Doi Inthanon National Park, Near to Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon National Park, the entrance 75 kilometers south of Chiang Mai, is a great days outing (or longer!). Inside the park is Doi Inthanon ('Doi' means mountain), Thailand's highest mountain, at 2565 meters.
Perhaps a little too convenient for some nature and hiking enthusiasts, there's a road that reaches right to the summit . If time is an issue though, this does mean that you see most sights in the park in a day.
To see a rough map of the park that you'll be able to pick up yourself at the visitor center close to the entrance, click HERE. The park is covered with forest - for bird watchers there are nearly 400 species of bird to spot, including the Riverchat and Green-tailed Sunbird. The bird watchers
| View across the mountains|
center would be a good place to head. (it's not marked on the map but well signposted...it's quite near to the Park HQ, on the other side of the road). Or visit www.wildbirdeco.net (opens in new window)
- The owner of the site, Par, is a friendly Thai, fluent in English, who I chatted to while in Khao Yai National Park
while he was guiding some Singaporean bird watchers.
You might not get to see so many wild animals if you just stay quite close to the road (which is what most visitors do). One reptile found here is the cute (looking, at least!) crocodile salamander.
There are 3 main waterfalls to see inside the park, all of them truly spectacular. The most popular to see, Sirithan Waterfall, is huge - there are wooden platforms where you can get close to it and feel the spray. You'll probably
| Sirithan Waterfall|
see Thais enjoying a picnic on the rocks nearby. There are plenty of places set up around the fall to get a drink or a snack.
A bit further up is Wachirathan Waterfall, a little smaller. You're more likely to have the place to yourself here.
And further still is Siriphum Waterfall, a taller waterfall that's less wide than the others and might take your breath when you first see it!
There's also a very high waterfall, Mae Ya, 20 or so kilometers outside the park entrance. This one's both high and wide and comes down in stages. There are place you can cool off in the river as you approach the falls, if my memory serves me correctly - it was 6 years ago when I visited!
There isn't a great view from the summit - there's a military area up the top and I wonder if they've stolen the view!
| Majestic Siriphum Waterfall|
Thai's pay respect at the summit to a shrine with the ashes of King Inthanon, the 7th ruling King of Chiang Mai from 1870 to 1897.
Despite the lack of a view from the summit, there are marvelous views all the way up, particularly at a marked viewing area, 10 or so kilometers before the top. Unlike Khao Yai National Park, 200 kilometers from Bangkok, Doi Inthanon doesn't have a whole host of nature trails. There are 2 designated trails - there are others but they're not marked or 'advertised', so if you do want to spend some days here, it would be interesting to find more trails. If you look at the map given, there appears to be a trail connecting the summit to Sriphum Waterfall and also Mae Ya Waterfall (outside the park) to an area inside the park but I have absolutely no idea about these! happy searching...think about wearing long trousers if it's been raining and you go serious trekking because of leeches!). You could perhaps visit the bird watching center and see if you can hook up on a walk.
About 5 kilometers from the summit is Kew Mae Pan trail, about 3 or 4 kilometers long. Not far from this trail is Phra Mahatat Naphamethanidon, a very large Buddhist Stupa that transfixes you from behind the forest as you approach it. And at the summit is a short 20 minute trail that takes you into the forest.
Doi Inthanon National Park has villagers living in it permanently. You'll see the occasional village on the journey up. Be alert for a sign on your right hand side that encourages tourists to visit their Karen village that's just a few meters off the main road. Not many stop - when I visited a few years ago, there was a quiet feel to the place and I remember attempting to chat with the villagers.
On your left, you'll see a sign, 'Kirimaya Paradise Ecotourism Network' - a village where you can stay the night (see accommodation section below for details).
