Jungle Trails with Camp Guide Somkid Chaisan
The Golden Triangle is good at keeping its secrets. Incredible experiences hide just out of sight in these bamboo-clad mountains, dropping tantalising hints – a mischievous birdcall, an enigmatic shrine, a murmur of running water somewhere in the distance. These wonders remain hidden from most travellers, but those fortunate enough to meet our Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle Camp Guide Somkid Chaisan - Khun Paul have the opportunity to look behind the curtain.
Ambassador of the Golden Triangle
Khun Paul grew up in Chiang Rai, exploring its dense forests and spectacular mountain trails of the Golden Triangle. His childhood hobby of finding and sharing the best spots with friends and family ultimately turned into a career in experiential travel.
Before joining Four Seasons, Khun Paul worked as an independent guide for 13 years, leading trekking and sightseeing tours across northern Thailand. He also guided guests in adrenaline-pumping activities such as motocross (motorcycle racing) and off-road jeep adventures. Since 2012, Khun Paul has been part of the Tented Camp family, making the region’s extraordinary experiences accessible for Four Seasons guests.
“I think of us travel guides as ambassadors. We represent our native land, we are its ‘face’ for visitors,” says Khun Paul. “The way we interact with them can change their entire impression of the place. That’s a big responsibility!”
Hello, Hill Tribes
The bamboo jungles that cascade across the slopes of the Golden Triangle are home to a number of indigenous hill tribes, whose age-old customs have been passed down from generation to generation. With his up-close knowledge of the tribes, Khun Paul opens a window for guests into these fascinating cultures.
“Six main hill tribes still exist in northern Thailand, each with their own distinctive way of life,” he explains. Some of the differences are obvious. For example, the garments of the Akha tribe are dyed a unique indigo, while Lahu tribe members wear black cloaks with the sleeves painted red and yellow. Other differences aren’t as visible. “The Yao tribe’s religion is based on medieval Taoism, but the nearby Karen tribe is Animist – they believe that everyone has 37 klar (life spirits) within them,” reveals Khun Paul.
A Trail to Remember
If Khun Paul had to pick a favourite guest activity, it would be the Houi Mak Leim National Park and Hot Spring Trail. “If you’re up for an adventure, this trek is the perfect introduction to Chiang Rai,” he says, eyes already sparkling with anticipation. Not only does the route pass through stunning landscapes, it also takes trekkers to local hill-tribe villages.
“At Ban Ja Jor village, we meet the Lahu hill tribe. The Lahu women are very skilled at embroidery, and the men are legendary hunters,” explains Khun Paul. “Further up is an Akha hill-tribe village, where we enter through the spirit gate and see the giant swing that’s used for New Year celebrations, harvest festivals and other ceremonies.”
At the Huay Keaw waterfall, a botanical wonderland awaits: guests can see an incredible variety of plants and trees. The trail then wanders through towering groves of bamboo and tea plantations, finally arriving at a Chinese village, where it’s time to sample a cup of locally brewed tea. The challenging trek concludes with a relaxing soak in the naturally heated waters of the Houi Mak Leim Hot Springs.
For the Love of Birds
At Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, guests share the natural surroundings with hundreds of avian residents. A profusion of twitters, trills and coos can be heard day and night, but it’s not quite so easy to actually see the birds. That’s where Khun Paul’s expertise comes in handy.
“Puff-throated babblers and large hawk cuckoos like to hang out at the suspension bridge and the elephant pond. You could also head down to the Mae Khong River, where the greater coucal might sing for you,” he says with a smile. With his guidance and a bit of luck, you could even spot a rare purple sunbird or a Burmese shrike.
For Khun Paul, the wandering trails of the Golden Triangle aren’t random or meaningless: they’re a treasure map, with incredible, insightful experiences waiting to be shared with visitors to his beloved homeland.
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand