hard. This trek is definitely targeted at fit experiences hikers with 3-8hrs walking each day. The route is a balance of ascents, descents and flat hiking.
On day one you will hike for approximately 4 hrs and ascend around 700m. The second day is the longest and toughest day covering 16 km and reaching an altitude of about 1800m. The final day is mostly downhill into the Maetang river valley.
Some sections of the trail are very steep and slippery making it a relatively difficult trail, so Todd cut us bamboo walking sticks to aid our balance. Although the distances are not huge it requires good fitness and suitable footwear. I cycle and jog regularly at home so I found it a rewarding challenge.
The guide knows the trails well and maintains a comfortable pace for all. There are regular stops and breaks, with lunch in the middle of each days hiking. The itinerary is perfectly balanced to ensure you can enjoy the experience while also being rewarded by the challenge.
The hiking trails are regularly used by local people. So you get a feel for how they interact with a variety of natural and cultivated environments.
You will pass through lush jungle containing orchards of banana, mango and avocado trees. Climb paths through long grasses into hilltop meadows with glorious views. Traverse valleys of Bamboo, growing accustomed to the eerie creaking noise it makes. Walk along ridges looking down over farmland. Ramble through mature forests that shade tea and coffee plantations. Then cross streams under deciduous trees.
During the journey the guide will teach you about the local flora and fauna. Within moments of departing the truck we saw shy grass (Mimosa pudica), a delicate herbaceous plant with fern like leaves that close when touched. Throughout Todd stopped to show us plants of particular interest like citronella grass, wild ginger, teak and banyan trees.
When Todd stops by a deep hole with an entrance the size of a grapefruit, and standing back tentatively pokes a stick in, we all watch and hold our breaths waiting to see what will come out. Nothing does and he turns and nonchalantly says that the tarantula must be out hunting.
Todd’s sense of humour really added to the enjoyment of Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains. Although we didn’t see anything in this hole it’s likely you will encounter some exotic fauna, such as water buffalo grazing in farms.
The unnatural electronic whistling of cicada was so loud in some forests it was difficult to believe it came from a beetle only 2 inches long. At one point we passed under a 10ft long brilliant green tree snake lounging on a branch tasting the air. I also had the excitement of my own personal encounter when a 3ft long brown snake zigzagged along the path in front of me.
On the second day we walked through an orange orchard and stopped by a stream to eat oranges picked by Todd. The orange was still warm from the sun and the most delicious I have eaten. At the waters edge there were clouds of butterflies which combined with the sun glinting off the water was a beautiful experience.
A real highlight of the trip was to get an insight into the Thai Hill Tribe culture. Throughout, our guide highlighted and explained the hill tribe lifestyle.
The first night we stayed in a house on the outskirts of the Weing Dong village of the Shan people. The house was had a large open shaded platform on the ground floor to help the family stay cool when working together in the heat of the day.
As you pass through sprawling villages of bamboo huts you will see spirit houses, coffee beans laid out on roofs to dry and big drums for fermenting tea. In the forests you will see trees with ladder steps attached to enable the harvesting of honey.
For me it is the small details that make the special memories. Like meeting a local Hill Tribe family harvesting coffee beans with cassettes of burning citronella incense hanging from their waists.
We exit the forest trail onto a dirt track, our guide points over to a village on a hill top plateau and tells us that is where we are going to stay tonight. Continuing along the track as the sun is getting low the rice is burnished golden as we pass members of the Lahu tribe threshing the dried rice.
Our home for the night is a basic bamboo one room hut with bed rolls and mosquito nets. We watch the sunset behind the mountains before dining by candlelight.
That evening we lay out on benches watching the stars. The visibility is incredible. The milky way cuts a thick swath over our hut and the night sky seems to be alive with shooting stars and satellites.
The following morning as the sun rises above the mountains it is like a light being switched on, suddenly the world is coloured in pastels. A beautiful scene of the village and cloud filled valley greets you. This was a very special experience.
What you eat is very important when you are hiking, which fortunately is well understood by Active Thailand. Hearty western style breakfasts are offered each day to ensure you are well fuelled.
Pack lunches of Thai stir fry and rice are eaten out of metal canteens in shaded huts overlooking splendid panoramic views. Snacks of fruit, banana muffins, pineapple cracker biscuits and cereal bars maintain energy levels throughout the day.
In the evenings you are invited to have a cooking lesson with the guide. Each evening he served a delicious multi dish Thai feast that I found incredibly impressive.
The three day Active Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains was an adventure from start to finish. Active Thailand trekking holidays offers something very special. And I hope to join them again perhaps on one of their tours in Chiang Rai, Mae Hong Son, Pai, Mae Sot or Kanchanaburi.
To conclude this review of Active Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains, I would say it is an adventure of a lifetime! I thoroughly recommend Active Thailand the trip was professional, informative, well catered, good value for money and a lot of fun.
I hope you found this review of Active Thailand trekking holiday in Chiang Dao mountains useful. It costs 7,500 Baht (approx £175/$215) including transport, accommodation and food. To find out more visit: www.activethailand.com