Often called ‘The Roof of Thailand’, Doi Inthanon National Park is home to the highest mountain in the kingdom, Doi Inthanon, which is 2,565 metres above sea level. Doi Inthanon makes for a pleasant day-trip if you are staying in Chiang Mai although there is also limited accommodation at the park itself (including a camp site) if you wish to stay longer. The park is home to a number of waterfalls, walking trails and is a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. Visitors will also see hill-tribe villages, including Karen and Hmong, and under the Royal Project scheme you have the opportunity to buy locally produced goods.
King Inthanon of Chiang Mai
The highest mountain in Thailand was formerly known as Doi Luang but was renamed in honour of one of the last kings of Chiang Mai. King Inthanon was a conservationist who was one of the first to try and preserve the forests of northern Thailand and also realized the importance of Doi Luang for Thailand’s waterways. He ordered that after his death (he died in 1897) his remains be placed at the summit of the mountain. King Inthanon’s ashes are contained within the small shrine (pictured right) which is located just beyond the wooden sign which proudly declares, ‘The Highest Spot in Thailand’.
Getting to the Summit
Don’t worry if you aren’t very fit because the road access all the way up the mountain is very good. From the car park at the summit it is just a short walk up a few steps to get to the highest point in Thailand and the shrine to King Inthanon. A small information centre provides some background on the flora and fauna of the area. The summit can be a bit of an anti-climax and the most attractive spot on the mountain is located slightly further down the road where the twin royal chedis are located.
The Royal Chedis
The twin chedis were constructed by the Thai Royal Air Force to honour the 60th birthday of the King and Queen of Thailand (in 1987 and 1992 respectively). The darker colour chedi with the brown tint (Phra Mahathat Chedi Nophamethanidol) is for the king and the one with the light-blue or lilac hue (Phra Mahathat Chedi Noppholbhumsiri) is for the queen. The area is beautifully landscaped with a stunning display of flowers and on a clear day provides glorious views over northern Thailand and the mountains of Burma (to the west).
A day trip to Doi Inthanon can easily be arranged at any tour office in Chiang Mai. A typical trip may involve a stop en-route at the small town of Chom Thong to see the wat there (which dates back to the fifteenth century) before going on to Doi Inthanon. There is a national park entrance fee of 200 Baht for foreign visitors, but this is normally included in the cost of your tour (ask when booking). Most tours will stop off at one of the waterfalls (usually Vachiritharn Falls or Siritharn Falls) before having lunch and then venturing on to the summit and the royal chedis. It can get quite chilly at the top of the mountain, especially during the cool season from November-February so it is advisable to wear long trousers and take a light jacket or jumper/jersey.