Thailand & Laos 08-09 travel blog

A night on the town with Oh, Chris and Safe

Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary - view of Doi Chiang Dao, 2195m

Chiang Dao wildlife sanctuary

Amazing tree

Collective farming in Chiang Dao

An escaped pixie!

Maetman Rafting & Elephant camp

Chiang Dao Nest 2 gets ready for XMas

Outside our chalet (Nest 2)

Trunk play @ Maetman Elephant camp

The long and winding road

Checking out the off-road challenges

A very wobbly bridge to an elephant camp

Beautiful bark

Birds & bananas

Contemplative reflections

Tusk to tusk

After a few restful days in Chiang Mai and a most enjoyable catch-up with our friends Chris & Oh, we headed north east to Chiang Dao which is famous for its cave complex although we never actually bothered to go into the caves, preferring instead to explore the wildlife park and sanctuary by motorbike. On the way we dropped in on two elephant parks at Mae Tamann and Kaeng Pan Tao. Day trippers visit these parks to take part in elaphant rides, buffalo carting and bamboo riding down the rivers. They arrive early in the morning in numerous minibuses and soon disappear into the countryside. We arrived as they were returning , over 60 elaphants descending into the valley and into the river. These camps have been set up to provide an economic base to support the dwindling elaphant population.

The mornings were surprisingly chilly until the mists cleared and the sun emerged from the shady side of the mountains. There was only one road through the park which took about 1.5 hours to drive through, up and down the curvy roads until we reached a bit of an impasse which was actually the back road to Pai. Checkpoints at either end of the park were, we think, designed to deter poachers or opium dealers although we did see a couple of elderly ladies puffing away on rather large cheroots that we're pretty sure didn't contain tobacco.

We were attracted to the Chiang Dao Wild Life sanctuary and the fact that there was a single track paved road through the length of the park (40kms) to a small town, Muang Khong. We were also attracted to the fact that there were some dirt tracks that wind their way over and round the mountains to Pai, a lovely scenic area that we had visited two years ago. We wanted to check out if we could take this route, as the alternative was to retrace our steps to Chiang Dao and a further three hours up and over roads at 4500 feet. The ride to Muang Khong was glorious and wherever we stopped there was wonderful birdsong. After a few false turns we were able to locate the dirt road through to Pai. The start of the track was not encouraging so, adventurous as we are, we didn't quite feel up to bumping along a rough dirt track for several hours, crossing through streams and unlikely to be able to get out of trouble if we had a puncture. In any event, we were already 40 kilos over the bike's recommended lode-bearing as we had a rather heavy rucksack and two rather heavy people!

Muang Khong had recently been connected to the electricity grid, and although a somewhat isolated community, the town was thriving. The agriculture in the valley was well organised and the very fertile land was fully utilized. In the surrounding hills were Karen and Lisu peoples.

We stayed two nights at a marvellous small resort called Nest 2 which served probably the best Thai cuisine we have experienced including home-made bread for breakfast and a tremendously friendly bunch of staff. Our favourite dish was fried Morning Glory with Soy, Garlic, chillies and peanuts - yum yum!

Lonely Planet describes the area around Chiang Dao as "quite scenic and largely unspoilt" which is such an understatement that we wonder if they have actually ever been there!

Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |