Doi Chiang Dao Trek

sunrise Doi Chiang Dao
Doi Chiang Dao Trek
Doi Chiang Dao Trek. Andrew takes a picture.

Doi Chiang Dao Trek

Doi Chiang Dao

Doi Chiang Dao (ดอยเชียงดาว), also known as Doi Luang Chiang Dao (ดอยหลวงเชียงดาว), is the third highest peak in Thailand. It is a great peak to climb as a short trek on any trip to North Thailand. Doi Chiang Dao is an incredible 230-250 million year old limestone massif in the Daen Lao Range. It rises abruptly and impressively from the plains below. Hiking to the summit of the mountain can be done in one day but you need to be very fit. You will also miss out on sunset and sunrise. Spending the night in tents just under the summit is a great experience. The climb is only possible from November 1 until March 31, the dry season in North Thailand.

Doi Luang Chiang Dao
Doi Chiang Dao

Preparation

I have hiked up the mountain twice. My first trip was in early December 2012 when my friend John Hummel accompanied me. My second trip took place in November 2015 and that is the trip I will describe in this article. This time Scott Joseph, travelblogger, and Andrew Bond, internet entrepreneur, joined me. At around 6AM we met up and drove to Chiang Dao which is about 70 kms north of Chiang Mai. After some shopping we went to the village Chiang Dao located close to Chiang Dao Cave. We met our porters and guide of the village. After a while we took off in a pickup truck to the starting point of the trek. Other trekkers joined us. November 6 was a beautiful day. We started our Doi Chiang Dao Trek.

Hiking up

Having done it once made a difference of course. I knew what was in store for me. I remembered the long hike along the mountain with nice views over villages and mountains. The trail is quite steep but not too difficult. There were people coming down that made it a bit difficult sometimes as the trail is quite narrow. After about one and a half hour we reached the forested and rocky area where we rested for a while. From then it was going up through forest and then grassland. We had a great time and met other trekkers which was quite nice. At around 1600 we reached the campsite which is about 30 mins hike below the summit. We dropped our luggage and rested for a while.

Sunset

At around 1700 we hiked up to the summit for the sunset. It was a bright day. On the top of the mountain there were probably about a hundred other people spread out on different spots. Time for selfies and pictures in front of the sign. Views over the surrounding mountains were magnificent. It was an incredible experience. The weather was much better than in December 2012 when it was overcast and raining a little. We decided to descend before the crowd. The trail to the summit is pretty tricky and we didn’t want to queue up.

The night

When we came back to the campsite our tents had been set up and the guide was cooking our dinner. To my surprise there where cans of Chang Beer for sale. That was not the case in 2012. The campsite had also grown considerably in size. We had a good dinner, drank a couple of beers and had a good time talking about future projects and ideas. Scott and Andrew were really good companions. They had never met each other before. We all agreed that the Doi Chiang Dao Trek was one of the best things we had done in North Thailand. I slept really well.

The descent

It was an early rise for the trek to see the sunrise the next morning. The hike up is quite difficult because it is in the dark and pretty steep. After watching sunrise we had breakfast and enjoyed the morning. Having finished our coffee we packed and started the descent. Soon we lost each other which is really no problem as the trail is quite clear and you constantly meet people going up. In 2012 the descent was really difficult. It had been raining during the night and the trail was muddy and slippery. Especially the steep and open trail along the mountain ridge was very difficult. This time it posed no problem. We met a large group of Thai and Westerners going up and had a chat. At around 1300 we reached the spot where our car waited for us.

Aftermath

Back at the Chiang Dao village we got on my car and drove to the first coffeeshop where we enjoyed some good coffee after the 3-in-1 that our guide had served us. We reminisced a while on the trip. I was a lot less dirty and exhausted than in 2012. We drove back to Chiang Mai. I said goodbye to my travel companions Andrew and Scott.
Unfortunately Andrew passed away on September 3, 2016. I will never forget our Doi Chiang Dao Trek on November 6-7, 2015.

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