Tag Archives: mountains

Doi Phahompok National Park

I almost forgot to include a post about the remaining part of Doi Phahompok National Park. You can read the first part here.

The most popular part of Doi Phahompok National Park (Thai: อุทยานแห่งชาติดอยผ้าห่มปก) are Fang hot springs located nearby the town of the same name. The springs are very picturesque as they are located next to the mountains. On a large meadow there are randomly placed rocks of various sizes – all natural. The hot water comes to the surface and creates ponds of different shapes and sizes. The larger ones were adapted for egg boiling. We can buy a pack of eggs, submerge them in the hot water, wait for about 20 minutes and eggs are ready to eat. This way they will also contain minerals from hot springs and therefore they should be healthier.

There are few large pools with hot water available for visitors (the water is not too hot so that entire families can enjoy) as well as private hot spring cabins with round shaped stoned bathtubs. The private cabin costed 50 baht per person (about 1 euro) per hour for min. 2 people (a single person could use a private cabin by paying for 2 people).

The national park also contains some waterfalls. Unfortunately, most of them are localised in areas that are hard to reach (the roads are steep and unpaved). At the beginning I followed the way to one of the waterfalls recommended by a park ranger but eventually common sense took over and I turned back. I have only visited easily accessible Pong Nam Dam waterfall – maybe a small one, but not without its charm.

Doi Phahompok National Park (A – ticket booth, B – Kiew Lom camp ground, C – Fang hot springs)

Tha Ton village

After scoring a beautiful sunrise at Thailand’s second highest mountain (Doi Phahompok), I continued my journey towards Doi Mae Salong, which is famous for its tea plantations.

Before I got there though, I have visited a temple next to the road and then stopped at rather small town of Tha Ton (village indeed, only about 2,000 people). Even though I have passed through Tha Ton many times in the past, I never stopped there for a longer time – which turned out to be a huge mistake. Tha Ton is located on the Kok river, which flows all the way from Chiang Rai city (and further, one way into Myanmar and another into Mekong river). The village is famous mostly for the temple – Wat Tha Ton, which consists of 9 levels. Each temple level is different – dragons and Buddha images are the most common sights here. The view of the surrounding areas from the higher temple level is simply breath-taking – the weather was very clear so the visibility was perfect. One could see military outpost on the border with Myanmar easily.

On Tha Ton-Chiang Rai water way there is a scheduled boat service. I have never decided to use this mode of transport because it takes much longer than the paved road (3h one way, 5h the other). Locals have mentioned that the boat trip is indeed quite nice, yet really long. The day was finished (and started) with the visit at one of the local restaurants by the Kok riverside. Fresh fish at good prices prepared in Thai way should not be missed by any travellers who happen to make their way in this area. Even though visiting this place is unlikely for ordinary tourists, it can provide you with a unique Thai experience.

Doi Phahompok – The mountain top

Doi Phahompok (Thai: อุทยานแห่งชาติดอยผ้าห่มปก) is the second highest mountain in Thailand (2,285 MSL) located in Chiang Mai province, not far from Fang city. It is not too popular among tourists – usually only locals go there. In order to reach the mountain top, it is necessary to use 4WD or a motorbike. The road is dirt and very challenging. One time I went up on my faithful 125 cc Honda Sonic (just take a look at photos, how dusty the road is!) and another time I went on the back of a local’s pick up truck. Outside of the season (the season goes from December until February) almost nobody comes here.

Before reaching the camp site, it is worth taking a small detour to the left, a little bit after the ticket booth (ticket for foreigners – 400 baht, about 9 euro, ticket for Thais  – 40 baht, about 1 euro) in order to see the Huai Bon cave. The cave entrance is rather small, but the cave goes on for 324 m and the corridor is anything between 2 and 25 m wide. Inside the cave, one can find many interesting rock formations, not to mention the abundance of stalactites and stalagmites. There are no lights whatsoever inside the cave so it is necessary to bring your own torch (flashlight). There are few other smaller caves in the area, but there are no signs pointing their exact location. Rarely people come to visit Huai Bon cave – I was the only visitor there. After seeing the cave, it is time to move on.

By going up, we reach a camp ground – the highest in Thailand (1,924 MSL). One can easily rent a tent. During the season, there is also a working restaurant here. There is a 3.5 km trail that allows us to reach the mountain top. The trail goes up almost all the time and can be challenging for some. The park rangers said that it takes about 2 hours to reach the summit. For me, as I am an experienced hiker, it took only one hour. First time I woke up at 4 am to reach the summit for the sunrise at 6 am, but instead I have reached the peak at 5 am and I waited over one hour for the sunrise (at that time I was also the only tourist – really the only one who was spending a night there). The second time I knew that it will take me only 1 hour to reach the summit so I started my hike later.

“Doi Phahompok” means “mountain with a flat top” and so it is – the top offers great views in all directions. The peak has 2,285 MSL, so in the morning we are above the clouds and the rising sun comes out of the sea of clouds. When we look to the west, we can see the border with Myanmar (Burma, and further into the country) and military outposts on the mountain tops. A little to the southwest one can see Doi Ang Khang (which I covered in the previous posts) if the weather is clear enough.

Doi Phahompok National Park offers other attractions nearby – famous hot springs and few waterfalls. I will cover these in the next post.

On the way I have made a stop at one temple, which houses the 300 year old wooden Buddha image – it is quite unique, and therefore, worth seeing.

Don’t forget to check out the second post about Doi Phahompok National Park by clicking here.

