Winter is here! It might not be as cold as in Europe or America, but even for expats living in Chiang Mai, it’s time to get ready and prepare warm clothes. It is also the perfect season to travel around and discover the beautiful and green scenery of Northern Thailand.
This year’s winter has started in Thailand on October 23rd, it then became warm again during a few weeks but is expected to get cooler until February 2018, with mercury likely to fall to its lowest point on Doi Inthanon (Thailand’s highest mountain) to zero degrees Celsius. Weather wise, it is the most popular time to visit
Chiang Mai. During the day, temperatures hit a pleasant 30 degres Celsius but don’t forget to bring a jacket or sweatshirt because the temperature drops rapidily after sunset. Riding a motorbike at night while wearing a t-shirt may make you wonder whether you are in Thailand at all. High mountains can get very cold but rain is rare and shower very uncommon.
If you are a nature lover, check out these cool-season destinations, in and around Chiang Mai, they are simply stunning!
KEW MAE PAN
Nature Trail in Doi Inthanon ocated in Doi Inthanon National Park, also known as “the Roof of Thailand”, Kew Mae Pan is a quiet and natural trail, which snakes for nearly 3km, passing a string of viewpoints and a pretty waterfall. At the end of this short distance hike is the most beautiful panoramic view of Thailand, making it a must-see for visitors to the region. First the short trail winds through pristine forest and allows hikers to really experience the natural beauty of the forest at first-hand. Along the way, you will see a forest teeming with biodiversity. All 21 stations offer detailed explanations about the plants and the surrounding ecosystems, whether it is ferns from ancient times, Himalayan flora species, dense cloud forest or grassland.
Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail is also famous for its red rhododendrons, various species of birds, and the global natural environment in its purest form. Led by a Hmong guide, you will enjoy a rainforest full of moss and ferns. The evergreen forest is a watershed area because of its key role in trapping moisture in the cloud. The forest floor is littered with leaves and organic matter forming a dense layer that can take a long time to decompose because of the cold climate.
Between station 14 and 15 you can enjoy the view of King Bhumidhol Adulyadej Rama IX and Queen Sirikit’s beautiful chedis from a different angle. From this side of the mountain the view is quite different.
This highly-rated trail takes about 2-3 hours to finish and is suitable for beginner level hikers. However, it is not recommended for people who cannot climb stairs because some parts require uphill hiking.
After this pleasant walk, don’t forget to visit the famous Royal Twin Pagodas. They were constructed to commemorate King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit 60th birthday. Visitors who venture into the pagoda can pay their respects to the images of Buddha in a peaceful and quiet atmosphere. Another highlight is the Inthanon Royal Project Research Station. This agricultural station was a King Bhumibol Adulyadej project to help eliminate opium cultivation. It contains a rhododendron garden, greenhouses for growing ferns, flowering plants and vegetables.
Guide fee : 200 THB.
Doi Pha Hom Pok
National Park - Fang
Doi Pha Hom Pok, located close to Fang district, is the second highest peak in Thailand. It is a beautiful area covering 500 square kilometers and overviewing Myanmar mountains. This park is different from nearby Doi Inthanon and Doi Chiang Dao mountains as it offers beautiful nature trails, plus relaxing hot springs and rustic accommodation.
Doi Pha Hom Pok can be translated in English as “the mountain covered with a blanket” due to its thick forest covering the higher elevation of the park. The cool weather, morning fog and seasonal rains fill the forest with mosses, ferns and lichen. Tree species include Hopea odorata as well as rare plant species such as Impatiens jurpioides and Meandrusa jurpioides butterflies. There are also many rare species of orchids, plants, insects and other small animals to see as well.
Aside from boasting a large area covered in dry dipteracarp, teak wood, pine and cloud forest (in order of elevation), Doi Pha Hom Pok is notable for its extensive hot springs and a geyser around which the park headquarters and visitors centre are located. The geyser, pointing up to 30 meters is the highest in the country, and though there are taller ones in other parts of the world, this is a well organised one, erupting exactly every 30 minutes and lasting for around nine minutes each time. Bathing pools, private sauna and steam as well as mineral bath chalet and outdoor mineral bath are available (prices starting at 20 THB).
Easy and relaxing, Doi Pha Hom Pok nature trail takes you in two hours to a cave and a waterfall. Another trail, generally part walking and part 4WD, takes you in one day to see the “sea of fog” (from December to February only). It is possible to stay overninght and enjoy the beautiful view of the sunrise. (tent for rent available: 50THB, clean sleeping bags, mattresses and blankets at very affordable price). As there are several itinaries and camp sites, you might have to require the help of a guide, please contact at the national park’s office.
Doi Mon Jong
If you are in good shape and ready for the big adventure, then Doi Mon Jong peak awaits you! Located in Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary, some four hours from Chiang Mai city, the route to this mountain is scenic but quite long.
Visitors usually camp overnight to see the sunset and witness the amazing beauty of the clear night sky. With a height of 1,929 meters, Doi Mon Jong is one of the top ten peaks in Thailand. Its beautiful landscape is filled with mountain ranges and pretty flowers such as Rhododendrons blossom in the sunlight. Unlike other mountains, Doi Mon Jong resembles rolling grasslands.
Before starting your treck, you will have to stop at the Musoe Forest Protection Unit to inform officers about your visit and they will drive you on their four-wheel car to the starting point. Please note, there are no facilities for tourists; you should bring your own camping equipment and food. You can also hire local villagers to help you carry your belongings which, can be arranged by the tourist service center of the park.