Offbeat mountains of Northern Thailand : Phu Chi Fah
For most people, travelling in Thailand usually brings to mind white, sandy beaches and crystal clear waters; however the “land of smiles” is also home to an exquisite variety of mountains which foreign travellers rarely venture into. For nature-loving travellers who are drawn to the lesser-known gems of a country, Northern Thailand has a lot to offer. With the cold season now underway (and the perfect time for outdoor adventures), over the coming months we would like to share with you a few of our favourite offbeat locations.
In this post, we put the spotlight on Phu Chi Fah “ภูชี้ฟ้า” on the Doi Pha Mon mountain range in a remote corner of Chiang Rai province. With Laos and the mighty Mekong river situated at the base of its eastern slopes, this range is one of Northern Thailand’s hidden treasures. Phu Chi Fah mountain peak offers one of the most unforgettable sunrises you will ever see as you watch the sky change from different shades of violet before it lightens and the sun pops up above a sea of clouds covering the valley below. Those who hang around a little longer (which we recommend!) might be lucky enough to see the clouds lift to reveal Laos villages below and even the mighty Mekong in the distance.
Located in Chiang Rai province at an elevation of 1442m, Phu Chi Fah is well-known among Thai’s who mostly visit during winter months. Despite the peak’s domestic fame, this place still remains unknown to most foreign travellers. Considering most people drive their own vehicle to Phu Chi Fah, public transport options are still rather limited and sometimes unpredictable. For those who don’t have much flexibility in their schedule, the best option is to hire a private driver. From Chiang Rai, it’s a scenic 2.5 hour drive through the mountains, the road is fairly well maintained but winding and a challenging drive.
For travellers who have a bit more flexibility (i.e. can handle a few hiccups along the way), there is a daily minibus departing around 1pm for Phu Chi Fah from Chiang Rai Terminal 1 Bus Station. The journey takes 3 – 4 hours and you will be dropped at the main town which is walking distance to a number of guesthouses and campgrounds.
Bare in mind, it’s still a 15 minute steep uphill drive through the Forest Park to the sunrise viewpoint; so the following morning you can find a pick up truck to take you (for a fee). From the drop off point, you still need to hike 800 metres up to the peak so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to catch the sunrise. As mentioned, the transport system in this remote area isn’t very developed so you need to be aware that things may not go 100% as planned.
Note: the walking trail is quite steep so this is not a suitable trip for those with mobility problems and children should be carefully supervised.
Doi Pha Tang mountain
Another lesser-known viewpoint is Doi Pha Thang just 22km north of Phu Chi Fah. This is an equally magnificent spot to watch the sunrise or a nice place to stop if taking the northern route down the mountain.