Sakura cherry blossom flourishes near the top of Doi Pui for only two or three weeks each year. In 2014 the Hiking Group found it wilting and dropping by 26 January. This year, a pair of first-time hike-leaders – Michael M and Peter D – decided to launch the quest a little earlier.
It was a cool Sunday morning, following very unseasonable heavy rain during the week. 29 hikers gathered at the Arboretum to undertake the mission. Most of us set out by riding in two songthaews up to the foot of the Wat Doi Suthep stairs. A few for whom this kind of transport on the snaking mountain road was a nauseous prospect preferred to use car or motorcy.
The hike trail from Wat Doi Suthep to Ban Hmong Khun Chiang Kian – about 10km long and gently climbing from 990m to 1350m – was easy and pleasant; once cut as a track for vehicles but now partly overgrown and over-fallen by trees.
The fairness of the way, combined with the freshness of the weather and the enthusiasm of the novice hike-leader, made for a fairly brisk pace. Despite one wrong turn by the vanguard, the main party reached the village a little earlier than expected, around 11.30am. This left plenty of time for people to enjoy themselves at their leisure among the refreshment-places, young sakura and pretty scenes of the village, and of the agricultural research station a kilometre or so to the west. The idea was that one of the leaders would then guide the most insatiable hikers back all the way down the mountain, leaving others to be picked up by songthaew at 2pm.
A few deviations occurred from this plan. The most serious malfunction began when some of the hikers, instead of following the route-masters to the village, sought out a new short-cut to the coffee shop at the agricultural research station. Yes, they discovered a route said to be unrecorded in any of the CMHG’s charts and annals. But they also thereby cunningly separated themselves from the official downhill leader. This allowed them to form an alternative party which then descended by an unauthorized route under the rebel captaincy of Mr A. Another small breakaway crew decided early to retrace the path back to Wat Doi Suthep where their car was parked, avoiding the prospect of having to ride a songthaew roller-coaster. Some of the remaining hikers, feeling the dreadful chill of sub-15°C temperatures, did wish that the pick-up time was sooner. But, dauntlessly loyal to the proper leaders and the Plan, they donned rain-gear to provide an additional layer of insulation, drank lots of hot local coffee and ranged around with more or less energetic delight until the transport arrived.
Mr A’s group, scampering down by its own sneaky path, reached the Arboretum before the songthaews did: covering 11.4km in two hours and six minutes, they boasted. While this feat must grudgingly be admired, the official descent team came in only a few minutes afterwards. Starting later, it probably jogged along even faster, and moreover did so by the correct route. The path-retracing songthaew-shunners also made it home, although a little later. We think a very good time was had by all.
And what about the sakura as of 11th January 2015? Not yet at its most flamboyant, but nonetheless rather exquisite.
Filed under: Hike Reports