AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Chiang Mai: Bike & Hike

Finding good hiking in Thailand is proving to be quite difficult. It is either a big, expensive, multi-day, group tour or a one day hike which is only a few hours walking and then padded with trips to ethnic villages where hikers can stare at ‘different’ people, usually elephant rides are added on, etc. We managed to find a company which did do proper full day hiking but at £40+ that made us more determined to find routes ourselves and do it for free.

We finally found this, a description of a walk in the forest just outside of Chiang Mai; Perfect. The starting point was a few miles out of the city so we hired a bicycle each and with some water and sandwiches we cycled to the lake.

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The lake looked to be a favourite for locals to come and relax. The shore of the lake is crowded with simple wooden huts, standing in the water on stilts. Families were sat in there, relaxing and fishing. We sat in a bandstand (no idea what they are called in Thailand but I doubt they are called bandstands) and ate our sandwiches whilst overlooking the lake and a giant golden Buddha.

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We then set off into the forest. The directions were not detailed enough and we found ourselves going wrong a few times after a very short distance. The path forked many times and we simple e had to guess which direction to take. Eventually I figured a method, using the track loaded into Google Earth and GPS to see my exact location I could follow the track. This was slightly concerning as I knew it would devour the battery and the phone might not last the whole route but it was the best we had. Even with the improved method we still went wrong a few times.

We headed up the bank of large stream as it made its way down the mountain side.

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Then it was a steady uphill until we reached a large waterfall.

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After the waterfall the going got tough. It was steep uphill for the next hour and combined with the heat we were dripping with sweat. As we ploughed on uphill through bushes, low trees, ferns, etc we were constantly walking through cobwebs and on giant leaves. The paranoia of spiders, snakes, scorpions, etc was starting to take effect, not helped by the fact that we were getting eaten alive; the cobwebs constantly wrapping around ours heads, arms legs didn’t help… By now we were wondering why we thought this was a good idea. We covered ourselves in insect repellent and carried on.

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Finally, much to our relief, the path levelled off and we could cool down and take it easy. It was now a short walk to the tiny helipad on the side of the mountain. The view was a bit hazy but OK.

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From the helipad it was a steep descent down to the lake side. We did this quickly because we had run out of water (I didn’t think the walk would be this tough so we only had a single 1.5L bottle of water) and we really needed to get to one of the shops by the lake side and buy some more water.

After what felt like an age we reached the lake side and started waking along the road back to where our bikes were parked. We saw a hut and went in to buy some water. I saw a 1L bottle of Coke and wanted that too (we still had an 8 mile ride back to town). When I asked how much the guy pulled out his calculator (the standard way to get around the language barrier) and entered in some reasonable prices, then immediately wiped that and entered in new numbers, this time with a massive markup. The water went from 12 to 20 and the Coke from 24 to 40. Suffice to say I put the Coke back and decided to buy it cheaply in town.

The ride back was pretty easy as it’s mostly downhill. As we got closer to the edge of the city my front tyre was getting flatter and flatter and by the time we were on the edge of the city it was totally flat. Luckily just as it became unusable we saw a bike shop which sold top of the range mountain bikes. I took my crappy bike (which didn’t even have gears) and asked about a bike pump. One of the guys inside came out and inflated my tyre and we were on our way again. Fast! A very fast ride back into the centre and to the rental shop to get rid of the bike before the tyre deflated again. I was overtaking mopeds, cars and taxis in my dash back, and we made it just as the place was getting locked up.

The whole route can be seen here:

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And all the photos from the hike can be seen here.

Posted from Don Kaeo, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

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