As Chiang Rai province has less mountain and forest cover than Mae Hong Son or Chiang Mai, trekking opportunities are correspondingly more limited.
The principal areas for organised trekking are in Lum Nam Kok National Park north of the Kok River up towards Mae Salong and southwards to Doi Chang. The mountainous areas further south and southeast are less attractive for trekkers due to a smaller range of hill-tribe villages whereas the Mae Kok region benefits from the presence of numerous Lahu, Lisu, Akha and Karen settlements in a relatively small area. Mae Kok trips also have the added plus of boat trips and the inclusion of elephant rides in Ruam Mit village.
A classic trekking programme – which you’ll see on offer in both Chiang Rai and Tha Ton agencies and guesthouses - then involves: boat transfer to Ruam Mit Karen village, elephant riding and hike to Yafu, a Lahu hill-top village, with an overnight stay in a homestay. A second night can be added with a hike to an Akha village making a 3 day, 2 night itinerary. The 2 day version is available for 2,000 baht per person including accommodation, meals and transport and the 3 day version at 3,000 but prices vary of course depending upon numbers. Views and scenery are splendid but you’re unlikely to be on your own. You can do the same day trip without the overnight stay in the village for 1,400 baht.
Apart from downtown tour agents, PDA tour also run treks and whilst most followed the same boat, elephant, hike homestay formula they do also have an interesting looking programme in Mae Suai 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. Akha Hill also has some options in the quieter area south of the Kok and around Doi Chang with or without the boats and rides, including treks from between 1 to 7 days.
The Ruam Mit trips are fine, especially in quite season 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.
Akha Hill House T: (089) 997 5505 http://www.akhahill.com
Mekhong Travel 891/2 Phaholyothin Rd. T: (053) 752 536 (086) 194 2536 firstname.lastname@example.org
PDA Tours 620 Thanalai Rd. T: (053) 740 088 http://www.pdacr.org
By Mark Ord.