Mountains of the North: Doi Angkhang and Doi Inthanon
Doi Angkhang and Doi Inthanon are our two favourite mountains in North Thailand. They have many things in common but also differ in some respects. In the following article, we reflect on strong points and weak points.
Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain of Thailand with 2565 metres. Doi Angkhang ranks only 15th in the list of high peaks of the country: 1928 metres. How do you get there? Doi Inthanon is southwest of Chiang Mai. It takes about 1,5 hours drive from Chiang Mai to Doi Inthanon. Doi Angkhang is northwest of Chiang Mai. It takes about 3 hours to drive from Chiang Mai to Angkhang. Of course, these driving times depend on the traffic. Roads are in good condition.
Because of the distance, a day tour from Chiang Mai to Doi Angkhang few people visit Angkhang on a day tour. They either visit the mountain on the way to somewhere else (Fang, Chiang Rai or somewhere else) or they used to stay overnight on Angkhang at the Angkhang Nature Resort or one of the guesthouses. With the closure of all accommodation, last April to stay overnight at Angkhang is now only possible on the camping ground, about 5 km from Ban Khum on the road to Fang.
What do these famous mountains have in common?
1) Both mountains are in national parks. Doi Angkhang is part of the Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park. With 2296 meters Doi Pha Hom Pok is Thailand’s second-highest mountain.
2)Both mountains have hill tribe communities: Doi Inthanon has Karen and Hmong villages, Doi Angkhang has a Palong and a Black Lahu village. On Angkhang there are also several Chinese villages. Most of these people are descendants of KMT troops that took refuge in Thailand. These villages ooze a very different atmosphere.
3) Both mountains have a Royal Project, albeit a bit different from each other. Founded in 1979, the Angkhang Agricultural Station is perhaps the largest Royal Project in the country, covering 318 ha. The Doi Inthanon Royal Project was established in the same year and is significantly smaller.
What is unique about Doi Inthanon?
1)Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain of the country.
2)Doi Inthanon has several beautiful waterfalls such as the Vachirathan, Mae Ya, Pha Dok Siew and Mae Pan. Doi Angkhang has none. The waterfalls of Doi Inthanon National Park feature in Doi Inthanon Tours year-round. We offer two-day tours: Doi Inthanon: mighty waterfalls, rural life and Royal Chedis on Thailand’s highest peak and Doi Inthanon: trekking the nature trails on the roof of Thailand. The first program features the Pha Dok Siew Nature Trail, managed by the local Karen people of Ban Mae Klang Luang. This trail is open year-round. The nature trails tour features the famous Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. Villagers of the nearby Hmong village manage the trail. They will guide you as well. It is only open from November 1 until May 31.
The Vachirathan waterfall is perhaps the most popular of Doi Inthanon’s falls. Doi Angkhang, on the other hand, has no waterfalls to speak of, at least we have not found them.
3)Doi Inthanon is a trendy destination and attracts hundreds of tourists daily, especially in the cold season.
What is unique about Doi Angkhang?
1)Doi Angkhang has that remote feeling that Doi Inthanon lacks. As we wrote earlier, visiting Doi Angkhang from Chiang Mai on a day tour makes no sense. It is just too far.
2) The drive to Angkhang is stunning and scenic but also strenuous. Road no.1340 skirts the Thai-Myanmar border and is mountainous. The other access road is no.1249, which is much shorter but very steep with hairpins. This road can be tricky, especially when it rains. Views are fantastic.
3)Not many people visit Doi Angkhang. The recent closure of all accommodation in Baan Khum, where the entrance to the Royal Project is, will affect the number of visitors.
You will need to spend the night, either in Fang or at the camping site of the national park. In the Chinese villages Sinchai, Pha Daeng and Tham Ngob there are some basic guesthouses, but they didn’t look very attractive to us. Doi Angkhang is worth spending one or even two full days. The villages Kob Dong (Black Lahu) and Noh Lae (Palong or Palaung) are both worth a visit. The Royal Project is worth spending a couple of hours.