Siriphum Waterfall is set in the largest village in the area, Ban Khun Klang. When I visited on a Sunday, there were lively volleyball matches being played in their central meeting area along with a traditional game that I couldn't work out! It was interesting to see a large crowd watching a not-so-great-quality volleyball match, like they were really giving encouragement to the players.
| The traditional game being played that I couldn't figure out!|
You'll see on the map that at the second checkpoint, the road forks towards the summit and towards Mae Chaem. Not shown on the map is Thep Phanon Hot Spring, towards Mae Chaem. but it's a further 50 kilometers. I traveled on the road a few years ago and don't remember too much about it, other than it was nice and quiet and I felt a sense of...adventure!
Getting There and Cost
It's easy to get to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai and well signposted all the way. Head south on Highway 108 for about 60 kilometers. At the town of Chum Thong, you turn right. You'll carry on on a much quieter road for about 10 kilometers until you come across the entrance to the park. Entrance is 200 baht for foreigners (100 baht children under about 12) and about 30 baht for Thais. The ticket is valid as long as you don't exit so you can stay for days...weeks!
Many go by organised trips in fast minivans booked from one of the many (perhaps hundreds!) of tour agents in Chiang Mai. If you're concerned as to exactly where, a laid back street to book would be from one of the agencies on Ratchapakhinai Road (see map). I can't remember charges exactly
| Mother and son at Ban Khun Klang village|
but I think it's about 1,000 baht for the day, returning to Chiang Mai that night (they'll probably be longer options too...)
Going by bus would be awkward. You'd need to get a bus heading to Chum Thong from Chang Puak Bus Station, (see map, it's north of the square city moat) leaving every 20 minutes from about 5am to 6pm, taking 90 minutes. Then, get off at the sign to Doi Inthanon after 60 kms, just before the town. But then you'd be stuck! They'll be a tuk-tuk or songthaew that you could get to the entrance,,,then ..hitch! (pretty risk-free in somewhere like a national park...lots of families...).
More practical really is hiring your own motorbike or car from one of the numerous rental places you'll see in Chiang Mai (motorbike, 100-200 baht daily, car, 800 baht + daily). Don't worry too much about extra petrol in the park, (from the entrance to the summit is about 40 kilometers) as you'll be able to buy petrol at Ban Khun Klang village, but it might be an idea on a motorbike to take an extra litre in a plastic bottle....
As long as your brakes are fine, it's fun to turn off the engine and freewheel on the return. Think about visiting on a weekday as it can get busy on weekends.
To get to Mae Ya Waterfall, after having turned off the main Highway 108 take a left down a road after 3 kilometers or so, signposted for the waterfall. It's about 15 kilometers from here. If I remember correctly, it wasn't brilliantly signposted but a touch of sign language with some locals should get you there fine!
The Kirimaya Paradise Ecotourism Network was set up to help the local villagers - 2 places in the village have huts for rent, priced between 500 baht and 1,000 baht (perhaps as low as 300 baht..) for quite simple, individual huts. When I visited, there was a small football tournament going on near the village with the accompanying crowds but I can imagine it's quite peaceful here at other times (although perhaps not...serene....you're living right in the village). There seemed to be great opportunities for long walks. The accommodation is in the village of Ban Mae Klang Luang ('Ban' meaning village) - you'll see a sign for the Kirimaya Paradise Ecotourism Network on your left hand side. On the map, it's identified by the village name, close to the Park H.Q.
Alternatively, camp or stay in one of the official national park guest houses. There are 2 places to head to (easily found) but you'll need to head to the Park Headquarters first to arrange things. There's also a restaurant near the Park HQ. There are places to eat at Ban Khun Klang Village too.
A 3 person tent is 250 baht a night, 6 person, 500 baht. If you bring your own tent, it's 30 baht per person. Renting a tent won't give you sleeping bags or mats but these can be rented here too (not sure of exact cost but it's reasonable, under 50 baht...) They'll be cold water showers for campers! Staying in their guest houses will cost between 1,000 baht and 6,500 baht nightly. For that price, I'm pretty sure you'll get hot showers (it can get cold up there, particularly in December and January).
Return from Doi Inthanon to Chiang Mai, Thailand