If you ask me where I love to travel to the most in Thailand,
My only answer would be Doi Inthanon National Park.
It is a tourist attraction not far from my house since I live in Chiang Mai.
Doi Inthanon is a place where you can travel to all year round and each time of the year offers different colors, atmospheres, and feelings.
In winter, you will experience the coldest weather you can have in Thailand.
Dew even turns to ice. All grasses by the road turn into white because they are covered with frost which is very exciting to see.
Then at the beginning of the year, you will find that the mountains turn into pink because of the Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms. I am always happy to take photos of them in a nice chill weather.
When the summer comes, you may find it very hot down in the town but you will find a chill refreshing weather up here in Doi Inthanon. The sky is blue and the average temperature is between 10 and 20 degree Celsius. There are also numbers of waterfalls here.
On the other hand, rainy season is not popular for tourists to travel to Chiang Mai. Even though there is no Wild Himalayan Cherry blossom or frosty ground, there is an abundant rain forest. The sky is full with cloud and the ground is full with green mosses. One good thing in rainy season is that there are not many tourists around so it is more calm and peaceful and that is perfect for rejuvenating your own self.
Last but not least, you may find a nicely green rice terrace between rainy season and winter.
I go to Doi Inthanon almost every month and sometimes a few times in a month.
Doi Thanon is a place for me to release my stress and overcome my boredom. My stress is always gone after driving up here, taking around 500 photo shots, finding something good to eat, and enjoying the scenery.
Doi Inthanon is not far from downtown Chiang Mai and it is even faster to travel here after the new road has been opened. This new Liap Khlong Chonprathan Road avoids San Pa Tong District and it shortens the total traveling time from around 3 hours to 1.5 - 2 hours.
Moreover, it is very convenient to travel to Doi Inthanon. You don't need to hike through the forest to get up here. You can just park your car and start enjoying the beautiful nature right away. This is perfect for those who have limited free time and love the convenience like me.
This is the tourist map from Royal Project Thailand website adjusted a little bit by me.
You can get the detail of how to travel to Doi Inthanon from the website mentioned above. I am telling you that it would be the best to travel with your own car because you can stop at all tourist spots here.
You can also get here by the public transportation. You can take the minibus from Chiang Mai Gate Station to Chom Thong District.
Then you take the minibus taxi in front of Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Worawihan to Doi Inthanon.
The road is not complicated at all so I don't think you will get lost. There is only one obvious road to get here.
You just keep driving along this road and you would reach the top. There is only a few intersections along the way but you don't have to take any turns.
It is good to start your trip from the top and then visit here and there on the way down.
I guess those who have been here agree with what I suggest.
The highway no. 1009 will lead you to the top and it ends here.
It is about 40 - 60 minutes from the bottom of the mountain to the top with no stop but again, it depends on your driving skill and speed.
Yes, this is the end of the highway and there is a parking lot here.
To drive up to the top is not that difficult but it requires a certain driving skill on the way down.
You need to use the lowest gear for engine braking and let the car go down slowly rather than actually press the brake pedal to slow the car.
If you let your car goes down too fast and press the brake pedal too often, the lining brake might be burnt and the brake fluid might be overheated.
As a result, your brake won't be functional anymore and this is very dangerous.
I give you some tips of how to drive down safely because I would like you to be noted before you decide to travel here.
Don't drive too fast! Don't overtake! Use lower gear and drive down slowly!
Now you know how to drive here safely so let's start the trip!
I park the car in the parking lot next to the radar station. This radar is a military secret base and taking photo is not allowed.
You can have a look, get some coffee, take a photo of birds, flowers, and yourself but not the radar.
If you cross the road, you will find "The highest spot in Thailand" sign on the other side. This spot is completely popular among the tourists.
If it is a long weekend or public holiday, you might have to queue up for a photo shot with the sign.
I am actually almost at the highest spot in Thailand right now.
It is 2,565 meters above sea level.
After the sign, there is a stupa that holds the bone ashes of Chao Inthawichayanon, the former Ruler of Chiang Mai.
If you keep walking a bit further, you will find a pin marking the real highest point in Thailand, 2,565 meters above sea level (the sign we saw earlier is just for a photo shot eiei).
Let's breathe in the fresh pure air!
Then I walk further through the Forest Ranger Station.
