So, you’ve decided to take a Thailand vacation! When planning a trip to Thailand many will choose the nightlife of Bangkok or the beaches of Phuket but more and more people are discovering Chiang Mai, “The Rose of the North”.
- Where is Chiang Mai?
- Discovering Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai Day Tours
- Day trips from Chiang Mai
- What to see in Chiang Dao
- Where to eat, drink and stay in Chiang Dao
- Attractions North of Chiang Dao
- Chiang Mai transportation to Chiang Dao
- Chiang Dao Tours
- Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao Summary
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Where is Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is the largest city in Northern Thailand and has recently been voted one of the top tourist destinations in South East Asia. For a large city Chiang Mai has a relaxed laid-back atmosphere that keeps people coming back time and time again.
There are so many things to do in Chiang Mai, to me the best time to visit Chiang Mai is between November and March, these are the months when Chiang Mai comes alive with festivals. The most famous festival is the Loy Krathong and Yi Peng Festival which will be held between the 2nd – 4th of November 2017. Beauty contests and parades lead up to the festival highlight as thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky.
Another plus is the Chiang Mai weather, the cooler, milder climate makes a pleasant change from the hotter regions of Southern Thailand.
Discovering Northern Thailand – Chiang Mai Day Tours
After indulging in the delights of Chiang Mai every traveller needs to get out and explore the beauty of Northern Thailand.
There are a large range of day trips from Chiang Mai. Animal enthusiasts can check out the Pandas at Chiang Mai Zoo, get up close and personal with a Tiger at Tiger Kingdom or visit one of the many Elephant parks and discover the majesty of these the beautiful creatures.
Cultural tours visit Northern Thailand’s Hill Tribes, stunning Buddhist Temples and traditional Thai markets. For those who love Thai cuisine, learn how to create delicious Thai dishes at a Thai cooking school.
For the more adventurous, Chiang Mai adventure tours include ziplining, trekking and white-water rafting. If you have a few extra days to spare, popular excursions from Chiang Mai include a visit to mountain towns of Pai and Mae Hong Son.
Day trips and multi day tours can be booked at any local Chiang Mai travel agency or for your convenience you can book here.
Day trips from Chiang Mai
For those who want to escape the city for a more rural and scenic vacation, the town of Chiang Dao is an easy 1 ½ hour drive from the city of Chiang Mai.
Sitting in the shadow of Doi Chiang Dao mountain, the Chiang Dao region is home to Buddhist Monasteries, caves, hot springs, waterfalls, hill tribes and of course, mountains!
Getting to Chiang Dao by car
From Chiang Mai, head north on highway 107. After leaving Chiang Mai’s busy city limits, the multi lane highway travels through dense rainforest and small villages. Roadside stalls sell freshly picked fruit and brightly decorated Buddhist temples draw the eye as you pass by.
What to see in Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao Cave
Turning off the highway, follow the signs to Chiang Dao Cave. Massive trees stand tall and straight creating a majestic shaded colonnade as you make your way to the cave.
Arriving at Chiang Dao Cave you will find small Thai restaurants, coffee shops, stalls selling exotic spice plants and souvenir shops. Beside the car park is a stone pagoda, this unassuming moss and fern laden structure is a hidden gem that has stood the test of time since it was first built in AD191.
Wat Tham Chiang Dao
Chiang Dao Cave is the site of the Buddhist cave temple, Wat Tham Chiang Dao. Being a religious site, you must dress appropriately before entering the cave.
Walking into the temple grounds you will see colourful statues depicting the animals of the Thai Zodiac. Ferocious tigers, naga and cobra stand alongside the tamer ox, pig and rabbit.
A tranquil pool of milky blue water stands at the entrance to the cave. The pool is teaming with large well-fed carp and catfish. Gardens, natural forest and brightly coloured statues decorate the pool edge while fierce temple guards stand at the entrance.
Entering the well-lit cave, you will see small golden Buddha’s reclining within the coils of a Naga serpent. Sun filters down through a hole in the cavern roof and shines on the heads of the Buddhas. Buddhas of all shapes and sizes sit within the cavern, some made of painted stone, others are covered in gold, all are draped in gold cloth while flower garlands and offerings decorate the alter.
Leaving the well-lit cave, you can continue your exploration of this system of subterranean passages by lantern. A local guide will lead you through the caves, along the way you can admire at the stalactites and rock formations, marvel at the statue of the sleeping Buddha and listen to local legends.
Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
Doi Chiang Dao mountain rises steeply 2,175 metres above the surrounding valley floor, this hulking mass of limestone is honeycombed with caves and covered in lush green forest.
