It gets cold in November, the start of the season to begin a chilling journey to the mountains of northern of Thailand. We pinned down our destination to Chiang Mai and drove around the mountains for 3 days and 2 nights. Our first journey started at Chiang Dao and ended at Baan Mae Kampong. Nature is like a big classroom, full of richness and fascination.
CHIANG DAO – A HEAVENLY MOUNTAIN
Take Highway 107 to reach the ancient northern city of Chiang Dao, which has a border close to Myanmar and is surrounded by high mountains in lush greenery. This is also the origin of the Ping River.
We drove straight to the Chiang Dao Goodwill Resort, a “Sky Bridge” that offers a panoramic view where you can see Doi Luang Chiang Dao side-by-side with Doi Nangnon. We arrived in the early morning at 8am. What made us vividly remember it was the temperature of only 8°C, but its stunning view was so mesmerizing that we couldn’t resist ordering hot coffee and relaxing for a while.
The sweetness and bitterness of the coffee took us back to the story we had heard from senior trekkers who likened Phu Kradueng to a kindergarten, and Doi Luang Chiang Dao to a university. This is because the mountain peak reaches as high as 2,225 meters (one of the three highest mountains in Thailand). Trekkers treat the achievement of climbing Doi Luang Chiang Dao as a university entrance exam. It has been recognized in 2021 as a newly-acclaimed reserved biological forest in the world, so it will attract more trekkers in the near future who wish to make its ascent as a once in a lifetime achievement.
We drove away from the resort on Highway 3024 on a well-constructed road, passing through mountains for about two kilometers where we saw huge, tall trees on both sides of the road. It felt like driving into another world and forced us to stop to take photos – an opportunity not to be missed. Next was Wat Tham Chiang Dao with a jade pond in front of the temple, where water flows out from a cave that never runs dry. The cave contains many beautiful stalagmites and stalactites and is where Buddha is enshrined at Wat Tham Chiang Dao.
MUANG KONG – HILLTRIBE VILLAGE
Muang Kong is a jewel in the forest, located behind Doi Luang Chiang Dao, and was our destination and resting place for the night. We passed through a Ranger checkpoint and paid the entrance fee of 20 Baht per person and 30 Baht per car, and then drove on for another thirty kilometers.
At present, travelling is much easier than before when Muang Kong was effectively a closed city, but today, the roads are well-constructed and ease travel, so this city has become another attraction for nature lovers.
There are no luxury resorts here, only a few homestay houses with amenities for your convenience. We stayed at Bannok Hakekwai, a hut-like home in the middle of a golden rice field and in sight of Doi Luang Chiang Dao. After dinner, we laid down on a bamboo balcony used as an astronomy tower to watch the stars. Although the weather was cold, our feeling was indescribable, and worth the time to spend under starlight. We walked to the village in the morning where there are agricultural fields on both sides of the road and a river that nourishes the villagers. This is a village supported by natural resources and its residents, who are like relatives. You will be impressed by the warmth from this small village.
MAE KAMPONG – A HAPPY VILLAGE
From the slow life of Muang Kong, Mae Kampong is another happy place that I recommend you visit. It is a small village in the middle of a large forest where, for more than one hundred years, there has been fresh and wild greenery, tea and coffee plantations, and a stream running through almost every house in the village. We started out from the Mae Kampong Waterfall, seven storeys in height, and the source of the village’s water supply. Nearby is Wat Mae Kampong where the chapel is in the middle of a pond, and is an “Unseen Thailand” attraction. After that, you can try authentic cuisine at Baan Po Luang Mae Luang, then enjoy shopping in the local community where you can gradually blend in with nature. This is the enchantment of Mae Kampong that you should try.