While staying in Chiang Mai we were thinking where to go next. I was looking to go somewhere more wild and not so touristic and found cheap bungalows for 250 baht per night in Doi Phu Kha national park. Usually we book all accommodation through booking.com or agoda.com but national parks in Thailand do not advertise themselves in these websites so we had to make reservation on Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation website.
After making a reservation we didn’t get any information where directly our bungalows are. It was stated that they are in the Doi Phu Kha headquarters area. I tried to find the location where the headquaters area is but internet has no information about that. What was left is trying to call Department of National Parks in Thailand. I did that and they gave me phone number of Doi Phu Kha headquarters ! But unfortunately when I reached them on phone no one was able to speak english and explain me how to get to them. So decision was just to go and try find the place.
Doi Phu Kha is located on Laos border and it’s 400 km away from Chiang Mai. Takes all day to get there by bus so we decided to make one night stop in Nan city and try to reach Doi Phu Kha next morning. And so here we go ! We got into Chiang Mai bus terminal. Bought tickets Chiang Mai to Nan for 250 baht each, got into second class bus and noticed that bus is full of locals. We were only travelers on that bus.
After 6-7 hours trip to Nan it was already dark and we had to find our hostel which was around 3 km away where bus left us. While walking to our hostel we noticed that Nan is nothing like Bangkok or Chiang Mai. City looks big on the map but it’s not crowded. No tourists, no travelers, no english signs and locals on their motorbikes strangely looking at us. Finally we reached our destination – Puangchompoo Place. It is motel type buildings with huge backyard. For one room we paid 400 baht. When we arrived, Thai girl met us with smile and checked us in. She was very worried about us that we came so late and walked through the city at night. She even offered to drive us to bus station in the morning for free ! We thanked her and went to rest.
Next morning we woke up around 8 am, got out from our room and the same girl came to us offering free coffee and boiled eggs with soya sauce. So we had quick breakfast, took our backpacks, got a ride to bus station and bought tickets to Pua city which is very close to Doi Phu Kha national park. Paid 60 baht each for seats in very old bus with no windows which wasn’t able to get high speed so 60 km trip took us around 2 hours.
Bus dropped us on the street in Pua near local food market. The prices were lowest that we’ve ever seen in Thailand. But we got here not for food. Started walking around the city asking locals how to get to Doi Phu Kha park (pronunciation is doi poo kaa) . Of course no one speaks english so gesture language worked very well. We were pointed to walk along the street where we found 7-11 store and few local taxi cars which ones will be heading to Doi Phu Kha way. The price they asked was 50 baht each for what we agreed.
We got into car back to wait where was a monk sitting alone. He started talking to us in very good english. He was very curious about us – where are we from, where do we go and so on. The monk gave us nice stories about his travels to Hong Kong and some USA cities and also recommendation about Nan region green oranges that these ones growing here are best in the world according to him.
After pleasant conversation the driver came and monk left for a front seat near the driver. It was around 40 minutes long trip up the mountain through the jungle. Car let us out near the entrance post were we had to pay 200 baht each for entering national park. So we paid and headed into park. After 20 minutes walking we found headquarters! And again no one speaks english. We showed photo of bungalow to the Thai girl, she smilled, said ok and found our booking. I was asked to fill long form, leave my passport or ID card and pay for bungalow only when we will be leaving the park.
Near Doi Phu Kha headquarters we found a kitchen that provides food for national park workers and guests. So far we were only travelers there and got lots of attention from locals. As soon as we entered kitchen, one young Thai guy got to us and asked if we need help ordering food. He runned into kitchen, took menu and helped us to order Prices were from 30 baht per dish. So we were full and went to find our bungalow which was 20 minutes away from headquarters.
The bungalow itself had mattres, pillows and blanket inside. One lamp and no sockets to charge electronic devices. Nearby was showers and toilets, no hot water of course. First day we settled and walked around the area. Saw many animals – insects, lizards, squirrels and birds. Views of the forest are amazing from the viewpoints. And huge variety of sounds at night time were very relaxing. We even got into termites swarm !
Next day we wanted to go deeper into jungle by small walking paths. And we did that, but after walking couple kilometres we stopped and saw thousand of small ground leeches. Thousands. And they were so fast moving towards us, getting through our shoes and socks to our foots. We panicked and got back to bungalow to get rid of them. First we got into shower, took our shoes off and very good that we had small pack of salt so it was easy to take leeches from our legs. But there was lots of them left in socks and shoes. We throw out our socks and tried to wash leeches of with high pressure water pump but it didn’t helped. They were holding very well inside and outside of shoes. Next thing we did – sprayed lots of DEET on shoes and left them on sunny area. After few hours there was only few leeches left and we removed them with tweezers. After this experience we understood that no more jungle trekking for us here. Advice – if you want hike in these jungle you need to have good shoes, good socks and when walking in leeches area spray lots of DEET on your foots it will help a bit.
After leeches adventure we stayed in main areas and enjoyed not deep jungle hikes. 2 nights stay was enough for Doi Phu Kha main area and we headed to find way down the mountain to Pua. I went to find the only person who speaks english to ask how to get a ride from Doi Phu Kha and he told that his friend will be going to town soon and can take us with herself ! So we got lucky with a free ride to Pua from where we took a taxi for 50 baht each to Nan city and headed south.
All in all it was unique experience visiting Nan region. We didn’t see any single traveler for 5 days and saw astonishing Doi Phu Kha park. It was totally worth going there.
The Wild Doi Phu Kha National Park