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The northern mountains, a paradise for trekkers

Far from the paradisiacal beaches of the south of the country, the northern mountains offer fabulous treks. It is the ideal region to stretch your legs during a trip to Thailand.

Leaving Chiang Mai

If you need to stretch your legs during your trip to Thailand, you'll have to set out on a very long journey. You're going to have abandon the paradisiacal beaches of the south of the country for the northern mountains. Many treks are organised from the city of Chiang Mai for the surrounding area. You can also go to Mae Hong Son, but because the city is less touristic you will have a little more difficulty to organise your trek. A word on precisely this subject. Don't hesitate to shop around and play on the competition between organisers. Be aware that you will pay much more by booking from your hotel. Of course, they take a commission for the service. Even if they don't appreciate it, shop around and book your trek directly with the agencies in town. You will be surprised by the difference in price.

The most popular treks in these northern mountains are those of Chiang Dao where over half the tourists go, but Doi Inthanon, Mae Chaem and Samoneng are also very frequently visited. In each of them you will encounter the mountain tribes, including the Karen, Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Hmong, Moe, Yao, Mlabri, Htin, Lawa or the Khamu. The majority of the treks last 2 or 3 days and because of the success of tourism have lost much of their authenticity.

An encounter with the ethnic groups from the northern mountains

Leaving Chiang Rai

A little further to the east, you can also organise your treks from the city of Chiang Rai in the heart of the Golden Triangle. Unlike Chiang Mai, you can more easily organise your trek yourself. In this region, the ethnic villages are located by the road and not lost in the jungle like in Chiang Mai. Honestly, it is preferable to use the services of a guide and an agency.

From Chiang Rai you can set out to meet the giraffe women. You are faced with a serious problem of conscience if you want to meet them. You should know that the giraffe women are very often Burmese refugees. A visit to these refugee camps often gives the impression of a visit to a human zoo. What should you do then? Boycott the visit? It is difficult to say when you know that the refugees in these camps do not have the right to work or to cultivate the land. Your visit represents their only source of income and their only chance of survival. Many visitors feel ill at ease when they leave the camps. It's up to you to weigh the pros and cons.

David Debrincat
459 contributions
Updated 10 November 2015