Well, I guess what people say, "The higher, the colder it gets" is true. Even though it is boiling hot back down in the town, it is always cold up here no matter what month or season.
The hottest month which is April, the temperature up here is still not over 20 degree Celsius.
It is always refreshing up here and this is so good.
However, it can be very cold in winter. Your hands will freeze and it is not easy to press the shutter. The temperature can go lower than zero degree Celsius. The coldest temperature I have experienced was minus two.
Once the temperature is lower than zero degree Celsius, water will be frozen. In cold winter, the frozen dew can be found from the middle of December until the middle of February but on the day with no rain or wind only.
We can say that it depends on your luck to see frozen dew.
If you are up here and the weather is freezing cold but the wind is strong, dew droplet won't be frozen. You will see only a dew droplet.
But if you are up here with freezing cold weather and calm wind, you will see frozen dew along the way from the stupa to the top of the mountain.
On a very cold day, the water that the National Park Officer watered the plant from last night would turn to ice. These frozen dew droplets hanging off tree leaves are totally amazing.
Please have a look at the photos below and you will know what I am talking about! If this happened in Europe, it wouldn't be this exciting but this is Thailand - a tropical country. If you are lucky and come up here on the right day and at the right time, you will see all of these.
Some of them are ice crystals.
Then I walk to the other side of the road where there is a trail down.
It is Ang Ka Nature Trail.
Ang Ka is a temperate evergreen forest. The retained water in the ground gathered together into several creeks.
The trail is easy on a wooden path. There are stairs for the steep part of the trail. And here, you will see mosses, ferns, azaleas, Bryopsida, and different kinds of birds.
In rainy season, you will see all the mosses at their peak growth. They also cover the wooden path.
Then trees and shrubs will partly lose their leaves in winter.
But the forest is still green because there are clouds covering the forest all year round.
It takes about 20 minutes to complete the trail if you walk fast.
But if you walk slowly while enjoying the nature and taking photos, it can be an hour or more.
You should also apply a mosquito repellent because there are mosquitoes and insects here.
About 5 kilometers from the mountain peak, there are helicopter landing pad and parking lot.
The parking lot will be completely full on holiday season. Sometime cars are even outside the lot.
On the other hand, your car might be the only one in the parking lot in rainy season because no one travels here. It can be very lonely.
But you can do whatever you want when you are alone.
On the right-hand side, there are two restaurants where you can have Papaya Salad, Grilled Sour Preserved Pork and instant noodle for an instance.
Next to it is the entrance to Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, a very pretty trail.
Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is not opened all year round.
It is closed in rainy season because the track is muddy and not easy to walk on. This is also to let the forest restore its balance truly.
The trail is opened from 31st October until the end of summer.
To trek on this trail you need to register and be led by the local tour guide only.
So you won't get lost nor do something that may harm the nature.
You will find it very charming especially on the day that the cloud is right over the trail.
It is also very beautiful on a sunny day because you can see the scenery in the certain distance.
There are waterfalls, rain forest, grassland, and river sources along the trail.
Trust me! It is pretty energy consuming because you need to walk up and down the mountains.
It takes about 2 - 4 hours to complete the trail depending on your walking speed.
If you look down from Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail, you will see The Royal Twin Pagodas.
And there are flower garden and viewpoint further up.
This is a photo of the Royal Twin Pagodas with The Milky Way Galaxy.
From the viewpoint
There are a few entrances to the viewpoints further from The Royal Twin Pagodas.
Then you will find a small intersection leading to Doi Pha Tang Royal Villa further down.
You will have a better understanding when go back and look at the map I showed earlier.
Doi Pha Tang Royal Villa is known for Wild Himalayan Cherry blossom.
It blooms from the middle of January until the end of the month only.
Both sides of the road are full with Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms.
I have been talking about the tourist attractions in Doi Inthanon National Park for a while so I guess it is a good time to move on to the accommodation and restaurant now.
To get to Doi Inthanon Royal Project, you need to drive down from the top of the mountain and pass National Park Office.
Then you need to turn left and follow the sign.
You will find the accommodation, pond, swans, ducks, cafe, flower garden, and fern garden here.
The rate of Doi Inthanon Royal Project accommodation is pretty similar to the rate of a homestay in Mae Klang Luang area.
It is only a little more expensive but it comes with the better convenience.
For example, Siribhum B house is 1,500 THB in high season and 1,100 THB in low season with breakfast included.
