The Thanon Thong Chai Mountain Range stretches along the western side of the Chiang Mai Valley. Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are the highest peaks in the national park of the same name which rises above the city. Doi Suthep-Doi Pui is high on the itineraries of Thai and domestic tourists as it is home to three wonderful attractions. These are Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, Bhubing Palace and an authentic Hmong hilltribe village.
There are a number of waterfalls in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. In addition, the park is home to wildlife species ranging from pygmy woodpeckers to Malayan porcupines. Doi Suthep-Doi Pui is one of the closest places to Chiang Mai to enjoy hiking and cycling while a campsite at Yod Doi Pui is an ambient spot to chill out for the night. The proximity of Doi Suthep-Doi Pui to Chiang Mai means its main sights are easily done as a one-day excursion.
WHAT TO DO
Hiking and Trekking
There are several hiking trails to choose from here. The so-called Monk’s Trail leads up from the foothills of Doi Suthep on Suthep Road and goes up to Pha Lat and Doi Suthep temples. This is a do-it-yourself trail as it is marked by the orange robes of monks tied around trees. The first part of the trail to Pha Lat is not too steep, but it is quite tough on the second. The Doi Pui Trail is another option, but not easy to reach without your own transport.
Local tour companies offer one and two day Doi Suthep-Doi Pui trekking tours. These trekking tours are not too arduous and suitable for anybody who is fairly fit. The treks usually include a stopover at Doi Suthep Temple as well as visits to Doi Pui and Ban Mae Sa Mai Hmong hilltribe villages.
The road leading up to Doi Suthep-Doi Pui is reached via Huay Kaew Road. Once bikers are past Chiang Mao Zoo, the road up to Doi Suthep Temple starts climbing steeply. After the temple there are lots of trails offering challenging biking. It is possible to follow the trails all the way north and then head down to Huay Tung Tao Lake. Mountain bikes are available for rent in Chiang Mai as well as at Yod Doi Pui Campsite. Mountain Biking Chiang Mai is one of a number of specialist activity providers who provide tours which come with bike hire included.
Experts say there are more than 300 different species of birds found in the forest and around the peaks of Doi Suthep-Doi Pui. Bird watchers may spot seasonal visitors such as green cochoas and Davison’s leaf warbler plus canary flycatchers and even the odd eagle. There are a number of nature trails leading off Highway 1004 which give access to prime bird watching country.
WHAT TO SEE
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Doi Suthep Temple is the premium attraction of this part of Chiang Mai and one very few visitors miss out on. A walk around the main chedi, tapping the gongs around it and awesome views all add to this temple’s draws. More details are shown on the What’s Up Chiang Mai Historical Attractions page.
Wat Pha Lat
As it is so close to Doi Suthep Temple, most people pass by Wat Pha Lat on their way up the mountain. Nevertheless, Pha Lat Temple makes an interesting stopover. The temple’s buildings and shrines nestle amid lofty green shade trees. It is primarily a retreat for meditating Buddhist monks and the atmosphere is serene and relaxing. A stroll around the grounds takes in a small waterfall, a vantage point for views back over the city and grottoes with religious artefacts and robed statues adding splashes of colour.
From Doi Suthep, Bhubing Palace is five kilometres farther up Highway 1004. The main palace building is built in a traditional Thai style and is surrounded by beautifully-kept gardens dotted with pavilions, a chapel, the Eucalyptus Cottage and a pond with fountains. The palace’s rose-gardens are noted for their beauty. The same dress codes apply at Bhubing as at the main Thai Buddhist temples and visitors will be denied entry if their knees or shoulders are visible.
Doi Pui Hmong Hilltribe Village
The entry and checkpoint for the Hmong hilltribe village is another three kilometres up the 1004. The village is spread over steep hills and is a mix of traditional bamboo and timber houses with the occasional modern cement one. Hmong villagers in colourful tribal dress still walk the streets of the village while shops sell traditional Hmong handmade jewellery, souvenirs, bamboo utensils, oolong tea, fresh fruit and clothing.
Doi Suthep-Doi Pui features a number of waterfalls. The main ones accessible from the Doi Suthep side are Monthathan and Huay Kaew while, at the northern edge, Mae Sa Waterfall is one of the Mae Sa Valley’s signature attractions. Read more about Chiang Mai Waterfalls.
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation choices are limited on Doi Suthep-Doi Pui. There is a camping ground at Yod Doi Pui which has tents, sleeping bags and basic camping gear for rent. The campsite has toilet facilities, a few pavilions, a barbecue area and mountain bikes for hire. Besides camping, the only other accommodation options are to join a trek with an overnight stay in the national park or to enrol on a meditation course at Suthep Temple’s International Buddhist Centre. Most people visit Doi Suthep-Doi Pui on daytrips from Chiang Mai. The What’s Up has provided a comprehensive list of accommodation in Chiang Mai.
HOW TO GET THERE
Highway 1004 leads up from Chiang Mai Zoo into the heart of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This highway twists and traverses steep hills on its 25km journey past Doi Suthep Temple, the gateway to Bhuping Palace and on to the Hmong hilltribe village. For this reason, tuktuks are banned from this road. Getting to Doi Suthep Temple is easy enough as it is a designated songthaew taxi route. Shared songthaews for the trip depart from a location close to the front entrance for Chiang Mai Zoo.
Drivers wait for the vehicle to fill up before leaving. After arrival at the temple’s car park, most drivers can be persuaded to go on to Bhubing Palace or the Hmong hilltribe village for an additional payment. Another more convenient option is to agree a price for a private hire with a red city songthaew taxi driver. There are also tour companies offer tours to Doi Suthep-Doi Pui and will invariably adjust them to specific requirements.