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Mountain high

The cool winds of winter is calling from Thailand's national parks

Oct 22, 2019

Mountain high

The cool winds of winter is calling from Thailand's national parks
Oct 22, 2019

Mountain High

No mountain is too high if we want to experience nature’s pristine beauty. True nature lovers really should visit Thailand’s mountainous national parks at least once in their life, scale the peaks and bring home unforgettable memories. The cool winds of winter is calling from these beautiful national parks.

1. Phu Luang

A forested plateau known as Phu Luang (Large Mountain) covers three districts in Loei Province: Phu Ruea, Phu Luang and Dan Sai. The massif’s fertile forest, dubbed ‘the Emerald of the Northeast’, is a major attraction for visitors to the area and also the watershed of some of the province’s major watercourses, such as the Loei River and Pa Sak River. What makes Phu Luang special is the abundance of wild flowers; orchids and many other species of indigenous plants that can be seen growing on trees and in rock crevices beside the walking trails, especially the iconic red roses that are in full bloom to welcome visitors in March. Another magnet that draws visitors to Phu Laung is the 140 -million-year-old dinosaur’s footprint – the only one so far discovered in Southeast Asia.

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Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary, Amphoe Phu Ruea, Loei

Tel. (042) 801-955

If you want to visit Phu Luang, you are required to contact the Wildlife Sanctuary Office 15 days in advance. Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary is open from October to May.

2. Khao Sok

The reflections of towering limestone cliffs on the surface of the emerald green water of Cheow Lan Reservoir is a familiar image of scenic Khao Sok National Park, earning it the nickname ‘Thailand’s Guilin’. The dense jungle is home to the headwaters of the Tapi River and provides river activities such as overnight rafting and cruising, and also land activities such as caving and hiking. The 2km San Yang Roi trail leads through dense forest, up a hill and beside a stream to a stand of Surat Thani’s emblemic flower; the rare giant Rafflesia flower (Bua Phud in Thai). The huge, brownish orange flower is about 50-70 cm in diameter and was first discovered here in Khao Sok. It blooms between November and May, but only for four to five days, so it’s crucial to follow Park news updates if you want to see this wondrous flower in bloom.

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Khao Sok National Park, Amphoe Phanom, Surat Thani

3. Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon, in Chiang Mai, is the highest mountain in Thailand but that does not limit its accessibility; a smooth tarmac road leads up to the summit, where rare indigenous flora such as Sphagnum mosses and rhododendrons delight visitors. The mountain’s name comes from Chao Inthavichayanon, the 7th King of Chiang Mai, and a pagoda built in his honour is located at the summit, alongside an army radar station. Visitors who enjoy adventurous activities should head to Kiew Mae Pan Nature Trail in Doi Inthanon National Park. Although it is only a short trail, the way is packed with interesting features, passing an area of primeval forest that is home to a rich variety of plants like ancient ferns, mosses, orchids, beeches, rhododendrons, before passing through grassland and ending at a viewpoint from where far off Mae Jaem District can be seen. The narrow return trail traverses a cliff just wide enough for one person to walk.

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Doi Inthanon National Park, Amphoe Jom Thong, Chiang Mai

Tel. (053) 286-729

4. Phu Soi Dao

Phu Soi Dao is the name of the highest summit in the National Park of the same name, which is part of the Nam Pat National Forest Reserve. It straddles the border of two provinces; Uttaradit and Phitsanulok. Phu Soi Dao is rich with the natural beauty of the Luang Prabang Range that forms the Thai – Lao border. The flat summit is covered in pine forest, with a walking trail that runs along a stream and then up a steep cliff called Noen Prab Sien (Beat the Master Hill) and Noen Morana (Death Hill). The names may sound daunting, but the scenery is spectacular. Phu Soi Dao is famous among campers who come to pitch tents in the fields of Murdannia giganteum flowers. In the rainy season the pale purple flowers carpet the ground under the canopy of Pinus kesiya, making a beautiful campsite with a view of Phu Soi Dao standing majestically in the background.

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Phu Soi Dao National Park, Amphoe Nam Pat, Uttaradit

Tel. (055) 436-793

Booking for accommodation, food and porters must be done with the National Park office three days in advance.

5. Thung Salaeng Luang

The grassland plateau of Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, with its wide blue skies and horizons of mountain ridges, has been nicknamed ‘The Savanna of Thailand’. Thung Salaeng Luang is perfect for a cycling trip along the Nong Mae Na trail to Thung Nang Phaya, to enjoy the wide savanna and the pine forest and have a chance to see wild animals feeding in the grassland. Camping close to nature, under the huge pine trees in the national park, is a memorable experience.

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Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, Amphoe Nakorn Thai, Phitsanulok

Tel. (055) 268-019

6. Phu Kradueng

Phu Kradueng is Thailand’s second oldest National Park, covering a huge area in Loei Province. Its flanks are covered in lush forests and there is a 9km hiking trail to the summit. As the trail climbs, it passes through different climatic zones, so the vegetation changes as you approach the summit. Phu Kradueng is best visited in winter, when the leaves of maple trees change colour before falling to the ground, creating a blazing red carpet on the forest floor. There are also many viewpoints; the best for watching sunrise is at Nok Nang Aan Cliff, about 2 km from the visitor center. Pha Lom Sak, an overhanging rock under drooping pine branches, is best for watching sunset. This is the spot where visitors gather to take photos of the unusual natural setting and wait to witness the golden light of the setting sun. It is said that no visit to Phu kradeung is complete without witnessing the scenic beauty of this spot. The natural wonders of Phu Kradueng draw many thousands of visitors each year.

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Phu Kradueng National Park, in Amphoe Phu Kradueng, Loei

Tel. (042) 810-833

Phu Kradueng National Park is open to visitors between October and May.

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