I have got to tell you that the breakfast is very impressive here.
I would say Siribhum B1 - B6 are the best. They are located way nearer to the waterfall. It is not crowded so you can relax truly with the sounds of the waterfall as well.
The weather is very nice and no air-conditioner is needed because the temperature is even colder than having it on. You might even dream of a heater in the wintertime.
You might not even dare to take a shower. Even though there is a hot shower, it is still too cold.
There are roasted ground coffee beans with French press in the room so you could sip a cup of coffee while enjoying the view on the balcony.
The accommodation here is totally amazing but it is not easy to reserve one in the high season. Hence, you may consider traveling here in summer or rainy season instead.
Here are more details about it!
If you wander around at night,
You would be able to spot chrysanthemum farms with all the lights on.
Chrysanthemums need the light more than 12 hours a day. That's why they need to turn the lights on at night to let it grow and give flowers.
There is a fern garden not far from my accommodation, not even 20 steps and there is a waterfall next to it.
Siri Phum Royal Park ends at the waterfall down below.
You might be able walk up further but I am afraid that it won't be safe for me as I am too old so I stop here.
Various kinds of ferns are collected here.
There are also Wild Himalayan Cherry tree here.
Their flowers will be in bloom at its season and once they starts to fall, you will see them on the ground everywhere and that is very magical.
I have stayed in a nice accommodation and visited numbers of tourist spots. So let's find something good to eat!
You may find various interesting dishes at a restaurant here in Doi Inthanon Royal Project.
The ingredients are mainly from here such as Inthanon trout, sturgeon, shrimp, and clay fish.
There is also a variety of fresh vegetable.
No matter what kind of menu they put these fresh ingredients in, they are all delicious.
These are dishes I have tried them out.
In addition, you will get a breakfast coupon when you stay here.
Buffet is available on the weekend.
On the other hand, you need to order from the set menus, there are 4 sets available as the photo below, on the weekday as they don't have many guests in house.
The set menu is served in a big portion so it would definitely fill up your stomach.
If you pick the Boiled Rice Set, you will also get salad, deep fried Chinese bun, Roselle juice and coffee.
I am kind of curious what kind of fish they would use in boiled rice with fish since we are up in the mountain.
And I have learned that it is the trout from the Royal Project. This is so good.
You don't need to be afraid that the vegetable in the food is not fresh. The vegetable garden is just right below the restaurant. The fish is also from the farm not far from here either.
I would say that it is totally worth it to stay here especially in the low season which is last until October only. A room for two persons with impressive breakfast included is only 1,100 THB.
From the Royal Project, there is a Highland Fishery Research Station of Royal Project after driving into an alley for a short while.
You can get in and have a look. They farm the fishes that grow well in cold weather here.
They have trout, sturgeon, and clay fish and they supply throughout the country.
They also grow Sakura cherry tree and mulberry here.
Then you can drive further on Khun Klang - Khun Wang Road.
The drive will be through mountains, winding road, and pine forest.
It is about 10 kilometers to get to Paphiopedilum Orchid Conservation Center.
This place is actually an Orchid Research Center.
But they plant numbers of Wild Himalayan Cherry tree here and there is a small lake as well.
You will find it very beautiful if you are here at the same time that there are Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms.
Even though it can't be compared with Kawaguchiko, it is one of the best places you can see Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms in Thailand.
I can stay here all day long if my girlfriend doesn't need me back to take care of the shop.
Therefore, you may consider closing the shop and bringing her here with you instead.
Please have a look at the photos below! I think it is better than I only describe about it.
From Paphiopedilum Orchid Conservation Center, you can drive further to Mae Wang District.
The road might be not as good and it is on mountain slope.
But the view is magnificent and there is a pine forest as well.
You will find Chiang Mai Royal Agricultural Research Center (Khun Wang) after driving pass Khun Wang village for 2 - 3 kilometers.
This is a place where they do research on planting vegetable and fruits that grow well in the cold weather.
It is also known as one of the most famous places to see Wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms in Chiang Mai.
More importantly, there is a Wild Himalayan Cherry blossom tunnel here.
If you are here at the right time, you will see the amazing pink Wild Himalayan Cherry blossom tunnel.
However, it is not easy to know far in advance when would be the best time to come. You need to be updated with your friends on Facebook day by day and I am telling you that many people fail to see it.
