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  • On this website some experienced Chiang Mai hikers post open invitations to join their hikes in the area.
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  • Hike descriptions may be posted at short notice. So it may be worth checking the website frequently.
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17/05/28_Wieng Kum Kam and McKean Island

The group in front of sluice gate at the start of the hike

16 people showed up for this special hike in the historical suburbs. Unfortunately, it seems we set off too suddenly at 7.40 and lost one as soon as we started. Sorry, J.  Crossing the sluice gate over the Ping River into the Wieng Kum Kam area is a rather hidden joy. We arrived in a shady meadow where horses grazed and flame-trees blossomed.

We headed first for the landmark of Wat Chedi Liem, and then along a series of minor roads, alleys and other pathways which took us past many other temples: some glittering and current, some ancient brick layouts.

Only once did the road chosen by the leader degenerate through all the stages of rough track, muddy path, and  finally mud, water and rubbish without any path. From this we somehow emerged and found our bearings again, and continued southwards toward McKean Island.

Muddy deviation. Photo by Janet

Janet, who worked at the McKean hospital from 1975, told us how the “island” (bounded on the east by a channel and the west by the Ping) had once been occupied by a rogue white elephant. After it died (the story goes), people were afraid of its haunting spirit. That may explain why this large piece of land was chosen to be allocated by the ruler of Chiang Mai in the early 20th  century to the missionary Dr McKean, for looking after people afflicted by leprosy. Now that multi-drug therapy and stigma reduction allow sufferers to stay in their own communities while being treated, the island is mainly a sanctuary for other vulnerable folk, especially elderly. We did not have time to fulfill the original plan of going all the way to the hospital and back, but got a taste of the area’s peaceful atmosphere. We then returned to our starting point via the small bridge near Wat Ko Klang, the back road to Wat Pa Daet, and a restaurant where eight of us lingered for midday refreshments.


Distance walked was 13-14km in 4h 15m. Elevation gained and relinquished: virtually zero. Weather: umbrellas were used as sunshades.

Hike leadership and report by Michael M. Photos thanks to Letlet and Janet




3 Responses

  1. The preferred term these days is Hansen’s disease, given the historical stigma associated with the word leprosy. And, unfortunately, it hasn’t been eradicated.

    • Thanks for the more accurate information. I’ve amended the post, although kept the word “leprosy”, which I think is still a useful term, although the historical stigma certainly means it is unacceptable to refer to its sufferers as “lepers”.

  2. Leper-isn’t that a codeword for a Trump adviser?

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