Around Chiang Mai
Sixteen kilometres northwest of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep, a 1676m town and is 3,520 feet above sea level , who lived on the mountain’s ‘dupes for many years. Near its summit is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep: first established in 131(3 under King Keu Naone, it is one of the north’s most sacred temples. A staircase of 300 steps leads to the wat at the end of the winding road up the mountain. To get there, drive along Huay Kaew Road up the mountain. Alternatively, there are song thaew services available at the foot of the mountain. It costs 30 baht/head to go up to Doi Suthep and approximately 50 baht/head to go further to Doi Pui and Phu Phing Palace. Note that these are one-way faresÂ At the top, weather permitting, there are some fine views of Chiang Mai. Inside the cloister is an exquisite, Lanna-style, copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tiered gold umÂbrella â€” one of the holiest chedi in Thailand.
About 4km beyond Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is Phra Tamnak Phu. a winter palace for the royal family with palace gardens (admission free; open 8.30am-(2.30pm & fpm-4pm Sat, Sun & holidays). The road that passes the palace splits off to the left, stopÂping at the peak of Doi Pui. From there, a dirt road proceeds for a couple of kilometres to a nearby Hmong hill-tribe village. If you won’t have an opportunity to visit remote villages, it’s worth visiting this one, even though it is well touristed. You can buy Hmong handicrafts here and see traditional homes and costumes, although these are mostly posed situations.
If you’re cycling or driving to the sumÂmit, you can stop off along the way at the waterfalls, Nam Tok Monthathon (admisÂsion 2008), 2.5km of l the paved road to Doi Suthep. The trail is well marked; if you’re interested in checking the falls out, have the sAwngthhew driver drop you off on the way up the mountain. Pools beneath the falls hold water year-round, although swimming is best during or just after the annual monÂsoon. The falls can be a little crowded on weekends. The 200B fee allows you to visit other waterfalls on the road to Suthep.
Doi Suthep &
Doi Pui National Park
Most visitors do a quick tour of the temple, the Hmong village and perhaps the winter palace grounds, altogether missing the surrounding park. This 261-sq-km reserve (adult/child under 14 yrs 200/1008) is home to more than 300 bird species and nearly 2000 species of ferns and flowering plants. Because of its proximity to urban Chiang Mai, development of the park has become a very sensitive issue. The western side of the park has been severely disturbed by poachÂers and land encroachers, including around 500 hill-tribe families.
There are extensive hiking trails in the park, including one that climbs 1685m Doi I’ui; the summit is a favourite picnic spot Other trails pass Hmong villages that rarely get,fardng visitors. Bungalow and dormiÂtory accommodation is available near the park headquarters (past the temple car park on the right). Depending on who’s on duty at the park headquarters, there are also maps available here. Mountain bikers will find lots of fat-tyre fun.
A 4km trail also leads to the scenic and more isolated Nam Tok Sai Yai waterfalls, and connects with a trail that leads to Nam Tok Monthathon.
Getting There & Away
Sawngthaew to Doi Suthep leave Chiang Mai throughout the day from the western end of Th Huay Kaew in front of Chiang Mai University. Doi Suthep sawngthBew fares are 40B up and 30B back per person. SAwngthaew depart from Pratu Chang Pheuak and the Chiang Mai Zoo. To Phra Tamnak Phu Phing and Doi Pui add 50 B in each direction.