Entering the Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary by car, you begin the hair-raising journey up a steep winding road that twists and turns as you teeter on the edge of Doi Chiang Dao mountain.
The views and scenery are spectacular, across the valley the mountain range snakes and coils its way into the distance. Shear drops and deep valleys show off thick impenetrable jungle, while your heart stops as you pass traffic on blind curves.
The Wildlife sanctuary is popular with birdwatchers and trekkers and home to the Karen, Lahu and Akha Hill Tribe people.
Wat Tham Pha Plong
Entering the grounds of Wat Tham Pha Plong you will find a peaceful Buddhist temple surrounded by mist covered mountains, pretty gardens and temple buildings. Just when you think you have seen everything you will come to a set of stairs.
The stairs are enclosed in thick rainforest, trees stretch into the canopy while knotted vines twist overhead into neighbouring trees. It’s time to begin the 510-step journey up to the golden Pagoda.
Take your time walking up the stairs, along the way you will find Buddhist teachings, words of wisdom to take into everyday life, walking the steps isn’t just a physical activity it is a journey of enlightenment.
Halfway up the stairs you get your first glimpse of Wat Tham Pha Plong, the golden Pagoda stands high above draped in mist and an impenetrable jungle of trees, vines and bamboo.
Once at the top you will come to the Monastery complex, monks perform daily tasks and if you come early enough you can watch them prepare for breakfast.
Breakfast will begin with chanting and offerings and may be their only meal for the day, some monks may have a light lunch around 11:00 but after 12:00 no solid food is eaten until the following day.
Statues of Buddha radiate a golden glow within the limestone cave. Large candles, flowers and portraits fill the cavern and commemorate the life of Luang Poo Sim, the monk and great teacher who founded the monastery.
Walking up the serpent staircase the golden Pagoda towers above. Spectacular views overlooking the mist shrouded mountains, rainforest and deep valleys below make the climb all worthwhile.
As with all Buddhist temples and holy sites, make sure you are respectfully attired.
Where to eat, drink and stay in Chiang Dao
With two locations, The Nest comprises of Nest 1 specialising in award winning European cuisine, while The Nest 2 serves a delicious range of Thai cuisine. Both a have a reputation for excellence with friendly welcoming staff and delicious menu choices.
Both locations have Thai style cabin hotels set within exquisite tropical gardens below the mist shrouded mountain of Doi Chiang Dao.
Nest 1 and Nest 2 are close to the attractions of the Chiang Dao Cave and Wat Tham Pha Plong.
The Cave Bar
The Cave Bar is a small Thai style bar, that has a great atmosphere and friendly staff. The Cave Bar features live music, a pool table, it’s the place to come and relax after a day of sightseeing. The cave Bar make their own sweet apple cider.
Attractions North of Chiang Dao
Pha Daeng National Park
Pha Daeng National Park is around 30minutes drive from Chiang Dao. The Pha Daeng National Park is home to the Pong Arng Hot Spring and Sri Sung Wan Waterfalls.
Arunothai is around 50 km drive from Chiang Dao. This sleepy Thai village sits on the edge of the Myanmar border and is a great place to observe rural village life.
Arunothai has a popular roadside restaurant called the Tayong Yunnan Noodle Restaurant. The restaurant serves wanton with a delicious spicy sauce and a selection of noodle dishes that are tasty, filling and cheap.
Chiang Mai transportation to Chiang Dao
There are a few ways to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao. Hiring a car or motorbike are popular options and can be arranged through the many car and bike hire firms around the city of Chiang Mai.
Buses from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao leave from Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1, sometimes known as Chang Puak Bus terminal. Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 1 is north of the Old City on Chang Puak Road.
Chiang Dao Tours
There are day trips and 1-2-night tours from Chiang Mai that take in the Chiang Dao region, highlights of these tours include a trip to Chiang Dao Cave and white-water rafting,
See below for more information on tours from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao.
Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao Summary
We had a wonderful 2-night stay in Chiang Dao during our Chiang Mai day tours. We were blown away by the breathtaking scenery while enjoying the homestyle comforts and award-winning cuisine of the area. From small roadside stalls serving traditional northern Thai dishes such as the famous Khao Soi, to the very best international dishes available at the Nest Restaurant.
Chiang Dao is a must see for anyone visiting Chiang Mai. With it’s close proximity to Chiang Mai, a day trip to this picturesque area of Northern Thailand should be on everyone’s agenda. Unfortunately we only scratched the surface of the Chiang Dao area and hope to visit again soon.
Have you been to Chiang Dao? What is your favourite place to visit in the area.