It was as early as 1982 when the idea of forest bathing or ‘shinrin-yoku’ started, but the practice only became a worldwide popular remedy years later. Researchers have found that spending time in the forest benefits both physical and mental wellbeing; it can reduce stress, hypertension, and treat depression. Thailand has many tropical rain forests worth visiting; each of them is a perfect destination to cleanse your mind and body of the toxic air and ailments of a big city. Choose a walking trail that is not too long or exhausting, and always stay on the trail for safety.
Walking trails vary in level of difficulty; the trails recommended in this article are of level 1 (the least challenging). They are called ‘natural trails’ for they provide a chance to get to know about nature during the short (not longer than 6 km) ramble. Each can take about three to four hours of relaxing walking and so there are no camp sites. There are direction signs, warnings about dangerous areas and rails to provide safety and convenience in some areas. Steeper sections are graded to make walking less strenuous. You can either walk on your own or with a forest ranger and no previous trekking experience is required.
Now that you know about forest bathing in Thailand, are you ready to go? Here are four walking trails in four regions of Thailand. We hope you have a good time.
Haew Su Wat - Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall Nature Trail, Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima Province
This nature trail is perfect for a short-distance trip and does not take much time. Most of the trail, which is concrete-paved, winds alongside Lam Ta Khong stream, which flows through alternating patches of moist and dry evergreen forest. The forest of large trees is occasionally broken by groves of tall bamboo. The trail leads to the 10-metre-high Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall with its wide pool below - a superb spot for swimming and refreshing yourself. A large variety of orchids appears along the cliffs around the waterfall, giving it the name Pha Klaui Mai or ‘Orchid Cliff’. From this spot you can walk farther to Haew Su Wat Waterfall, where the tropical evergreen forest along the stream is clearly different from the usual. Rocky slopes flank the trail and you might have a chance to see some of the fauna that thrives along the stream, such as butterflies, Chinese water dragons (Physignathus cocincinus), and otters.
Haew Su Wat - Pha Kluai Mai Waterfall Nature Trail covers a distance of 3 km and takes about 2 hours to complete. It is about 1 km to Pha Klaui Mai and another 2 km to Haew Su Wat Waterfall.
Kew Mae Pan Nature trail, Chiang Mai Province
This trail is a loop of approximately 3 km, divided into four parts. The first part covers moist evergreen forest with mosses and ferns growing densely on mature trees. After this part, the trail heads to a vast grassland that changes its colour from lush green in the rainy season to brown in summer. Walk further and you will find large kularb pan pee (Rhododendron arboreum) in abundance along the cliffs; they are in full bloom between January and March. The Rhododendron is the major attraction of Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. From this spot the trail takes you back into the jungle again. The last part of the trail descends to Mae Pan stream.
The Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is a perfect day trip and great for botanists. The trail leads you through evergreen forest along the stream, goes up the hill into forest of dense moss and fruticose lichen and ends in grassland on a hilltop, carpeted with flowers such as Pearly everlasting, (Vaccinium Sprengelii) and varieties of wild flowers in yellow, purple and white, such as Hooker's St. John's Wort (Hypericum hookerianum) and violets.
Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary Nature Trail, Loei Province
The name ‘Phu Laung’ means ‘soaring mountain’ or ‘King’s mountain’. It was formed by an uplift of the earth’s crust and a slide of soft soil to the lower area. Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of almost 900 km2 of mostly plateau. It has low temperatures all year round, but still has three seasons, as in the surrounding lowlands. Summer starts in February and ends in April, with an average temperature of 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. During summer various orchids are in bloom, such as Dendrobium infundibulum and white wild orchids, as well as white and red rhododendrons. The best time to enjoy the display of rhododendron blossoms is between February and March.
In the rainy season, pinkish violet flowers bloom in the grassland and in winter maple leaves turn red before falling and covering the ground where kradum ngoen (Eriocaulon henryanum Ruhle) and lady's slipper orchids (Paphiopedilum sukhakulii Schoser & Senghas) grow on rocky surfaces. On the east side of Phu Luang, footprints of dinosaurs from 120 million years ago were discovered. Phu Luang’s forest is composed of many types of plant communities, such as mixed deciduous forest, dry evergreen forest, and hill evergreen forest, but the most well-known are the high forests of Merkus and Khasi pine and the plateau’s savanna.
The nature trail of Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary starts at Kok Nok Kraba and passses Larn Suriyan and Pha Som Dej, as well as the dinosaur footprints and stands of rhododendrons and various wild orchids along the way. It requires 1 to 2 days to cover everything on the nature trail and anyone who wants to trek on Phu Laung must contact the Wildlife Sanctuary office for arrange for a forest ranger to lead the way.
Khao Sok National Park Nature Trail
Most people come to Khao Sok National Park to search for the rare Bua Phuud or Rafflesia; a huge flower of 10-25 inches in diameter. The flower can be found on the ground and blooms from November to January. Other rarities at Khao Sok National Park include White Elephant Palm (Kerriodoxa elegans), giant Asian river frog (Limnonectes blythii), and Malayan bonytongue fish (Scleropages formosus).
The best time to visit Khao Sok National Park is between December and April. The park has many waterfalls, such as Nah Chom, Wang Yao, Bang Hua Raet and Wing Hin Waterfalls. Wang Yao is a wide, long pool - so big that 500 people can swim in it at the same time - while Wing Hin is much smaller. Tung Nam is the geographical landscape of a mountain eroded by water, dividing it into two parts with two cliffs facing each other. Ton Kloi Waterfall originates from a stream called Khlong Sok and is a single-tier waterfall with a large slab of rock forming a natural patio for relaxing. It is about 9 km from the national park office. Ton Sai waterfall is a beautiful waterfall along Khlong Sok and is about 11 km from the national park office and 2 km from Ton Kloi Waterfall. Tan Sawan Waterfall is spectacular for its stream of water that arches into the air from a steep cliff before descending into Khlong Sok. It is about 9 km from the national park office and 3 km from Tung Nam. Sip Et Chan Waterfall is about 4 km from the national park office; it cascades down 11 terraces and has a pool for swimming at the bottom. It can be reached by taking Sip Et Chan Waterfall Nature Trail.