Attraction Doi Inthanon National Park 119 Ban Luang, Chiang Mai Amphur Chom Thong 50160 Thailand Published on: 08-06-2016
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Why Doi Inthanon National Park is special ?
The doi (mountain) is largely a granite batholith intruding a southerly extension of the Shan Hills range and forming the divide between the Nam Mae Ping river to the east and the Nam Mae Chaem river to the west. Lower elevations in the most easterly pant of the park are limestone formations and contain a number of caves.
Formerly known as Doi Angka, the mountain now bears (since 1899) a shortened version of the name of Chiang Mai's last sovereign, King Inthawichayanon. During his reign, he had, with great foresight, expressed his concern for the forests of the northern hill country as the watershed for all of central Thailand. The modern study of rain forest hydrology has borne out his early convictions and given substance to Thai folklore which describes this hill region as the home of the Phiphannam, the 'spirit who shares water'. Before the King died near the turn of this century, he commanded that his remains be placed at the top of this mountain: his ashes at the summit stupa are visited by thousands of people each year.
What to explore at Doi Inthanon National Park?
The park covers an area of 48,240 ha. Its lowlands below 800 meters in elevation are warm and very dry during the rain-free season, but the summit of Doi Inthanon, at 2565 meters, has a climate more like Canada than Thailand. The temperature has been known to drop as low as -8 degrees C. and frosts are not unusual during the cool, dry season. January is the coldest month: an average nighttime temperature is 5.5 degrees C. At any season, Doi Inthanon is a comfortable reprieve from the heat of the lowlands. At altitudes above 1000 meters, rainfall exceeds 2500 mm, considerably more than at nearby Chiang Mai. Even in the dry season, November to April, there is rare but occasional rain or the summit may be shrouded in cloud for a part of the day; persistent mist is an important factor in the maintenance of moist forest there.
The various sub montane forest formations at higher elevations are a unique asset of the park. They have dominant species belonging to temperate climate families rather than tropical. The summit area supports the only red rhododendron in Thailand (R. delavayi); it blooms from December through February. There are also two white-blossomed species abundant on Doi Inthanon which are restricted to only a few other sites.
Where mists are persistent, the slopes carry a moist hill evergreen or 'cloud forest' with many epiphytes, plants which live on tree trunks and branches but do not receive their moisture and nutrients from the host tree as do true parasitic plants. Instead, they are nurtured by the accumulation of dust particles and humus around their 'root' area and the moisture retained there, augmented by frequent bathing in cloud and mist. Epiphytic orchids are also abundant, along with lichens, lianas and fern.
road At mid-elevations, 800 - 1500 meters, two species of pine are present, Pinus merkusii mixed with dipterocarp in the lower range, and P. kesiya with oak and laurel on drier slopes in the upper range. The pines are thought to be a relic from a prehistoric cooler climatic period when flora from the Sino-Himalayan region migrated southward. At the mid-elevations of the park, much of the forest has been removed by the activities of swidden cultivators and the slopes have converted to fire climax grasslands.
forest trailBirdwatching: Because of its broad altitudinal range and the cool climate of its upper reaches, the park supports the largest number of bird species of any site in Thailand. The Center for Wildlife Research at Mahidol University records a present total of 362 species and expects additions; Many at the summit are migrants from northern Asia. Species restricted to Doi Inthanon are Ashy-throated Warbler and an endemic race of the Green tailed Sunbird; the park is the only site where the Chestnut-bellied Rockthrush and the Yellow-bellied Flowerpecker are known to oversummer and probably breed. Over 190 bird species are listed as common to abundant. Bird lists are available at the Visitor Center and at Park Headquarters
How to get to Doi Inthanon National Park?
Private transportation is the recommended way to visit Doi Inthanon. The main attractions are spread over a distance of 40 kilometers and only a private vehicle will allow flexibility in planning your itinerary. Motor cycling is the best mode since it allows travel on some of the rough and narrow dirt roads which lead to hill tribe villages.
Mae Klang Water fall is located 66 km southwest of Chiang Mai. From Chiang Mai, take Highway 108 to Km 57 (just 1 km before the village of Chom Thong). Turn right onto Highway 1009 and continue 8 km to where the road forks. Mae Klang is 300 meters straight ahead. The summit road forks to the right, reaching Park Headquarters near Km 31 and the summit of Doi Inthanon at Km 48.
