Doi Inthanon National Park
It's a wonderful place to get lost
On one of the days jet lag had me wide awake at 5am, I decided to get an early start to the day and head to Doi Inthanon, a national park about an hour and a half outside the city. After looking into it, I wanted to rent a car because it's definitely too long for me to be jammed in the back of a bumpy red bus, and both the buses and the tour groups limit where and when you can go in the park. It's a big, beautiful place with lots to do and I didn't want to have to stick to anyone's plan. Plus, it's easy to decide you want to rent a car when you know you won't be the one to have to drive it!
We left the house for the rental car place I found on Google Maps at around 8am, allegedly right when it opens. A 25-minute walk later and we arrive to a residential street with no car rental place. Some kind police officers suggested we try the airport and Dain said we should just walk right up to the airport, which I decided against (have you ever seen anyone walk to an airport? So sketchy!), so we ended up walking to another rental spot Google suggested. An hour across town later and... another dead end! Dain could not believe our luck- two spots with websites and addresses that were nowhere to be found! Luckily Dain stopped into a hostel and a kind woman there directed us to an area where we could find a rental- it's the most touristy spot in the city, in hindsight we should have looked there first. I think she even muttered that the place we were looking for closed two years ago... thanks Google! I live my life on Google Maps and it usually sees me through but lesson learned- Google is not the best for Asia. Not only will you miss out on so many incredible places (and the best restaurants and bars are usually not even remotely on the web) but you'll probably get some stale information.
At around 10:30, we finally picked up our white Honda Jazz and started our drive out of the city. In Thailand, they drive on the left side of the road, which is honestly the least of your worries. There are no sidewalks or crosswalks so people are walking in the street and darting out in front of you in order to cross. In addition, there are countless motorcycles and scooters zipping around, so it's essentially as lawless as playing MarioKart. It was a little stressful but Dain navigated us out of the city and onto the open highway.
Our first stop was Mae Klang Waterfall, one of dozens of waterfalls in the park, located at the base of the mountain.
Next, we climbed up and up on very windy roads for about an hour until we reached the summit. Doi Inthanon is named after a prince who, about 100 years ago, summited the peak in order to scatter the remains of Thailand's recently deceased king. It's the tallest point in the country and, although once home to tigers and elephants, is currently devoid of wildlife.
There's a nice nature walk. In the video, you'll see a mossed-over Buddha house, which are ubiquitous, but this one was built to cover and memorialize a helicopter crash. At the back of the house, you can still see the propeller sticking out.
As we were driving down the mountain, we decided to follow a sign for a turn-off that promised hot springs. After driving up and down extremely tight roads barely big enough for one car, and a road so windy you had to honk before each turn to alert other drivers, we came across another gorgeous waterfall, Huay Zai Luang, that we had all to ourselves.
In the pursuit of mountainside views and those elusive hot springs, we drove on. Probably for a little too long, but it's a beautiful place to get lost.