Trip to Chiang Mai Part 2

The highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai was a drive two hours south to Doi Inthanon National Park.  One of the largest parks in the Kingdom, this is the home to the “rooftop of Thailand”, Doi Inthanon peak.  Many people who visit Thailand stay in typically touristy areas, particularly the biggest cities and the beach towns.  As lovely as these are, they miss out on the spectacular natural beauty to be found in this country.

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This park features several beautiful waterfalls including the impressive Vachiratharn Falls.  These falls are all located just short walks away from parking areas making them accessible to almost everyone.  Even several months after rainy season, these falls are going strong!

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There are also hiking trails if you want to get more of a workout.  On our way to the top of the falls, which turned out to be less interesting than viewing them from down below, we found this interesting stand of dead bamboo.  There were also several disused picnic tables on the way up, all in areas that didn’t seem conducive to a pleasant picnic.

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Near the summit of Doi Inthanon are a pair of chedis built by the Royal Thai Air Force to commemorate the fifth cycle (i.e. 60th) birthdays of their majesties the King and Queen of Thailand in 1987 and 1992, respectively.  These are beautiful chedis, both done in modern style.  They are very distinct with the King’s chedi having very dark stone and the Queen’s being built in with a violet hue.  Since my last visit in 2006 they have installed enclosed escalators to make the climb to the top easier for the thousands of elderly Thais who come here to pay their respects.

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The hazy, cloudy view from the top of Doi Inthanon looking southwest towards Burma.

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At the top of the peak (2,565 meters / 8,416 feet as marked by the small round metal plaque on the concrete pedestal in the foreground of the picture) is a small shrine to the memory of the Phra Chao Inthawichayanon, one of the last kings of Chiang Mai until his death in 1897.  During his 27-year reign, King Inthawichayanon was very concerned about the preservation of the forests and mountains in what was still an independent tributary Lanna kingdom.  Following his wishes, the king’s remains were interred at this spot on the top of what was then called Doi Luang.  The mountain was subsequently renamed Doi Inthanon.

It was also during his reign that the remnants of the Lanna kingdom were finally annexed into greater Siam.  One could argue that the political friction in modern-day Thailand (which has a very distinct north versus central split) has its roots in these ancient annexations. 

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Part way down the mountain is the Royal Agricultural Station, a large garden area that has acres of greenhouses where different types of plants are grown.  The purpose of the project is to identify different species from around the country and also cultivate other species that may be well-suited to Thailand’s different climates.  As an example of some of the work done by various royal-sponsored agricultural foundations, opium production in Thailand (which once used to be the world’s top producer) has almost entirely vanished, being replaced by cash crops such as coffee and macadamia nuts.

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Tiptoe through the tulips…

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Reflection in the pond.  The sun kept trying to break through but it rarely lasted.

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My personal favorites, the fuchsias.  The climate up here on the mountain is very similar to that of my childhood home in the San Francisco Bay Area.  We had fuchsias in our backyard that my father tended to with great care.  Seeing these in the greenhouse brought back many memories.  I used to snap open the flowers, enjoying the “pop!” sound they made.

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Mae Ya Falls, Doi Inthanon National Park – Chiang Mai Province.  Our friend Kari is standing in the distance taking pictures.

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Chris hoping that there isn’t a sudden flash flood!

I’ll continue tomorrow with the second road trip in Chiang Mai, up to Doi Suthep, along with some video.