Doi Phahompok National Park (A – ticket booth, B – Kiew Lom camp ground, C – Fang hot springs)

Doi Ang Khang – Nor Lae village

My last post about Doi Ang Khang is dedicated to Nor Lae village, located at the border with Burma (Myanmar). The road to the village is rather steep (going up and down…). There is a small army base with a viewpoint in the village. The viewpoint allows us to see the beautiful mountainous scenery, as well as Burmese military outposts. Locals sell hand-made products, kids sometimes pose for photos. There is another quite dangerous road going along the border – you should ask soldiers for permission before using it.

Nor Lae village is only few kilometres apart from Doi Ang Khang Royal Project. In the surroundings of the Project there is also a “hidden” Ang Khang pagoda – there are no signs pointing you there, but if you only take a small side-way road out of curiosity, you can find it pretty quickly.

So we finish our journey in the coldest place in Thailand, we ride down the same most dangerous road in the country in the direction of the next mountain – Doi Phahompok. For some time Doi Ang Khang is included now as a part of Doi Phahompok National Park. We move on to see that “mountain with a flat summit”. I will describe it in the next post.

One last thing to keep in mind (same as with the other Doi Ang Khang posts) – the photos in the gallery come from all three different trips to Doi Ang Khang. Some of them were taken with my previous camera (non-SLR).

Surroundings of Doi Ang Khang (A – army base and camp ground, B – Royal Agricultural Station, C – Nor Lae village at the border with Burma/Myanmar)

Doi Ang Khang – Royal Project

I recommend to spend the second day at Doi Ang Khang on visiting the Royal Project – actually Royal Agricultural Station. The Royal Project is really interesting! Since the temperatures are much lower than in the rest of the country (please remember that the temperature can drop below zero in December and January), at the Project you can find fruits that are non-existent in other parts of the country – like strawberries (the tastiest in all of Thailand!), kiwi, pears or peaches. There is also a wide variety of vegetables, herbs, flowers, even tea and coffee. The entrance fee is 50 baht per person (about 1 euro). There are many interesting and beautiful gardens on the grounds of Royal Project – shaded moist garden, flower gardens – Garden 80 (named to celebrate 80. birthday or HM the King of Thailand), English roses garden, rhododendrons, scented garden, bonsai tree garden, natural rock garden… There is a lot of things to admire indeed. The variety of gardens guarantees great views at any time of the year. Let’s not forget to mention rare birds (including endangered and endemic species – together over 1,000 species) that attract both ornithologists and photographers alike.

It is possible to rent a room inside the Project (but don’t forget to book ahead in the high season – usually months ahead!), you can take a peek at the house for Royal Family (rather modest and seems unused for years), finally you can try out local specialities in a very nice and cheap restaurant. Plus there are some nature trails, hill tribe villages, mule riding (not common to see those animals around!). If you still have time after visiting the Project, I recommend to continue forward to Nor Lae village, located at the border with Myanmar (Burma) – I will cover it in the next post.

One last thing to keep in mind (same as with the other Doi Ang Khang posts) – the photos in the gallery come from all three different trips to Doi Ang Khang. Some of them were taken with my previous camera (non-SLR).

Surroundings of Doi Ang Khang (A – army base and camp ground, B – Royal Agricultural Station, C – Nor Lae village at the border with Burma/Myanmar)

Doi Ang Khang – The Views

Today I will write about my favourite place in Thailand (so far) – Doi Ang Khang. I personally love mountains, and Doi Ang Khang is the coldest place in Thailand. It is not the highest mountain in the country (1928 MSL) but it’s here where they observed negative temperatures (-2, -3 degrees Celsius). Doi Ang Khang is located in Chiang Mai province, about 3 hours drive from both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai city (so one can start the trip from either city). It is possible to get there using public transport (it is time-consuming and inconvenient) but it is much better to hire your own wheels. It is not too popular, especially among foreigners – it seems that only local tourists (mostly from the northern parts of the country) come here. Another important factor is the fact that the road to Doi Ang Khang is the most dangerous in all of Thailand. Only the last 10 km to the summit are so dangerous (especially the very last 2 km – road is extremely steep). Buses can not go there – the road is so windy (180 degrees serpentines!) that regular buses haven’t got enough space to make the turn. Even passenger cars get tired on the way (it is not uncommon to smell hot engine oil on the way) – it is much better to use 4WD. I have come here three times – twice on my faithful motorbike (125cc) and once with a car. Making this trip on a motorbike is truly unforgettable – and I prefer this kind of transport.

Upon arrival, there are at least two camping grounds – one is located at the small army base, and this is the one that I recommend. The reason for that is quite simple: soldiers have the best view at Doi Ang Khang (renting a tent starts at 400 baht for 2-people tent, about 9 euro). Those more picky can stay at resorts and hotels at the village next to Royal Agricultural Station – but in the season (December until February) it may be very hard to get a room without prior reservation.

First day I recommend to spend enjoying the view and climate around the summit as well as visiting the village. The village is quite interesting – the locals who live there come from various hill tribes and countries (Chinese, Burmese, Thais) and therefore it offers diversified cuisine.

In the evening I climbed up to the top of Doi Ang Khang to capture the sunset. At dawn, again I went all the way there (not very far from camping ground though) to see the sunrise. Afterwards, I continued towards Royal Agricultural Station. But I will cover it in the next post.

One last thing to keep in mind – the photos in the gallery come from all three different trips to Doi Ang Khang. Some of them were taken with my previous camera (non-SLR) and on top of things, I used to have long hair. Well then, enjoy the photos!

Surroundings of Doi Ang Khang (A – army base and camp ground, B – Royal Agricultural Station, C – Nor Lae village at the border with Burma/Myanmar)