Hidden Delights of Chiangmai
We are going to surprise you by saying that most of Chiangmai goes largely unexplored by foreign visitors.
But we’re talking about the huge area covered by the province, and not the city.
Here are some hidden delights of Chiangmai you would love to see during your travels to the north.
1. Mae Wang National Park
Mae Wang spreads over about 700sq km of jungle covered mountains in Chiangmai, and is noted for some of it’s impressive waterfalls that are the source of several local rivers.
Another interesting natural attraction is the unusual cliff formations at Pha Chor.
Maeng Ang Waterfall is the largest in the park with four levels which drop into the Hoi River. The falls are 50m high, 30m across, and flow year round.
Mae Wang Waterfall
Mae Wang waterfall is great for swimming year round in the pool at the bottom of the 20m high,10m wide drop.
It’s the source of the Wang River and you should try the gentle bamboo rafting on the river.
There are plenty of places to eat and to enjoy the river near the Mae Wang village. It’s located about 36 km from the park HQ.
Mae Phui is a more remote waterfall which takes some effort to get to. You’ll be rewarded with the serene secluded jungle location this 25m high, 10m wide falls brings you to.
The strange rock formations at Pha Chor are well worth seeing.
Formed when the Ping River changed it’s course, it left a high stack of surreal rock shapes including free standing pillars of hardened sediment which look a bit like ancient ruins.
The park has a number of hiking trails but always consult the rangers about your plans before setting off.
The park is about 20km from Chiangmai city and right next to the more famous Doi Inthanon National Park. You’ll need your own transport or use a tour service to visit this lesser known park.
2. Pha Daeng National Park
Until recently it was called Chiang Dao National Park, so there could be some confusion sometimes.
Spanning more than 1000sq km in the north of the province on the border with Myanmar, large parts of this beautiful park are very remote and see few foreign visitors.
Attractions for visitors are the stunning vistas, jungle hikes, varied wildlife, caves, and waterfalls.
The park’s highest point at 1834m is Doi Kham Fah, and Dao Chiang Wildlife Sanctuary borders the park to the south.
At Doi Kham Fah there is a campground at the Forest Protection Ranger Station. It’s not quite at the summit but you get fabulous views across the jungle to Doi Luang Chiang Dao and the other peaks in the area,
Access to the Ranger Station and the Hill Tribe shrine at the summit is by a rough trail only suitable for hikers, mountain bikers, trailbikes, and 4x4 trucks.
The Pong Arng hot springs set in a pretty garden are worth a quick visit.
You can relax and soak in one of the hot pools, but test the water before going in as sometimes a pool can be hotter than you might expect!
You could try alternating between soaking in one of the hot pools and then taking a cold shower to feel really relaxed and refreshed. There are toilets and showers available.
The park has a number of waterfalls but none are especially interesting, and that includes the much touted Sri Sungwan falls near the hot springs.
The source of the Ping River is also inside the park at a spot called Yod Doi Tuai.
Ideally have your own transport as the park is in Chiang Dao district quite a distance from Chiang Mai city.
Follow Highway 107 (Chiang Mai-Fang Road) until you see the 79km marker, then turn left into Highway 1178 at Muang Ngai intersection. Follow the road for 24km and watch for the signs to the park entrance.
3. Chiang Dao Caves
This cave complex is not really off the tourist track but it is worth a visit for the unique experience.
Admission gets you into two caves, but you have to hire a guide to explore some of the more difficult sections.
A local superstition says that bad luck will come to anyone who takes anything, however small or apparently unimportant, out of the cave. As a result, visitors are expressly forbidden to take even a small stone.
The caves are a significant cultural and religious place for local Thai and Shan peoples. Access is through a Shan shrine, so respectful dress and behaviour are expected.
The route inside is often wet and slippery, while some guided sections entail a tight squeeze through narrow gaps in the rock.
It’s proper name in Thai is Wat Tham Chiang Dao, and there are places to eat and drink right outside.
The caves about 70km north of Chiang Mai city. It’s a straight drive up Highway 107. There are songtaews or taxis which can be hired to take you there fairly cheaply.
4. Wat Tham Pla Pong
Not far away is a serene forest temple perched on a hill also with some caves, but it’s very different.
The attraction here is the temple and the very peaceful environment,
rather than the caves.
You’ll need to climb a 500 step stairway the reach the chedi and temple grounds, but if you’re halfway fit it shouldn’t be hard.
Take a couple of bottles of water with you as there are no places to eat or buy drinks here.
On the way up there are lots of signs with inspiring Buddhist quotations. Near the top you be able to visit a cave used as part of the temple.
It’s more or less the same as getting to Chiang Dao caves as it’s close by. Check Google maps or ask at Chiang Dao caves.
5. Tuesday Market
Get your shopping fix at Chiang Dao town’s Tuesday morning market, which runs alongside Highway 107 for almost 500 meters.
It’s cheap and sells fresh locally grown products, cooked foods, cold drinks, clothes, cheap fake accessories like watches and sunglasses, etc.
It’s quite fun to wander around, you never know if a real bargain might pop up!
Chiang Dao is a straight drive from Chiang Mai along Highway 107. The market is open on that road on Tuesdays at Chiang Dao town.
6. Mae Taeng
Si Lanna National Park is spread across more than 1000 sq km of forests and mountains in Mae Taeng district north of Chiang Mai city.
It is home to caves, waterfalls and numerous springs, as well as a wide diversity of wildlife, including a dwindling population of tigers.
Notable spots are Doi Chom which rises 1,718m, and Mae Reservoir where you can rent house boats for a real get-away-from-it-all experience.
The famous Bua Tong Waterfall is also a major attraction with the limestone deposits on the rockface of the falls creating a sticky surface enabling you to ‘walk’ up the falls.
It’s a novelty which attracts far too many visitors and it’s not a place you can comfortably relax in.
The park is a 90 minute drive north of Chiang Mai city.
7. Kuat Chang
Kuat Chang subdistrict has some scenic spots that make it worth a visit, including Doi Kiew Lom Viewpoint.
At 1,615 meters above sea level this is a most beautiful viewpoint to watch the sunrise and morning mist.
When the mist clears there are some beautiful vistas across the mountains to Doi Chiang Dao, which is 2,175m high.
Close to the viewpoint is an area with accommodation, restaurants and shops.
It’s often stated that the viewpoint is in Mae Hong Son province which is wrong, (although Pai district is adjacent).
It’s about 40km north of Chiang Mai city and ideally you’d need your own transport. There are buses and songtaews plying between Chiang Mai
and Mae Taeng town, but from there you’d need to organise your own transport.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of some lesser known places in Chiang Mai province, and will explore them on your next visit to the beautiful north.
Make sure you have travel insurance while visiting Thailand’s wonders. Medical care is world class but worldly expensive!
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