|Elevation||2565 metres (8415 feet)|
|Vertical Elevation||<10 metres|
|Total Distance||~100m one-way|
|Nearest Town||Khuang Pao (Chiang Mai)|
|Climbing Time||10 minutes return|
I'd always suspected climbing Thailand's highest mountain was going to be easy. However, I didn't think it would be this easy. Evidently, about 200 other tourists also thought the same thing :)
Nevertheless, despite jostling for my turn to be photographed beneath the Thai Highpoint sign, the trip to the summit of Doi Inthanon is still a worthwhile and pleasant one-day excursion from nearby Chiang Mai, especially as there are a number of other interesting attractions in the vicinity of the summit.
Whilst nearby Chiang Mai enjoys year-round temperatures in the 20-30C range, Doi Inthanon is decidly cooler, with temperatures reaching zero during winter (December-January). The mountain is often shrouded in mist and heavy rain is not uncommon. The entire falls within the Doi Inthanon National Park, and while you may think this would open up all sorts of hiking trails, there are infact no hikes/trails to the mountain summit. The only way up is via road.
Covered in forest, the mountain is temperate and you'd certainly need at least a light sweater during the winter months. During our November climb, the temperature ranged from 2-12C.
Whilst it is possible to catch public transport to Doi Inthanon (a bus from Chiang Mai to the base of the mountain and another smaller minibus to the summit), private transport is certainly the most convenient way to get the summit. In addition, with so many other things to see and do in the area, private transport provides the freedom to see these sites in your own time.
From Chiang Mai, any number of private and group operators will take you to the mountain. We ended up paying about 2000 Baht (~USD$60-70) to have our own car for the entire day. This allowed us up to take our time up the mountain and then see other sites as desired. We didn't bargain very hard, so it might be possible to get a cheaper price or join a group.
Getting to the summit is all pretty well sign-posted. The roads are very good and with the number of Thai and foreign tourists visiting the summit, there are loads of ammenties. On the way to the park entrance, most tour companies/guides will first stop at a Hmong roadside market. Here you can buy all sorts of dried fruits, nuts and a few handy crafts. Soon after, you enter the actual park.
There is a 200 Baht entry fee per person (for foreigners only) and a 50 Baht car entry fee. Once inside the park there are a number of waterfalls, food stops, toilet stops, lookouts on the way to the summit. We ended up stopping at Sirithan Waterfall on the way up and Wachirathan Waterfall on the way down. Wachirathan is much more developed with a carpark, toilet block, restaurants, whereas Sirthan is just the waterfall. Both are really nice. We also stopped at the Royal Chedi's on the way back from the summit.
This really is a must. Despite the hordes of tourists and the why was this built here running through my mind, it's still pretty cool. Built a couple of years ago in honour of the current King and Queen of Thailand, two massive Chedi (a his and her I guess) have been constructed on apposing peaks. Each is essentially a temple, however each has an internal temple with very nice stone relief and other wall paintings.
Don't worry if the stair-case to the top of Chedi looks daunting, you can get an esculator up each flight of stairs. Yep, you can stand on walkway to avoid walking for 2 minutes up the staircase (ok, we did it :).
As we were there in winter, we missed out on what is apparently quite a spectacular flower festival on each of the two Chedi summits which is held during the warmer months.
But back to the summit.
Getting to the actual summit is really straight-forward. You can drive almost all the way. There is a big carpark just below the summit. Here there is a Thai Airforce Base (which you can't photograph) and there is then a pretty obvious sign and trail to the actual summit.
The actual summit is twofold. After a short walk up a flight of stairs there is a large wooden The Highest Spot in Thailand sign. I guess the fact that this is the first actual marker of the summit means everyone wants their photo taken beneath this sign. We literally had to wait in line in order to have our photo taken. I do wonder why this sign is here. It is pretty obvious (well for me anyway) that this wasn't the highest point as there is a path which continues up right behind the sign.
Anyway, a little further along there is shrine and from here there is a wooden walkway which leads into the forest. I guess for those who are too lazy to continue to walk, the first sign might be enough. However, 20-30 metres along this walkway is another sign which also the highest point in Thailand. There is an actual survey marker here and given this marker sit on an concrete block, on top of a wooden platform, I guess this really is the highpoint.
Again, we had to wait out turn to get our photo taken. Unfortunately this spoils the 'summit' a little, as it's really get your photo taken and then immediately get out of the way for the next group of people who want their photo taken. It would have been nice to have enjoyed being here without the urgency to hurry up. As we were there in the middle of the day, I guess we couldn't expect much else. Earlier in the day (or in the rain) I'm sure is a better and more peaceful time to actually enjoy the summit.
Nevertheless, this wooden pathway then continues through the forest and eventually comes out at a small ranger hut and a nearby souvenir shop. Here you can a buy a range of bits and bobs about being on the highest point in Thailand (hats, tshirts, magnets etc). There is also a sign which displays the minimum/maximum temperature for the day (2-12C for us). And of course more lining up to get your photo taken (although not as bad this time).
It's quite amusing to people watch here for a moment, as many Thai and (I guess) other tourists are very warmly dressed given the cool temperature. As I'm sure many locals don't own warm clothes (why would you in a country with such warm weather all year round) it was funny watching people decked out in ski gear and other sub-zero clothing.
Anyway, it is a short walk back along the road to the carpark, or (like us) where you have your own guide, he had moved the car to the exit point :) We could really be lazy.
However, there is also another short walk here. This is also very worthwhile doing. Following an elevated wooden walkway, this path leads through a really 'ancient' feeling and out of place temperate forest. Mosses, lichens and fern trees. There is also a short side detour to visit a shrine (and a chunk of engine) from a helicopter which crashed in the area some time ago.
|Avg. C Mean Temp.||11°||12°||13°||14°||14°||14°||14°||14°||NA||NA||NA||8°|
|Avg. % Relative Humidity||70||75||70||90||95||95||90||95||NA||NA||NA||80|
Weather measured on Doi Inthanon summit (2260metres)
|Chiang Mai Airport to Summit||~100km||2-2.5 hours (car)|
|Chiang Mai to Mountain Base||~50km||1.5 hours|
|Mountain Base to Carpark summit||~46km||0.5-1 hour|
|Carpark to summit return||~250metres||10 minutes|
View Climbing Doi Inthanon - Thailand's Highest Mountain in a larger map
View Climbing Doi Inthanon - Thailand's Highest Mountain in a larger map