The highlights include a memorable ride through the rain forest on elephant back; navigating white water rapids by rubber raft on the scenic Mae Tang River, and mountain biking along remote village roads. For those who do not wish the elephant ride (in the same group), a visit to the impressive Chiang Dao Cave provides an interesting alternative option.
DAY 1 | (_/L/D)
Pickup from hotels, airport, railway station or bus terminal and depart Chiang Mai in an off-road vehicle. Visit the hilltribe museum (closed on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays) to learn about the hill people in Thailand and the fascinating origins of the seven ethnic groups. Continue to Ban Mae Taman to trek through the rain forest on elephant back for about 45 minutes. In a pleasant contrast, conclude with a leisurely ride on an ox-cart for 15-20 minutes. As an alternative to the elephant and ox-cart rides, continue from Mae Malai market to the Doi Chiang Dao Cave, located 70 kilometres north of Chiang Mai city, en route to Fang. Mount Chiang Dao is Thailand’s third highest peak, rising to 2,175 metres. This huge limestone mountain is penetrated by a 14-kilometre network of pitch dark caverns and underground passages.
Lunch at the local restaurant before boarding an inflatable rubber raft to shoot the white water rapids. Depending on the season the exciting journey lasts about one hour. This ride combines very enjoyable soft adventure with some spectacular views and lovely riverine vistas. Continue by four-wheel drive to Ban Pang Hai, a simple Thai village 850 metres above sea level. Check in at Hmong Hilltribe Lodge for one night. During dinner in the cool mountain air, enjoy barbecued meats, different Thai dishes, salad, pasta, fruits and desserts. To follow, a number of Hmong cultural presentations provide an entertaining and interesting finale to the evening.
DAY 2 | (B/L/D)
After breakfast, drive to the small village of Ban Teen Doi, and take a short stroll to Ban Mae Pa. From here, ride mountain bikes on dirt roads to reach Ban Palan and visit a small village reservoir. Continue to Ban Pong Kwaw to see an ancient temple, home to some beautiful wall paintings.
Enjoy a picnic lunch and proceed to Hmong Village of Baan Nong Hoi Mai. A brief stop is made here before taking a leisurely trek through the rainforest and vegetable farms to the Hmong Village of Ban Mae Khi. This provides contrasting images of village life by day, and in the late afternoon, the return of weary workers from the surrounding fields. As dusk approaches, we take tea with the village shaman and learn about various spirits they believe to exist around them. Return to Hmong Hilltribe Lodge for dinner and overnight.
DAY 3 | (B/L/_)
After breakfast, check out from the Lodge and drive to the Royal Project at Ban Nong Hoi Kao. Observe how the hill people are taught to cultivate vegetables and flowers, instead of growing opium poppies as they did previously. This commendable project also buys produce from the hilltribes for sale in their shops. Spend an interesting time admiring the work done here before continuing to admire the fascinating plants at Queen Sirikit’s Botanical Garden and orchid farm.
Enjoy lunch in a local restaurant and continue to visit the snake farm and the interesting ‘Elephant Poopoopaper Park’ to watch how paper is cleverly made from the fibrous droppings of our jumbo friends. Return to Chiang Mai in the late afternoon.