The 14 kilometer route to Mae Ya Water fall begins in Chom Thong village. A minibus can be hired in Chom Thong for about 500 baht for the return trip. Mini-buses labeled in English Doi Inthanon Park can be hired at either Chom Thong or Mae Klang for the trip to the summit; the cost is about 500 baht for the return trip. These mini-buses have a regular touring route which includes the main points of interest along the summit road. Per-person costs will be lower it you can share the tour with others. Unmarked mini-buses also leave Chom Thong frequently for Mae Chaem (decreasing in mid-afternoon). The fare is 20 baht to the point where the Mae Chaem road intersects with the summit road at Km 38, or 30baht to Mae Chaem. If you request it, this mini-bus route will drop you at Park Headquarters, Km 31. If you arrive at Km 31 or 38 in the morning hours, you may be able to flag down another vehicle to reach the summit.
- Full of Oxygen
- Spectacular gardens and rainforest bush walking
- Cool climate, beautiful landscape
- Wonderful city escape
- Great camping trip
Doi Inthanon National Park 119 Ban Luang, Chiang Mai Amphur Chom Thong 50160 Thailand
Tips for you
" Doi Inthanon National Park near Chiang Mai Thailand” 3 Days Hiking on the highest mountain in Thailand When it gets too hot to stay in Chiang Mai city, no worries, just go to Doi Inthanon National Park a short 90 kilometers away. Bring a jacket, believe it or not, you will need it. Soon after entering the park gate, the road climbs steeply through a cutting before leveling out, passing the Doi Inthanon National Park Information Center, overlooking the Mae Klang river on the left. The road passes through open dry forest and after crossing over to the left bank, follows the course of the river, overlooking it. In the dry season, the leaves of the trees become yellow and red, before being shed. As the road climbs gradually, an evergreen gallery forest begins develop along the banks of the river, supporting many tall and stately trees. Soaring birds of prey can sometimes be seen over the steep ridge on the north side of the road. The more level areas in the vicinity of the river are now cultivated and support small areas of orchard or vegetable gardens. Above the waterfall, the road once again crosses over the Mae Klang River and continues to ascend the mountain, following the north bank. The surroundings change very abruptly in character, and pines predominate in many areas. The next area supports Hmong and Karen villages, there are many government offices and residential buildings, including the headquarters of the National Park and various highway and construction works. Here is where the campsites are but you first must check in at the Park Headquarters. There are also cabins for rent however most are rented well in advance. Here we are above 1500 meters and the temperature is like a beautiful spring day. Time to find a camping spot. Its lunchtime, so we travel up the road about 100 meters from the Park Headquarters to the Doi Inthanon Birding Center. There are several restaurants near the park headquarters but the food is not very good. Mr. Dang and his wife at the birding center are excellent cooks and fun to be around. Here is where all the bird watchers gather to talk about sightings. We will talk about bird watching later. From here the road winds uphill sharply and past a park checkpoint. Just a little further is a mountain ridge with excellent vistas on both sides of the road. If the weather is clear, at one spot you can see the city of Chiangmai on your right. Just a little further on your left is the twin Chedi dedicated to the King and Queen. These beautiful Thai structures are a must visit. You will need to walk up several flights of steps to reach them but well worth it. Next stop is the summit. Here we get out of our vehicle and walk up the steps to the shrine dedicated to the Lanna Thai King who first designated this area as a national park. Walk behind the shrine to a concrete pillar and stand on it. You are now on the highest point in Thailand. We departed Chiangmai at 9 am it was already 35 degrees C. and started the short 1 1/2 hour drive to the park. We left Chiangmai by highway 108 through Hang Dong and Sanpatong and then about one kilometer before Chom Tong turned right on highway 1009. There is a big sign in English stating "Doi Inthanon" where you turn so it's easy to find. Continue 8 kilometers to where the road forks and then keep to the right where you will see the park entrance. The entrance fee is 200 baht and they have free maps and information for you that you will need. A copy of the park map can be seen online and might be a useful reference as you read this article. Your first stop should be the Visitor's Center a kilometer or so past the park entrance on the left side. There they have more information and many exhibits and a slide show about the park in English. You need to know the park rules that levy stiff fines if broken (such as for picking flowers); these rules are written on the back of all the maps and brochures. After getting all the information we needed we headed straight to the Park Headquarters at Kilometer marker 31. As we approached the booth for accommodations reservations both we noticed a thermometer and found it was a perfect 26 degrees C. We decided to spend our first night in a tent and second night in a bungalow. We made our reservations for the bungalow. Since we were going to ride around the park the park ranger kept our bags for us and we proceeded to the campgrounds to pitch our tent. Tents can be rented