I don't even have a chance to see it at its best yet.
What I have seen is like the photos below and I am already happy with it.
If you drive back in the same direction passing by National Park Office, you may want to do some shopping at Hmong Market before going down the mountain.
What I love the most is the strawberry. You can find the biggest kind of strawberry, Pharachatan 80, here in winter.
The taste is comparable to those good ones from Korea.
My first experience tasting it was after I bought it for 1 kilogram and drove out already. It was so good, that's why I drove back here and bought another 3 kilograms that day.
Pharachatan 80 strawberry seeds were first taken from Japan. Then they tried to grow them here and the result has been impressive.
Under the well-taken care, they taste as if they were original and imagine that you are biting one huge of them right now.
They are partly white like this when they are not completely ripe. They will turn red totally later.
Another item that you can find it all year round is Chayote. It is about 10 - 20 per one package, very cheap.
They don't need to grow it here. It grows all over the mountain and that means the vendor gets 100% profit.
I have spent 200 THB and I have got so many vegetables back home.
You may do some shopping or take photo around here as you prefer.
There will be peach, Chinese plum, plum, and Japanese cherry during Wild Himalayan Cherry blossom season.
Not far from Hmong Market down the hill, you will find Ban Mae Klang Luang on your right-hand side.
If you drive up, it will be on your left-hand side.
Here, there is a rice terrace for you to see.
You can even stay overnight in a homestay here to enjoy a life by the rice field.
There is a waterfall here that I have never visited. It is called "Pha Dok Siao Waterfall." You need to walk there and it takes about an hour. I still haven't got a friend to accompany me there yet.
Doi Inthanon is an important river source.
The top of the mountain is over 2,000 meters from the ground.
That's why the water travel for quite a distance down the mountain and that creates numbers of waterfalls.
Some of them are big, while some others are small.
You can swim in in some of them, while you can't in some others where you can only admire their beauty.
The waterfalls located in the middle of the mountain are Sirithan Waterfall and Wachirathan Waterfall
It is not hard to get to see these two waterfalls at all.
You need to walk down the stairs for about 100 meters to the viewpoint of Sirithan Waterfall.
On the other hand, you will see Wachirathan Waterfall right from the parking lot.
I think Wachirathan Waterfall is the most powerful waterfall in Doi Inthanon National Park.
These two waterfalls are dangerous so please don't jump in! If you want to swim, you can do that at Mae Klang Waterfall and Mae Ya Waterfall.
Then you can travel to Ban Pha Mon from Sirithan Waterfall.
The road to Ban Pha Mon would be on your right-hand side when you drive down the mountain. There is a clear sign directing you there.
It is about 7 kilometer to get to Ban Pha Mon.
Some part of the road is undeveloped with soil and mud, only some of it is developed with concrete. That's why it is not easy. You can still get in with a small car but just need to be more careful.
This 7-kilometer ride will take about half an hour.
You can find one of the most charming rice terraces in Thailand here at Ban Pha Mon. The best time to see it would be from September - October. There is also a homestay available run by the local here but I haven't got a chance to stay overnight though.
If you keep driving down, you will find Mae Klang Waterfall and Wat Numtok Mae Klang at the foot of Doi Inthanon.
I have finally taken you back down from Doi Inthanon.
Last but not least, I would like to take you to one more waterfall, Mae Ya Waterfall.
It is located almost at the end to Ching Mai - Hod Road. There is a sign for the direction.
If you drive down from Doi Inthanon, you need to turn right at Ban Hia Song Intersection.
The road to get there is up and down most of the time before you will reach the parking lot of the waterfall.
It is quite a walk to the waterfall as well.
Mae Ya Waterfall is huge and pretty high.
There are numbers of spots where you can swim in as well as lay down your mat and enjoy your food.
You can order some foods from the food stalls at the entrance and they will be delivered to you at the waterfall.
Please take care of the cleanliness as well!
Lastly, I have a temple to introduce to you after coming out from Doi Inthanon.
That temple is Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Worawihan.
Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong Worawihan is one of the oldest temples in Chiang Mai so it is a good idea to come and be blessed here. I was once a monk here also.
Thank you for reading through this travel blog.
There are so many photos so it might take time uploading and I would like to apologize for that.
But the main reason is that I would like you to see how it actually is, not only just talk about it.
Kob Khun Krub