Rewarding 2-day tour at Huai Nam Dong Nationalpark
Our trip started at 7am on a Saturday (way too early for us, but you do give your best for a great weekend). We were picked up by our tour guide and a driver and the first nice news we got: we were the only participants and therefore would have a private tour 🙂
While trying to stay awake, we drove towards the national park with a short stop at a local market to get some coffee for us and supplies for the tour. We also picked up another companion – our cook and rafting guide.
Waterfall and Hot Springs
The next stop was a huge waterfall, with 50m apparently the highest of the whole park, where one could swim and take pictures. We didn’t stay for too long, just long enough to enjoy the cool sprinkles, and went on to the Hot Springs. And they were hot. It was almost impossible to stay in the water for long. We’ve been to natural warm water before, but nothing like this. We had to give up 2 minutes into our bathing: 90 degrees Celsius is too much to bear for longer. You can actually be proud just to go in at all…
Trekking through the jungle
All warmed up like this we started our trekking tour through the Thai jungle, up the mountain. It seemed to go up forever and even though hiking isn’t new to us, the rainforest with the high humidity of the rainy season and temperatures of around 30 degrees do make trekking more exhausting than expected. But nevertheless, it was great. We walked on mostly small treks through different kinds of forest around us. There were Bamboo parts, where our guide got some roots to make a soup for dinner, there were huge palm trees and small bushes, there were termite hills, hairy caterpillars, and wild buffalos and sounds of lots of different animals we never got to see.
In between, we stopped for lunch at a small village with only 10 families living there, had a nap, explored the village and got to know about half of the families as the guide used to live there.
Rain in the rainforest
After proudly reaching the highest point we enjoyed a great view above the jungle and the beginning of the Himalaya. And from there we went down which seemed like forever. It felt a bit rushed but after about 10 minutes our guide explained that he did rush down as the rain was about to come and on the highest part it’s quite dangerous then. He also recommended us to turn off our phones, so there are no pictures of us walking through the rain. But that’s a small price to pay. And we actually did make it to the village we spent the night at before the rain got too bad. That was the good part about leaving early in the morning. You don’t get to the village too late and therefore also miss most of the rain.
We didn’t look at too much of that village, as it kept raining all evening. Instead we just sat with the family and enjoyed doing nothing. We got an amazing dinner and went to bed rather early. It was an exhausting day after all.
Elephant riding and bamboo rafting
The next morning started early as well, as the village woke up around 6 and we got up not too much later. But by the time we left it was almost 9. Time can go by so fast when you do just nothing… We walked for about another hour down towards the river. At a small camp we were supposed to have our time with the elephants (feeding, cleaning and riding), but as they can freely walk around the jungle at night no elephants were found on that particular morning. So we started our bamboo rafting part down the river. Which was very nice and relaxing for the hurting legs – just sitting there, having some cool water splashing your legs and getting down the stream.
Reaching the next village, we found elephants (yay). So we got off, walked around for a bit and then got our turn. We cleaned the lady elephant from all the dirt she was covered in and then got to ride on her bare neck while she walked around, ate, got banana snacks from us and seemed alright. Due to the strong current of the rainy season, she didn’t want to go back in the water. But we had a great time anyways and enjoyed her strong back, shaking movements and banana appetite.
Afterwards, we went on on our raft and even through some a bit exiting currents, reached the final destination with lunch and got in a jeep to take us back home. We fell asleep on the way, as it were two exhausting days, but we enjoyed every moment.
When looking at different tours again, I would definitely choose one that leaves early, like ours. Neither did we have many people at the waterfall or at the hot springs, nor did we get into too much rain or walked until it was almost dark. So even though getting up early is hard, it was worth it. We went with www.chiangmaijungletrekking.com and can definitely recommend them. But you should always compare different offers.
And it’s definitely recommended to wear long pants for the trekking part. Even though the packing list says you can wear shorts, the mosquitos will make your legs look like an all you can buffet. And that’s not too much fun.
If you want to ride on elephants, do make sure they are treated well. Walking on concrete is painful for them, for example, even though many tourist attractions do just that.
Do go, the tour is worth every hurting muscle and as there are enough massage places in Chiang Mai, they are not a big problem anyways.