Doi Inthanon National Park
This is a place well worth a visit when you are in Chiang Mai. It is easily done in a day trip. It is about 115 km from Chiang Mai.
Doi In is the highest mountain in Thailand, at 2,599 m (8,527 ft), just a little higher than Australia's highest (Mt Koszciusko) which is 7,310 ft (2,228 m), and although it is relatively cold up at the summit, it never snows.
- Doi Inthanon National Park HQ, Chom Thong, Chiang Mai Province (km31), ☎ +66 53 355728, +66 53 268550. Accommodation, restaurants, information, and camping sites are available here.
Doi Inthanon is a part of the Himalayas, which ranges across Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and ends in northern Thailand. Complex mountain ranges and a mild climate characterise the area with a moist and dense summit forest. Doi Inthanon is interesting for ornithologists. The summit forest is the source of important tributaries of the Mae Ping River. Meo and Karen hill tribes inhabit the park.
Temperatures are about 10-12 degrees Celsius during the day (there is a thermometer at the top).
To get there, you can either drive yourself, hire a car through your hotel or a travel agent, join an organised minibus tour, or be a little adventurous and hire a songthaew for the day.
Travel 58 kilometres west of Chiang Mai via Hwy 108 to Chom Thong, then turn right into Hwy 1009 and continue a further distance of 48 kilometres along Hwy 1009 to the summit. A good asphalt road takes visitors up, but is rather steep, thus the vehicle must be in a good condition. Visitors pay an entrance fee at km8.
A songthaew (two bench pickup truck) will cost you about 2,000 baht for the day, including petrol (ask first!).
A minibus tour will cost around 1,100-1,200 baht with an English-speaking guide. The trip includes a visit to the peak, two waterfalls, twin chedis, a royal development project, and a Karen village (somewhat uninspiring). The price includes all entry fees. It is far cheaper to book direct with the tour operator rather than through a hotel or agent. The tour is from approximately 08:30 to 16:30. All fees and a so-so lunch are included and you will be picked up and dropped off at your hotel (costs as of Jun 2011 using Journey Tours of Chiang Mai). The Journey Tours operation is professional and has very safe drivers. It is likely the other operators have similar standards. Make sure you book your planned itinerary with all potential stops before you hire the driver or he will charge you extra.
It takes two to three hours to get there.
You will pay an entry fee for each person (not the driver, if it is a hire), and also the car entry fee. For foreigners the fee is 200 baht, for Thais, 20 baht, and for the car, 30 baht.
Visiting Doi Inthanon is possible throughout the year. The best period for viewing waterfalls is May-Nov. The best period for viewing wild flowers is Dec-Feb. The best period for ornithologists is Nov-Mar.
As you drive up the winding road to the top it will become steadily cooler. At the top you can walk around and check out the sights there. There is a shop for souvenirs and also for drinks and snacks, as well as toilets. In the rainy season, there are near-perpetual clouds here, so you might see little.
On your way back you will stop at the twin chedis (stupas) on the right side part way down near the top. The view is tremendous, the chedis are well worth a look, and the gardens are beautiful. There is an entry fee, but it is reasonable. Escalators are available to those who do not want to walk up the many steps.
On the way back to Chiang Mai, you may also want to visit either the Ganesh Temple/Museum (well-worth a look even if you are not Hindu or Buddhist),or the umbrella factory (very touristy.)
- Doi Inthanon National Park Tourist Centre (At km9). Exhibits on nature and the animals that inhabit the area.
- Doi Inthanon Peak. An air force radar station and King Inthawichayanon’s stupa are on the mountaintop. King Inthawichayanon, the last king of Chiang Mai, was concerned about the importance of forests and wanted to preserve the forests for future generations. He was so enamoured of Doi Inthanon that he asked that part of his ashes be kept here. The Tourist Information Centre, near the top of Doi Inthanon, contains exhibits charting the chronological background of the mountain, including its geography, biology, forests, and animals.
- Doi Inthanon Royal Project (In Khun Klang Village close to park HQ). The project was initiated in 1979 to help the hill tribes to cultivate cash crops other than opium and train them on modern agricultural practices to grow temperate zone plants. Flower fields, a plant breeding research lab, and hill tribe (Hmong) flower plantations are open to visitors.
- Namtok Huai Sai Lueang (Beyond Namtok Mae Pan, about 21 km from Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem Rd. Turn left to an unpaved road. 4WD vehicles only in rainy season). "Namtok"="waterfall". Medium-size cascade has water all year round and flows from a cliff to each level.
