The Great Holy Relics Pagoda of Nobhamethanidol-Nabhapolbhumisiri
Mae Klang Waterfall
The Legend of Doi Luang Ang Ka
The highest mountain of Thailand “Doi Inthanon” or Mt Inthanon was formerly known in the northern dialect as “Doi Luang Ang Ka”, which conveys its colossal size and feature. Legend has it that Mt Inthanon once contained a huge reservoir or “Ang” in Thai. This reservoir was where crows or “Ka” usually came to drink water. So the locals named the mountain the “big crows’ reservoir mountain”. After the 7th ruling prince of Chiang Mai, Chao Intha Wichayanon, who once came to explore the mountain passed away, his daughter, Chao Dara Ratsami, buried her father’s ashes here to fulfill his wish. Then Doi Luang Ang Ka was given the new name “Doi Inthanon”. In 1972, Doi Inthanon was declared the 6th national park of Thailand.
A Trip to Doi Inthanon
Situated in the Thanon Thong Chai Mountain Range, covering an area of 1,005 sq km and being 2,565 m above sea level, Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain of Thailand and one of the most popular national parks of this country. The hills at 1,800 metres and up are often shrouded in mist, especially in the rainy season. Doi Inthanon, one of the must see places in Thailand, is well known for its cool climate all year round, its ancient forests, frozen dew (Mae Kha-ning), Delavay’s Rhododendron (1,000-year roses), wild flowers, wildlife, hilltribe culture and step farming.
To reach the summit is convenient. You can either drive or hire a minibus labelled Doi Inthanon in English from Mae Klang Waterfall or Wat Phra That Chom Thong. A regular minibus running to the Park Headquarters (km 31) can also be taken at either place at a lower fare.
In case of driving by yourself, make sure that your vehicle is in good condition since you will have to go up and down steep hills. Although Mt Inthanon is accessible any time of the year, the best period is between November and February when it is always fine and clear.
Attractions in Doi Inthanon
Mae Klang (km 8) is a large waterfall and the easiest to get to. The waterfall is the first gate to Doi Inthanon National Park. It is beautiful and has water all year round; therefore many Thais come to swim, picnic and relax here on a sunny day.
At the side of the falls, there is a trekking trail to the Tourist Service Centre (km 9), where you can admire the exhibitions of nature and wildlife in Doi Inthanon.
Borichinda Cave (km 8.5) is located next to Mae Klang Waterfall. The limestone cave has beautiful stalactites and stalagmites and a small stream inside. When glittering in the sunlight, the cave is extremely gorgeous.
Wachirathan (km 21) is a big waterfall that can be reached by a short trail from the parking area. Near the waterfall, the slippery wooden walkway leading to the cliff is always wet and shrouded in mist.
The Park Headquarters & Doi Inthanon Royal Project (km 31) -- Set up to promote highland agriculture alternatives among the Karens and Hmongs, this Royal Project features temperate flower, fruit, and vegetable plots and their nursery labs. You can also visit Hmong’s flower plots at the front of the Royal Project. Delicious food made from fresh temperate vegetables and freshly blended coffee are served at the Royal Project Restaurant.
Hmong Market (km 31) -- Driving up to Doi Inthanon, you shouldn’t miss shopping for handmade products, temperate vegetables, flowers and freshly picked fruits from tribal sellers dressed in colourful embroidered costume at Hmong Market.
The Great Holy Relics Pagoda of Nobhamethanidol-Nabhapolbhumisiri (km 41.5) are constructed by the Thai Air Force and Thai people on the auspicious occasion of King Bhumibol’s 5th cycle birthday in 1987 and Queen Sirikit’s 5th cycle birthday in 1992 respectively. The Buddha’s relics are kept inside the Nobhamethanidol pagoda.
In the outer parts, the two pagodas feature beautiful tiled murals and vantage points where visitors can see or photograph a magnificent panoramic view of Doi Inthanon. The surrounding areas are decorated with beautiful temperate flowers and plants.
The Highest Spot in Thailand (km 48) -- Highway 1009 ends at the highest spot in Thailand (2,559 m) at the summit of Doi Inthanon. The mountaintop covered with patches of fog and frosted leaves is breathtaking. It is where the Radar Station of the Thai Air Force and the stupa of the last governor of Chiang Mai are located. And not far from the summit is a Tourist Public Relations Centre where the stories of Doi Inthanon in the past are exhibited. Tourists can learn the geography, biology, and forestry of the area as well as the wildlife that exists here.
Bird Watching and Trekking in Doi Inthanon
For nature trekkers and bird watchers, many trails are available in Doi Inthanon, some of which are old routes used by hilltribes. The cool climate and unique environment in Doi Inthanon make it home to the largest number of bird species in Thailand. According to surveys, there are no less than 380 species of birds living in the park, mostly in thick evergreen forest between 1,500 and 2,000 m in altitude. Over 190 species are reported as common residents here. The best places to watch birds are at the summit and around the bogs. Bird watching in Doi Inthanon can be done throughout the year.
The most popular period is probably during the cold season (October-January) since migratory birds are found there. Summer time (February - April) is when most resident species are calling, singing, and breeding which make them easily noticed.
The baby-feeding period between May and July is a quite interesting time for bird watchers as well. In August and September, the rain is a bit of a problem for bird watching.
Uncle Daeng’s Café (km 31) -- Another recommended place is the Bird Watching Centre at the Mae Klang Watershed Management Unit, or known as Uncle Daeng’s Café. This is where advice from bird watchers from all over the world and information on birds found in Doi Inthanon, including their route maps and photographs, are exchanged and kept for the next generations. Meals and a guide to take you to watch the birds are available here.
Kiu Mae Pan (km 42) is a terrific place for those who want to explore the sub-alpine ecosystem. The trail through the moist evergreen forest leads the trekkers to see the canyon and creeks. While walking pass the cliff edge covered with a blanket of fog, you will see Red Rhododendron, a very rare and beautiful native flower of the Himalayas and a variety of rare wild flowers.
The Red Rododendron is in bloom during the period between December and February. You will also witness some other native Himalayan plants thriving in an open filed with green grassland and sunlight. In the cool weather and scenic shady path, you will hear birds partying on the big trees. Species commonly found here are Green-tailed Sunbirds, Flycatchers and Vivid Niltava. Permission from the National Park Public Relations Centre and a guide for each group of 15 people are needed before entering the trail. This 3-km route was given an eco-tourism award in 2002 as it focuses on the real ecological characteristic and has signs to provide visitors with useful information. Kiu Mae Pan is closed from 1 June to 30 October each year.
Ang Ka (km 48), a combination of the highland peat swamp and hill evergreen forest situated at the mountaintop, features a special eco-system found nowhere else. Follow a 400-m-long wooden bridge; you will be introduced to a unique atmosphere of the Himalaya.
Ancient tall lichen-clad trees hidden amid seas of fog and rare species of flora and fauna together with hundreds of birds have enticed visitors to the Ang Ka for many years.The birds’ annual feast begins in the cold season when wild flowers, especially red Rhododendrons, dotted the forests. Green-tailed sunbirds, chestnut-tailed minlas, rufous-winged fulvettas and several others are commonly found here. This is a real bird lovers’ paradise.