Crossing The Karen Valleys
Thailand Mountain Trail has spent several years to investigate the most remote mountain trails in Northern Thailand before creating TMT01, the first Thai Great Route and long footpath of the country. Thanks to our extensive knowledge of those areas and long relationship with local people, our organization is the only one to bring runners and trekkers in those mountains.
This 3-day trip will lead us on the 1st part of TMT01 directly from Chiang Mai to Karen areas, one of the tribe located in the mountains of Thailand. We will run through their beautiful valleys and villages on wild footpaths in remote areas. At night we will eat and sleep in local families and houses. It’s a unique experience to live and the best way to discover another Thailand.
Characteristics of the Trip
9,450 THBAll-inclusive price
Starting from Chiang Mai the 1st day in the early hours of the morning, we hike up directly on a pilgrim trail used by monks. Without transition we pass into rocky terrain which lasts until the almost fairy tale appearance of Wat Palaad, nestling on the bank of a river. A few kilometres further on the course crosses the site of Wat Doi Suthep, one of the most holy temples in Thailand. The view over the valley of Chiang Mai is panoramic and imposing.
The route runs down the dizzyingly steep staircase from the temple, and then, without a break, plunges headlong into its first stretch of jungle. We run 10k in this wonderful atmosphere surrounded by long green tunnels on undulating paths punctuated by fallen branches and trees.
As we emerge from the jungle after a break in a hill-tribe village, the slope gets progressively harder and becomes so steep that we have to use our hands to help us at some points. We reach a magnificent line of ridges edged in pine trees before summiting Doi Pui then Doi Pa Klong, the 2 highest summits in Chiang Mai (1625m and 1575m).
Finally we plunge for a very long downhill in a pine forest until our hotel. We will sleep at Botanic Resort a beautiful and peaceful hotel surrounded by green mountains. After running, we will have time to enjoy the swimming pool and nice Thai food in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a perfect place to recover before the 2nd day.
We start directly from the resort by hiking up in the mountains. It’s a steep ascent until we arrive at a couple of Hmong settlements. Leaving the fields, suddenly we enter a wild jungle. It’s a long crossing until we reach a new valley. Emerging from a long stretch of jungle and seeing the horizon opens up again is a fantastic feeling; it’s like taking a sudden lungful of air after a long period of holding your breath.
The second part of the run leads us through the Karen valleys. After 20kms from the start we finally reach the first rice paddies carved into the hillsides, like huge staircases of greenery. Crossing the terraced rice fields is an obstacle race for tired runners. To run across the strips of grass without falling you have to learn how to keep your balance.
When we see the first roofs of the village, the Karen village of Mae Kha is not far away. It’s a wonderful place to stay overnight. People live simply and are happy to welcome us; they live in deep contact with nature. After enjoying a deserved shower directly at a waterfall, we will share a meal for dinner with local families. We will sleep in comfortable wood houses besides the rice fields.
In the morning of the 3rd day we particularly appreciate the unique scenery on fields and valleys at sunrise while having breakfast. We quit the village with regret by one of its mountain slopes, gradually leaving its wattle and daub roofs behind us. We run again through rice fields and up to the mountains until Wat Prabat Si Loi. This sacred temple is known for its 4 Buddha footprint; it’s a quiet place and a majestic temple surrounded by green nature.
We let the temple behind us and take a dirt track that brings us deeply into the Karen areas. The route goes down through mountains and valleys and offers great view on green hills. It’s a delightful setting characterized by a perfect mix of rice fields, villages and jungle. It’s also a quiet area; only few people live there. Finally after 10k we enter a small Karen village and its lovely wood houses where we make a break.
The route is flat for a couple of kilometers before entering a wild bamboo jungle. It’s the last part of the trip and the last difficulty to tackle with. After we leave the jungle, the view is wider and we can observe the mountains further up where TMT01 continues its route. The end of our trip is getting close.
Botanic Resort is perfect for people who don’t like to follow the crowd. Amid lush, natural landscape and facing the green mountains, guests will feel here a warm and personal atmosphere. The hotel is located in the Mae Sa valley at 650m high. It provides a very good Thai traditional food, a big swimming pool as comfortable and quiet rooms. All rooms are decorated in a contemporary Lanna Thai Style. They are equipped with a personal bar refrigerator, color TV, hair dryer, telephone, coffee and Tea Pot.
After a 2nd day of run, we will reach Mae Kha Piang while the sun is releasing its hold on runners’ body. We will immediately appreciate the quietness, the freshness as the beauty of this Karen village surrounded by jungle and paddies. The cold shower in a waterfall in the village, the reception and the smile of its inhabitants, the delicious food and the night in local wood houses will help us to get strength back before the 3rd day of our trip.