Motorbiking to Doi Luang National Park
Day 5 of 6 of our motorbiking trip around Northern Thailand continues as our journey of over 1000km covering 5 provinces in the North comes to an end. On day 5 we continue the clockwise loop heading North West back towards Chiang Mai from Doi Phu Nang National Park in Phayao province, motorbiking to Doi Luang National Park in Chiang Rai province.
Day 5: Doi Phu Nang National Park – Doi Luang National Park
We awoke to glorious sunshine, deep blue skies and temperatures hovering around 20 degrees and after a quick breakfast we were full of energy for the day ahead. Than Sawan waterfall is one of the main attractions at the HQ at Doi Phu Nang National Park, located just 300m from the car park so we went for a morning stroll and a swim in the emerald green pool at the base of the largest of the waterfall tiers. Despite being from Wales and being bought up swimming in rather more brisk rivers than Thailand, the cold was a bit of shock to the system as we jumped in, I guess 10 years in a tropical country had turned us both into wimps. That said it was a nice way to start the day and once we had dried off and packed we were off to the final overnight destination of the trip, Doi Luang National Park, which straddles Chiang Mai, Lampang and Chiang Rai.
The ride through Doi Phu Nang was enjoyable with thick jungle either side of the well paved road and no traffic to contend with until we reached the #1 highway which headed North through Phayao and into Chiang Rai. This leg was supposed to only be around 3 hours however with too much reliance on Google Maps we took a rather long but interesting detour once we reached Doi Luang. Readers can see when you type in ‘Doi Luang National park’ into Google maps there are 2 options, both ending up at completely different parts of the park and unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) we took the wrong option and continued motorbiking in Chiang Rai at the Northern end of the park.
The road started off well paved but soon turned to a dust road with intermittent paved sections and as we continued the potholes got deeper and deeper and the road more and more difficult to ride at any speed. By now we kind of guessed it was wrong but with stunning scenery we thought what the hell and continued on and after about 20km the road turned into what was barely more than a walking trail leading into a field…ok this was definitely wrong! With the light fading we had little choice but to turn back and head back around the park South to the other entrance but we had enough time to take in the scenery and enjoy a bit of off-road on our bikes, perhaps not what they were designed for but were more than capable and I think we both agreed this was one of the most fun sections during the entire trip.
We sped back down the highway heading South for about 40km and this time took the correct turning into the park and by the time we reached the park it had gone 6pm and we had taken around 7 hours to arrive. Despite being almost dark the staff helped set up our BBQ and showed us to the campsite and surprise surprise, we were once again the only people around! By now we were becoming culinary experts with the limited camping gear on hand and so ambitiously got to work on what would be our best meal of the trip, organic black rice which we bought in a local market in Phayao and green curry with chicken, washed down with some cans of Leo, a fantastic way to end the evening and to mark the end of the most adventurous day of the journey.
Top Tip: Research well where you will stay for the evening, Google Maps is wrong with the pin in completely the wrong place. There are very small signs for the National Park as you head North on the #1 Highway so watch out for those, our campsite was just into Chiang Rai, on the border with Lampang and Phayao.