Take a walk in the woods
Published/Last edited or updated: 11th June, 2019
As Chiang Rai Province has less mountain and forest cover than Mae Hong Son or Chiang Mai, trekking possibilities are correspondingly somewhat more limited.
Popular routes can get very crowded and trawling through the Jetyod agents’ suggestions and websites we didn’t see much out of the box thinking going on. If you’re in the area during low season, or if you manage to dig out a more unusual route from the piles of same, same but different programmes then fine, otherwise you may have more joy from a locally specialised guide in somewhere like Mae Salong itself for instance. Note also that while Chiang Mai or Mae Hong Son Provinces have more scope and variety the classic Chiang Rai Kok River/Ban Ruam Mit programme is also touted by Chiang Mai operators.
The principal area for organised trekking in Chiang Rai is in Lum Nam Kok National Park north of the Kok River up towards Mae Salong or southwards to Doi Chang. The mountainous areas further south and southeast in the province are very scenic but less attractive to agents due to a smaller range of hill-tribe villages, whereas the Mae Kok region benefits from the presence of Lahu, Lisu, Akha and Karen settlements in a relatively small area. Mae Kok trips also have the added plus of boat trips and Ruam Mit elephant camp.
A classic trekking programme—which you’ll see on offer in both Chiang Rai and Tha Ton agencies and guesthouses—involves boat transfer to Ruam Mit Karen village, elephant ride or trek to Yafu—a hill-top Lahu village—with an overnight stay in a homestay. A second night can be added by extending the hike to the less-visited Akha village of Aye, making for a 3 day, 2-night itinerary. The 2-day version is available for 2,000 baht to 2,500 baht per person including accommodation, meals and transport and the 3-day version at between 3,000 baht and 4,000 but prices vary depending upon numbers.
Views and scenery are splendid but this route can get rather busy during high season with at least half a dozen or so families in the same small village of Yafu offering overnight accommodation. You can do the same day trip without the overnight stay in the village for around 1,500 baht.
Apart from downtown tour agents, PDA tour also run treks and whilst most followed the same boat, elephant, hike homestay formula they do avoid “long-neck” villages as well as having an interesting looking programme in Mae Suay district that is trekking only and takes in Lisu and Akha villages. This goes for 4,200 per person for a 3 day, 2-night tour.
The Ruam Mit trips are fine at quiet times of the year and especially if you can push a bit further than Yafu on a longer hike. If you search around there are a few options slightly more outside of the classic trekking box but overall you will have a wider choice in either Mae Hong Son or Chiang Mai.
Please note prices naturally vary considerably depending upon number of participants, number of days, with or without elephants, rafting, boat trips and so on.
Operators in Chiang Rai include:
Bamboo Tour: 897/3 Jetyod Rd. T: (086) 115 3980, (083) 041 2773 Mo–Su: 09:00-20:00 Den1153980@gmail.com
Coconut Tours: Jetyod Rd. T: (080) 677 0375;(091) 858 2369 Mo–Su: 09:00-21:00 https://www.coconutstourschiangrai.com/
Lanna Tours: 1018 Jetyod Soi 3 T: (080) 671 2252 Mo–Su: 09:00-21:00 http://www.lannatrek.com/
PDA Tours: 620/25 Thanalai Rd. T: (053) 740 088 http://www.pdacr.org
Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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