The Best of Chiang Dao
Caves, Sticky Waterfalls, and Village Life
Day 1, Chiang Mai- Chiang Dao
The Mae Sa Elephant Camp
This trip is a private tour. Your guide and driver will meet you at 0800 at your hotel for your tour, during which we will show you the best of Chiang Dao. We recommend you turn off your phone and enjoy your digital detox for a few days. Our first destination is the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, one of the oldest camps of Chiang Mai in the Mae Sa Valley. Until 2019 this camp offered elephant riding and elephant shows. Now all the 68 elephants of the camp are retired and taken care of. We will meet them and feed them a couple of treats. Your guide will tell you about the plight of the Asian elephant, the national animal of Thailand.
The Sri Sangwan Waterfall
After this, we will continue to the local market of Mae Malai, where we will spend half an hour tasting some local delicacies and chatting with the sellers. It is time for a local Thai lunch! Please remind your guide if you have specific food requirements. After lunch, we will continue to Chiang Dao. We drive past the town and head for the Sri Sangwan waterfalls in the Pha Daeng National Park. These waterfalls are “sticky” because the limestone surface is not slippery. At this lovely spot, we will spend some time swimming and relaxing. Please note that these falls are not the famous “Sticky Waterfalls,” which you will visit on the third day of this tour.
Nearby are the Hot Springs, which we also will visit. Not far from the waterfalls is a remarkable, seldom visited temple. Perched on a small hill is the Wat Phra That Doi Mon Ching, a Shan (Tai Yai) temple. We have a great view of Doi Luang Chiang Dao, the third-highest mountain in Thailand (2175m), from this temple. The famous Golden Rock in Mon State, Myanmar, inspired the design of this temple. Few monks are living at this small temple. It is time to drive to Marisa Resort, where we will spend the night.
Day 2, Chiang Dao – Palong village Mae Chon
The Chiang Dao Cave Temple
After breakfast, we will drive to the Chiang Dao Cave Temple, a sacred place for the Thai people for hundreds of years and certainly one of the best sights of Chiang Dao. This limestone cave in Doi Luang Chiang Dao is associated with legends, stories, and holy men. We explore the main cavern as well as one of the connected caves. A local guide from the community will accompany us with a gas lamp. Around the cave, there are many other things to see, such as pavilions with statues of monks, the assembly hall of the monk Kruba Srivichai and the Buddhist shrines of the Burmese hermit U Kanta. In 2021 we funded the maintenance of these shrines.
Next, we will visit Wat Tham Pla Pong, a cave temple carved into the mountain. We walk up many steps to this highly revered sanctuary from where we have a nice view of the surrounding countryside. The monk Luang Poo Sim Phuthajaro established this cave temple in 1967 and was a follower of the forest monk Phra Ajaan Mun Bhuridatta Mahathera. A small temple at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai is also dedicated to this famous forest monk.
Meet the Palong people
After this, we will drive to the start of our afternoon hike: the Palong village Pang Daeng Nai. We will have lunch at a local house before we start trekking. The trail takes us through the protected community forest, during which our guide will explain specific trees and plants in the woods. We will walk for about three hours, but there is plenty of time for taking pictures. Our final destination today is another village of the Palong people: Mae Chon. After arrival in the village, you can relax or explore the village. You can also try to learn valuable words in the Palong (Dara-ang) language.
If you want, you can join your guide in preparing dinner. After dinner, your guide will tell you about the Palong people, who call themselves “Dara-ang.” In the 1980s, they migrated from Myanmar to Thailand. Overnight will be in one of the village homestays. You will sleep on a mattress with a mosquito net, and we provide a sleeping bag or sheet.
Day 3, Palong Village – Chiang Mai
Hike to the Lahu village
It is the third day of the Best of Chiang Dao trip. This village comes to life early, and your guide will prepare breakfast. Villagers will set up a small local market where you can buy some souvenirs if you want. After breakfast, your guide will take you around the village and explain about the village shrine and the ‘huja rawl,’ the village heart. The Palong women are talented weavers, and we will visit a small weaving project. After this, we will say goodbye to the villagers and start our short hike to a Red Lahu village.
There are many fruit trees around the village. It will depend on the season, but you might see pineapple, bananas, jackfruit, guava, papaya, longan, and other fruit. We end the hike at the Lahu/Palong village Huay Pong, where we will visit a unique spirit temple. This village is only a short drive from a community of the Karen people. The Karen is another ethnic minority group that migrated centuries ago from China. We sit down and drink a cup of tea before we drive to the town of Phrao to enjoy a local Thai lunch.
The Buatong Waterfall, aka the “Sticky Waterfalls.”
Our last stop today are the famous “Sticky Waterfalls” in the verdant forests of the Sri Lanna National Park. Local people know these falls as Buatong Waterfalls. They are sparkling blue, and clear water cascades over the limestone rocks. You can easily walk up and down the falls because the limestone is not slippery. It has given the Buatong Falls its nickname. A dip in these falls is the perfect ending to this trip. We will spend a couple of hours at this beautiful place before we return to Chiang Mai. Relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. We will drop you at your hotel at around 1700. We hope you enjoyed the Best of Chiang Dao.