for 60 baht and blankets at 15 baht each. After putting up the tent we were getting hungry and headed back to see our friend Mr.Dang at the Doi Inthanon Birding Center. Doi Inthanon is one of the best bird watching sites in Asia. Mr. Dang's restaurant is open from 7 am to 8 pm serving delicious Thai food at great prices. While having lunch we were told that a 7- man soccer match was being played this afternoon on the soccer field next to the restaurant on the Park Headquarters grounds. The match was between a Karen hill tribe village and a Hmong hill tribe village located in the park so we stayed and watched the action under the shade trees drinking ice-cold beer. We made plans to do some hiking on the Gew Mae Pan Trail near the Doi Inthanon summit (above 2000 meters tomorrow) so today was for relaxing, which I myself am very good at doing. Just before dark we ate our dinner, again at Mr. Dang's, got our things from the park ranger and went to our campgrounds. In May there aren't many people in the park so a secluded place to put our tent was easy to find. We built a nice campfire and I spent the evening reading while my wife did her crochet. The only sound was that of the crickets and with the smell of pine and clean fresh air drifting off to sleep was a total pleasure I haven't experienced in many months while living in the crowded city. The next morning we awoke early and packed up the tent and returned to the park ranger and again he kept our bags for us. I checked the thermometer and it was a cool 18 degrees C. We had our breakfast at the birding center headed toward the summit passing fruit and flower stands owned by Hmong Hilltribe people. Here we stopped to have a look and across the street were green houses filled with beautiful flowers. The growing of flowers is a Royal Project so the hill tribe people can live in harmony with the park's conservation plans instead of doing their traditional slash and burn farming. The 2.5-kilometer Gew Mae Pan Trail begins about half a kilometer past the twin Chedis at kilometer marker 42. We decided to leave our vehicle at the Chedi and walk the horseshoe shaped trail to the end and return the same way. This turned out to be a good idea as the mountains were covered with mist and clouds and the view although beautiful was limited on our way out. On the way back the clouds had lifted and the view was spectacular. The trail begins through dense forest with lush ferns and moss covering the tree trunks. Wild orchids and colorful birds are plentiful. It's uphill most of the way, crossing streams and climbing over and ducking under logs. The temperature is perfect for hiking and the sounds of the many birds and creeks are very enjoyable. After about an hour you come upon a clearing looking toward the west. When we arrived clouds were rushing up from the valley floor to meet us. The next portion of the trail is through dense forest again crossing several streams. The park has provided small bridges to make crossing the streams easy. The last part of the trail is through a lovely evergreen forest with pine trees much different and larger than those found at our campsite. We returned the way we came following the trail to the clearing and this time the clouds had lifted leaving a spectacular view of the valley floor and surrounding mountains. Two hawks were circling above, diving to the valley floor then lifting again on the air currents along the cliff edge, their screeching echoing through the canyon below. We spent a total of six hours on the trail and saw only two other people. They were Thai photographers doing a story for a nature magazine. We could have stayed longer but hunger was setting in so we returned to the restaurant at the Birding Center. This evening was spent in our comfortable bungalow. We made reservations the day before. The bungalow has electricity and is equipped with a king size bed in the bedroom and a single bed with table and chairs in the living room. It has a big but simple bathroom with shower and Thai style toilet. Simple accommodations for only 300 baht per night and the bed was very comfortable and the night quiet. The next day we spent visiting the many waterfalls in the park. The first one was very close to our bungalow and actually two waterfalls named after the King and Queen and called Siriphum waterfalls. The next two waterfalls were also close together and the road getting there was a little difficult but worth the effort. We went just past the second check point at kilometer marker 38 and turned left toward Mae Chaem and traveled about 8 kilometers. Here there is a sign where you turn right and travel the dirt road for 2 kilometers to the ranger station. From there it's a 500-meter walk to Mae Pan waterfall and 200 meters to Huai Luaeng waterfall. Our last stop was on the way out of the park at Mae Ya waterfall. To get there you need to go back to Cham Tong and just before you get to highway 108 you will see the sign Mae Ya waterfall. Follow the signs for about 14 kilometers from here. There will be a checkpoint where they collect a 200 baht fee to enter. Just tell them you have been staying in the park and show them the receipt and they will let you in for free. This waterfall is great for photographs and over 250 meters tall. Try to go on a weekday, as the weekends are very crowded with Thais picnicking and swimming. We had a great time although we didn't see everything such as Brichinda cave. We would also like to spend some time bird watching. The Park staff was a great help and very friendly and I would recommend this trip to anyone.