Hiking Travel in Thailand

The highest point in Thailand is Doi Inthanon, near Chiang Mai, which is 2,565 meters (8,415 feet) high. It’s also the coldest place in Thailand and the only place it snows as temperatures can get down to zero degrees. Unfortunately, it is a tourist attraction with no hiking trails, only a road that drops you off 10 minutes from the top. Chiang Mai and nearby Pai, however, both offer really good hikes through the mountains and hill-tribe villages. Starting at only 1,500 baht for a 3 day, 2 night hike, Chiang Mai offers possibly the cheapest trekking package in the world and it includes: an elephant ride, white water rafting and all meals and accommodation.

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That’s $50US for three days of activities – crazy cheap! It’s also quite fun but, in reality, it’s more of a tourist backpacker trip than anything. I still recommend it, though, especially if you happen to get a good group and meet some cool friends. Koh Tao has a really cool hiking trail that no one ever uses. I used to hike it almost every day that I had a day off scuba diving and hardly ever saw anyone else on it. The hike starts just up the hill from Siam Tattoo, in Sairee Beach (the main beach). Walk up the hill and make a right where the road splits. If you go left, you’ll have a very boring un-shaded hike to a place quaintly named Mango Bay. Going right, you’ll eventually get to Laem Thian bay where you’ll find an abandoned resort, still with great cliff diving and snorkeling. Legend has it that the Laem Thian Resort’s owner, Ping Pong, was a bit crazy and one day packed a bag in haste and left to avoid unpaid debts. The road going to Laem Thian got destroyed during the monsoon rains, leaving fissures impassable by bike or car, so the only way was by long- tail boat around the island. The bills started piling up and made the resort more expensive to keep open than it was worth.

I had thought about camping out there one night – and still think it would be a fun idea with a few friends – but it is a bit spooky and might not be the safest thing in the world to do; however, if you’ve read ‘The Beach’, by Alex Garland or seen the movie, this would be an easy place to start a backpacker society. Also in Koh Tao, if you drive a bit north, there are random trails that you find where I’ve never seen a single person. I could never find anyone to go with, though, as everyone thought the best way to spend their holiday was getting drunk, staying up late every night and becoming too hung-over to do anything active. As for other parts of Thailand, aside from Phuket where I couldn’t find anywhere to hike, there is always something. Thai people, in general, never hike for pleasure – as it involves the sun and exercise, the two things they try to avoid – but the good news is, within a short flight from Bangkok you’ll find some of the best hiking trails and mountains in the world to conquer.

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