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Hiking the Mae Wang Mountain Area of N. Thailand: Rice paddies, a naturalist, and tribal culture

Summary: Hike the breathtaking Mae Wang Mountain Area with a private guide. Cost: $54/person for our family of 4. Yewen, our knowledgeable private guide with Chan Trekking, taught us about local plants, culture, and tribes, as we trekked through rice fields, forest, creeks, and waterfalls. Price includes a stop at a local market, lunch, all-day hike, and private driver to/from Chiang Mai.


Yewen, our guide, and his driver, picked us up from our AirBnB in small van. The tour was private so it was just the four of us all day. The drive from Chiang Mai to the trailhead was roughly 90 minutes with a stop along the way at a local market, where Yewen picked up our lunch to enjoy on the trail later.

Trekking through the Mountains to See the Waterfall

The first part of the hike was through a forested, mostly single-track trail. This remote area of the mountains are not marked at all, nor is it clear that the trails are open to the public as we were the only persons out there. Yewen, a native of the area, knew the trails well and effortlessly guided us through these beautiful trails. Truthfully, we didn't pay close attention to where we were because Yewen immediately put us at ease. This means that there's not much we can tell you about the specific trail except that it's in the Mae Wang District.

For the boys, Yewen often stopped to identify a plant or insect. Midway through the morning portion of our our hike, we arrived at a set of water falls (photo below).

Trekking Through Rice Paddies

Next we hiked through several sections of rice paddies. Like the forested areas we were the only people in sight for most of the hike, except for this older one woman we came across (photo below). All alone and barefoot, this farmer worked on the hillside with her trowel. It was a bit surreal to walk past her as she labored by hand, as if we were walking in and out of her world.

The rice paddies themselves are gorgeous. When hiking through, you have to carefully place your feet along the ridges or risk dunking yourself in the flooded paddy. If you do, it's not the end of the world; it's just a wet foot.

Ponchos and Rain

With these beautiful waterfalls and brilliants greens come the real possibility of rain. Truthfully though, it was not bother and actually added to the adventurous feel of the day. For us, it rained only about 45 minutes. We came prepared with ponchos which do help keep your clothes from getting too wet to help prevent chaffing and other discomforts. With the ponchos, we could just laugh at the situation. The rain was heavy and monsoon-like. The air was warm though and with our hiking sandals (which we highly recommend for wet hikes), we actually loved the rain.

Yewen: The naturalist

The day was successful because of this guy, our guide Yewen. He was awesome. A native to the area, Yewen was not only an expert trail guide, he knew all we could possibly ask about the plants and insects we came across. He also had an entertaining personality that we adored.

Lunch In a Remote Village

Villagers in this mountainous, wet region are known as the "Hill Tribe" and live in modest huts with dirt floors. Dogs run free through the village that is mostly deserted during the day while workers are out tending the fields and working at jobs in town. We stopped at once such hut for lunch that welcomed us because of the rain. Yewen set out lunch for us on a wooden table while we watched an elderly woman (photo below) handmaking bracelets which were available to purchase at next to nothing prices. She had a lovely interaction with Joey, who was curiously watching her work. [Note: If you end up seeking shelter like we did to have lunch, please graciously leave a tip for the use of the hut.]

Final Hike and Swimming Hole

After lunch we set off again down the mountain, enjoying the forest again. At the end of the hike which we estimate to be roughly 8 miles in total (we did not track it), Yewen brought us to a pool at the base of some falls for a swim. By that time, the day had cooled a bit so we elected not to swim. Instead, we sat at the falls and enjoyed the view before completing our hike to the van. The entire day, from pick up to drop off, was 10.5 hours. It was an incredible experience and will truly always be one of the more memorable travels days.

What to pack: Bring bug spray, poncho, sun block, and hiking sandals. While lunch was plenty, it is a long day so consider also packing snacks. We brought protein bars and nuts.


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