Nam Tok Mae Surin National Park

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Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2019

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During our stay in Mae Hong Son, northern Thailand, we’d spent mornings pootling around wats and afternoons, lazing by a pool. A day of leisure was included in our itinerary, but we wanted some exercise and thought the 4 hour, 7km nature trail around Nam Tok Mae Surin National Park would amuse us for half a day.

As advised, we notified the “hotel”: reception we were setting off and they provided us with a map, ensured we had plenty of water, walking poles (if needed, bamboo versions were provided by the hotel), sunscreen and sturdy boots.

An uphill path from the back of the hotel led us past animal barns. It was then a short distance by road to the park entrance where we paid 200 baht each/£5. A uniformed man took a photo of us with his lady colleague which we thought was because she didn’t see many farang (foreigner) – we later wondered whether it was so that if anything happened to us, they had identification!

The map showed two options: (1) to the first waterfall, returning the same way (2) a 7km circular walk covering the entire trail. There was no indication of difficulty, but as we were in Chiang Mai province, where 90% of the land is over 45 degrees, we expected a climb or two.

We set off following the river, looking out and photographing each of the 16 stations which were clearly marked with laminated cards bearing interesting facts in English and Thai e.g. the purpose of the San Chong Tree or the surrounding epiphytic environment.
The walk was more arduous than anticipated. An uphill climb was the least of our problems, when we had to negotiate crossing the river several times on stepping stones or rickety bridges and stretch our legs and bodies over wide fallen tree trunks which blocked the path.

As we started climbing, the path became narrower with a significant drop on one side and in the steeper places, ‘steps’ had been cut into the mud whilst bamboo ladders helped us over difficult sections. Eventually having passed two waterfalls, we hit the peak and viewing point where in the distance, we could see the white Buddha we’d already visited. A bench allowed us to rest and take on water and although the trees provided shade, it was sweaty and humid.

If we thought the uphill sections were bad, coming down put pressure on knees and toes and our trusty walking poles turned out to be essential. We passed sheets of rock, and loose stones made walking more difficult with the fear of putting our foot on a moving stone and flying downhill faster than we wanted.

We’d hit station 15 and began hearing water from our third waterfall, when we met a couple who were obviously fitter than us as they’d overtaken us earlier. They were returning as they couldn’t see the path: the only way to continue appeared to be down a river bed, which they thought was deep but wadable or to scale a 200-foot drop.
At this stage, I’d walked for three hours and there was no way I was retracing my steps, so it was agreed we’d try to find the route together which we did and so once again, they set off in front. However, there were steep rocks to scramble down and the river had to be crossed a few more times.

We eventually exited the park and hit the road and although it was downhill, it was a longer stretch than we’d anticipated.

Back at the hotel, nearly 6 hours later, we headed directly to the bar, for two large rehydrating sodas swiftly followed by two large reviving beers, which was even more swiftly followed by an hour’s snooze.

Helen Jackson

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