Most hikes in the northern hills do require elevation gains of between 400 to 800 metres, some even more. Many people now make use of the “Pilgrim’s Trail” on Doi Suthep, for example, which starts near Wat Fai Hin just west of Chiang Mai University, passes Wat Phalad a third of the way up the trail and ends at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, ascending around 600m over 3.2km. If the air quality is good, why bother to use an indoor treadmill when the hills that surround a city like Chiang Mai can feel like nature’s gymnasium? Step away from the harsh edges of the city and walk into the forest. Let the eyes bathe in sinuous form, in yellows, greens and ochres. Breathe heavenly scents from distant inflorescence, tune the ears to the breezes brushing the canopy, or the screech of cicadas, the song of distant birds, the burbling of a brook or the rumble of falls. Feel your heartbeat, your breath, and know that all is well.
In the chiang mai forest : There’s no gain without pain,” I remind myself while ascending steep grades on forest trails in the northern hills around Chiang Mai. Synchronizing pace and breath...left foot up, breathe in...right foot up, breathe out...makes hiking up steep grades easier.