- Namtok Mae Klang (8 km from the Hwy 1009 junction; turn left onto an asphalt road for 500 m). A 100 m one-level waterfall.
- Namtok Mae Pan (From km38 of Hwy 1009, drive along the Doi Inthanon-Mae Chaem road (Hwy 1192) for 6 km and a sign to the waterfall will be seen, then drive on an unpaved road for 9 km). The highest waterfall in Chiang Mai, which flows from a 100 m cliff. From afar, the white water and the green forests around the falls make a beautiful picture. The waterfall can be reached by a ten-minute walk from a parking lot. In the rainy season, the road to Namtok Mae Phan is in a poor condition; only four-wheel vehicles can make the journey.
- Namtok Mae Ya (1 km from the Hwy 1009 junction, turn left for 14 km and then take a hike in 200 m.). One of the most beautiful cascades in Chiang Mai Province. Water cascades from a 280 m cliff onto different rock formations in a lower basin like drapes. The area is in verdant forest.
- Namtok Siriphum (At km31 of Hwy 1009 take a right turn for 2 km). A splendid waterfall that falls from a steep cliff in two lines and can be seen en route to Doi Inthanon.
- Namtok Wachirathan (Turn right off Hwy 1009 at km21, then follow the signpost to the waterfall a further 350 m on foot. At km20 a new road has shortened the walk to the waterfall). A large waterfall which plummets over the edge of a high cliff into a deep pool below. When there is a large amount of water, there are large splashes in the basin, creating a cool and refreshing environment. The delightful ambience can be felt by walking on a slippery bridge that leads to the waterfall.
- Phra Mahathat Napha Methanidon and Phra Mahathat Naphaphon Phumisiri, (At km41.5). Twin pagodas, built to commemorate the fifth cycle birthdays of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Both pagodas share the similar bases as well as a two-level walking path that surrounds them. The pagodas enshrine Lord Buddha’s ashes and Buddha images, and overlook the scenery of Doi Inthanon.
- Tham Bori Chinda (Near Namtok Mae Klang at km8.5 of Hwy 1009. The road sign to Tham Bori Chinda is at the junction on the right). A large cave. The deep cave has stalactite and stalagmite formations, Buddha images, and a rocky stream. The surface of the water glitters under the sun. Sunlight illuminates the entire cave.
There are nature trails on Doi Inthanon, each providing different views of the diversity of plants, reforestation, the importance of tributaries, the origin of caves, hill tribe agriculture, and bird watching. Walking trails range from 1 to 8 km. Each trip needs approval from the Chief of the National Park and a trekking leader is needed. The service is obtained at the park office at km31.
- Ang Ka Luang Nature Trail. Surveyed and designed by Mr. Michael MacMillan Walls, a Canadian volunteer biologist who was devoted to the region and died of a heart attack on this mountain. This trail is 360 m long, passing through wet and cold areas in a lush valley. Forest above 2,000 m is covered with lichens and wild orchids. Indigenous plants that need a high level of nutrition, organic deposits, and rare species of birds are seen along the trail.
- Birdwatching (Birdwatching Information Centre (Uncle Daeng’s Shop) is at km31). This is a bird information exchange centre for bird watchers, nature students and the general public. The information details the habitat and food of birds and animals living on Doi Inthanon. The aim is to pass on this knowledge to the next generation. It also provides the Doi Inthanon Birdwatching Diary, bird sketches by various artists, bird watching trails, bird pictures, and slides. Winter is the best time for bird watching when indigenous and migrant birds are found including Eurasian Woodcock, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, Forest Wagtail, Chestnut Thrush, Scarlet Finch, Little Bunting, and Crested Bunting.
- Kiu Mae Pan Trail (Starts at km42). This short trail, winding through pristine forest for about 2.5 km, allows the hiker to experience the natural beauty of the forest at first hand. Rhododendrons, commonly found in the Himalayas, are found along the trail and they are in full bloom from Dec-Feb. Trekkers on this route should seek permission from the park headquarters at km31 for safety reasons. A group of not more than 15 people is recommended. Food consumption is not allowed while trekking. This nature trail is closed for reforestation from 1 Jun-30 Oct.
Accommodation, restaurants, and camping sites are available at the park headquarters at km31. Tel: +66 53 355728, +66 53 268550, +66 2 5620760 for reservations.
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