Chiang Mai – Chiang Dao on TMT01
Thailand Mountain Trail has spent several years to investigate the most remote mountain trails in Northern Thailand before creating TMT01, the first Thai Great Route and long footpath of the country. Thanks to our extensive knowledge of those areas and long relationship with local people, our organization is the only one to bring trekkers in those mountains far from the tourists.
This 5-day trip will bring us on the most interesting parts of TMT01 around Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao. We will discover the sacred temples and cross the mountain of Doi Pui at the doorsteps of Chiang Mai. From the valley of Mae Taeng, we will hike in the highest mountains and sleep in hill-tribe villages until we reach the mountain range of Chiang Dao. We will discover a unique Thailand on mountain trail.
Characteristics of the Trip
16,450 THBAll-inclusive price
Our route takes the 1st path that linked the city of Chiang Mai to the village of Khun Chang Khian at 1200m high. It was created many years ago before the 1st concrete road to Wat Doi Suthep was built. At this period it was the only way for all the Hmong people who lived up in the mountains to go to the city and sell their products. We take this trail in the early morning of the 1st day when the muscles are still a bit cold. It climbs regularly in the forest for 7k and 1’000m+ until a 1stHmong village.
After enjoying a nice local coffee, we continue to hike up. Progressively the slope gets harder. Suddenly it becomes so steep that we have to use our hands to help us at some points. High in the sky we follow a magnificent line of ridges edged in pine trees. All around us we can observe fields and mountains; in front the summit of Doi Pui (1685m) stands out in the distance.
After reaching the summit, we plunge again into the jungle and the atmosphere becomes wilder. It’s a beautiful mix between pine forests and tropical forests then the jungle again. We can enjoy a comfortable route that is slightly downhill until the last Hmong village. Soon the horizon opens up again and we can observe the final destination, the village of Ban Doi Pui. We will stop there for a meal before going back to Chiang Mai by taxi.
At the doorsteps of the city we start the 2nd day by taking a pilgrim trail through the jungle. It leads us to Wat Palad a beautiful temple crossed by a waterfall above the valley of Chiang Mai. Then the route is steeper. We arrive in Wat Doi Suthep, one of the most sacred temples in Thailand, in the morning before all the tourists. We can enjoy peacefully the atmosphere of the temple and the view over Chiang Mai.
Just behind the temple, we take a hidden path that plunges headlong into the jungle. This route was created in the beginning of the last century after some Hmong people coming from Laos decided to settle in this mountain and grow poppy crops. Trekking there under a thick canopy of trees and climbing plants, in a green shade, intensifies physical sensations. It’s an experience like no other.
After 3 kilometers flat in a wonderful atmosphere, we start going down. The trail is wilder and more difficult, punctuated by fallen branches and tree trunks which we have to step over. Suddenly appears in the middle of the jungle an enchanting 25-meter high waterfall. It’s a perfect setting and we could believe this has been created on purpose like in a botanic garden. After a last hour hiking alongside the river we finally reach another beautiful waterfall where we will have a break before going back to Chiang Mai by taxi.
After 1 hour drive, we start the 1st day outside Chiang Mai by following the river of Mae Taeng. It’s one of the most beautiful in the province of Chiang Mai. Settled down in the valley and surrounded by a luxuriant tropical forest, the river is known for its rapids. It’s a great place for rafting but we will go down walking in the jungle alongside the river. It’s humid and it’s wild; several times, we have to use the machete to clean the trail and move forward.
After 5 kilometers in one of the wildest jungle we know, finally we leave the main river and turn left to follow one of its streams. The trail is now wider; the pace is easier; we enjoy a comfortable hike on a flat route alongside the river. At several points we have to cross the river until we reach a 15-meter high waterfall. We will make a break there to recharge our batteries before the last difficult part of the day.
It’s a challenging ascent we must tackle with until we reach the overnight Lahu village. In 2 kilometers we will hike up 650m on a steep footpath. It’s a substantial effort that each of us will manage at one’s own pace. On arrival at the village, the wonderful and wide view over the valley of Mae Taeng is a well-deserved reward. We have time to enjoy the scenery until sunset. Soon the host family is calling us for having dinner in their traditional bamboo house.
After a refreshing night, it’s time for having breakfast on the terrace of our house. We enjoy the sunrise on the valleys and mountains around as the village is located on a ridge at 1100m with almost a 360-degree view. Warmed by the first rays of the sun, we leave this enchanting place to run a path down through fields and hills. When we reach a tiny Lahu village, we can see in the distance the summit of Doi Pha Sam Liam the objective of the day.
The biggest challenge is now waiting for us: 800m elevation gain in 2 kilometers to conquer Doi Pha Sam Liam (1650m). It’s a long climb in a mix of tropical forest and pine trees. We follow a steep ridge until the foothill of the summit then turn left for the last meters. At the top of the peak the reward is huge and eases the fatigue immediately. As far as our eyes can see, it’s a sea of green mountains all around.
Going down the peak, it’s a total change of atmosphere. We enter a magnificent forest of pine trees. The ground is soft covered with millions of pine needles. It’s a real pleasure to hike there. For a couple of kilometers, we walk through the trees on a large ridge. Arrived in Doi Pakhia, we observe now very clearly the massive mountain range of Chiang Dao. We will sleep there in a Hmong village with this beautiful view in the distance.
In the morning of the last day, after a long way down on a dirt road, we must tackle with a steep path in the forest. This will be the most difficult part of the route. For some unknown reasons, local people have traced their path straight up in the mountains. It’s shorter but requires strong and muscular legs.
Finally we reach a long ridge with a beautiful view on the mountains. At the beginning of the ridge, on the South side, we can observe the Hmong village we left in the morning; we will be surprised to see how far we have hiked. At the end of the ridge, the North side offers a wonderful panorama: the Sleeping Lady Mountain stands in the distance on the left; the Chiang Dao mountain range offers its best side on the right.
The last part of the route goes down back to the valley. The descent is long, technical and steep. It goes through forest and jungle. After reaching a 1st Lisu village we will hike up again to reach the 2nd village, Na Lao Mai. We will stop there at the foothills of Chiang Dao before driving back to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai Gate Hotel is situated in the prime location of Chiang Mai – the Wua Lai Community, an old silverware manufacturing community where the fascinating lifestyle and activities of the locals can be discovered and experienced. It is conveniently located on Suriyarong Road, only about 200 meters from Chiang Mai Gate and the heart of the old city. Chiang Mai Gate Hotel provides nicely decorated rooms in the traditional Lanna Thai style. Clean and comfortable all air-conditioned rooms with full facilities.
Kup Kap is a wonderful Lahu village. Located on a ridge, the view on the valleys and the other mountains is wide and impressive. We could enjoy both beautiful sunrise and sunset from the village. Even if the village might welcome some tourists sometimes, it has stayed very traditional with typical bamboo houses. We will eat and stay in huts that we have renovated with a local family we have known for a long time. It’s almost like home here!
Ban San Pakhia is one of the few villages located in the Chiang Dao area. Hmong people like to stay high in the mountains; first they settled just at the foothills of the summits then moved to this location to create a bigger village. It has now 80 families who live mostly from growing oranges. TMT has established long relationships with the inhabitants: Pakhia was the 1st village where we implemented the ‘Sport for Kids’ project in 2015. We had the privilege to build with the head of the village the bungalows in front of the mountains where we will stay at night.