Last weekend I spent a day hiking up a misty mountain to reach the milky clouds that surround Thailand’s highest point. The spectacular views and fresh strawberries made for a day well spent.
Doi Inthanon is a national park in northern Thailand where one can find lush hills of emerald green, autumnal weather, ruby red strawberries and rushing water that looks as if it’s falling directly from the clouds in the sky. Doi Inthanon is two hours away from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai, and dubbed “The Roof of Thailand” due to its high peak of 2,565 meters (roughly 8,400 feet). Doi Inthanon is part of the Himalayan mountain range and is known especially for its exceptionally chilly temperature, which stays between 10-15 C (50-60 F) year around.
The best way to get to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai is to rent a car and drive, or to hire a driver for the day. Both renting a car or hiring a driver should cost between 2500 baht and 3500 baht ($75-$105 USD). As a solo journey this can be pricey, but gather a few people and the price splits quite nicely. The foreigner fee to enter the park is 300 baht ($9 USD). Remember if you hire a driver you will also have to pay the driver and the car’s entrance fee to the park, which totals up to about 100 baht ($3 USD).
The best time to visit Doi Inthanon is during the winter from Nov. to Jan., but that’s also peak season, so expect long lines. I hiked the Kaew Mae Pan Nature Trail, open only from Nov. to May, to reduce foot traffic and natural erosion that comes with tourism. The trail is 2.5 kilometers, takes about two hours to complete, and you must be accompanied by a Hmong Tribe guide. The Hmong Tribe is one of the ethnic groups in northern Thailand who many refer to as Hill Tribe people. The guide costs 200 baht plus I gave them a 60 baht tip ($8 USD). At the start of the trail there’s a large pile of bamboo sticks. They’re walking sticks and I definitely recommend grabbing one. The hike isn’t too bad, but it can be slippery if it rained the previous night or is rainy on the day of. To avoid missing a killer view make sure to check the weather before you head up the mountain. While the view is beautiful even on a cloudy day there’s nothing quite like a clear day at Doi Inthanon.
Thailand’s winter months mean strawberry season in northern Thailand. The mountains of Thailand were previously filled with opium farms. In the 1970’s King Bhumibol, the late king of Thailand, started the Royal Projects and reclaimed the north as a prosperous area for the growth of high quality crops. Many fruits and vegetables are grown in the mountains, but none are as delicious and well-known as the strawberry. The strawberries from northern Thailand are plump, ruby red and smell sweet like candy. I got the two bags in the picture for only 150 baht ($4.50)!
WHAT TO WEAR:
-A hooded sweatshirt or sweater is recommended due to the low temperature and possibility of rain at the drop of a dime.
-Wear pants in case of slips, falls or greenery that can brush up against you.
-A pair of basic sneakers will suffice. I wore Nike roshes, my guide wore Keds and we were both just fine.