Chiang Dao, Thailand

Photo by
Mattfromtexas

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What to See

Wat Tham Chiang Dao

Wat Tham Chiang Dao
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
Wat Tham Chiang Dao

There are two routes you can go inside the cave, one requires a guide (tip for guide + 100 baht for a lamp) and the other is included with your 40 baht entrance fee. The unguided route has more altars and Buddha statues, and the guided route is more natural cave formation. Try to time your entrance into the guided portion so that you are part of a small group or by yourself because the magic gets lost when you are with a large group of people.

Wat Tham Pha Plong

Wat Tham Pha Plong
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
Wat Tham Pha Plong

It's a beautiful temple in a beautiful setting. The highlight of my visit were the many Buddhist wisdoms encouraging me to complete the several hundred steps to the pagoda at the top of a hill, where the Great Monk Luang Poo Sim's life is commemorated. The pagoda/museum is built into the natural walls of the cave and includes many photos with English descriptions, which is a treat that is often not presented in traditional temples. The view is phenomenal. Don't miss it!

What to Do

Biking

Where to Rent Bikes in Chiang Dao
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago

If you're a frequent renter of bicycles on the road, you'll understand the value of having quality cycling equipment. The Swiss Thai-owned Malee's Nature Lover's Bungalows understand this too and have a fleet of mountain bikes all well-maintained and reasonably priced for your use. I heard from other travelers that other bike rental locations don't have as high quality of bikes as Malee's. Bikes cost 150 baht per day and you will appreciate spending your baht when you find yourself downshifting to take yet another hill on your 50-km journey into the hill tribe villages.

DIY Bike Tour of Chiang Dao's Hill Tribe Villages
by Mattfromtexas about 5 years ago
DIY Bike Tour of Chiang Dao's Hill Tribe Villages

Hopping on a bicycle and riding to the 5 hillside tribal villages outside of Chiang Dao (Muser, Palong, Akha, Lisu, Karen) is something I would definitely do again but would do a totally different way than the way I did it the first time. First, I would take a motorbike instead of a bicycle. The 50-km route to the villages is all subtlety uphill so that you feel like you suck at biking but in reality you are just going on an incline the whole way. Second, I would time my visit to arrive at the villages either earlier in the morning or later in the day so that I wouldn't be met by villagers trying to avoid the stifling sun. Third, some of these villages don't receive many visitors and are not sure how to welcome you. I would, therefore, have brought some sort of gifts to give the children to better ingratiate myself to the communities. All in all, I was happy to visit these communities and to see the simple life-style practiced by the hill tribes. Like anywhere else in Thailand, I was met with all smiles.

Where to Stay

Chiang Dao Village

Where to Stay in Chiang Dao
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
Where to Stay in Chiang Dao

I recommend staying in Chiang Dao Village instead of in Chiang Dao proper. The village is another 6 kms from Chiang Dao proper but puts you where you need to be to easily trek to the nearby caves, wildlife sanctuary, and wats. However you arrive, just follow the signs to Nest Mini Resort. Once in the village, you'll have just a handful of options to choose from: Nest, Nest 2, Chiang Mai Huts, and Malee's Nature Lover's Bungalows. Prices for a bungalow average 350-900+ baht. We were lucky to find a tent rental for 200 baht at Malee's and slept on the second floor of a back property house facing the mountains. Stargazing was incredible from there, and we were treated to the sounds of monks chanting in a nearby cave each morning. The temples also have free accommodation but only inquire if you truly want to study Buddha's teachings.

What to Eat

Restaurants

The Bacon Wrapped Asparagus!
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
The Bacon Wrapped Asparagus!

If you happen to be in Chiang Dao on a Thursday, do treat yourself to the all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner at Nest Mini Resort and Restaurant, a short walk from Chiang Dao Caves. For 345 baht per person, we feasted on salads, dips, olives, jalapenos, pasta with real cheese, grilled eggplant, all kinds of BBQed meats and, best of all, bacon-wrapped asparagus. Nom nom nom! See a sampling of Thursday's Big BBQ menu here: http://www.chiangdao.com/nest/food.htm. Drinks are where the money's at so keep that in mind.

Getting Around

Bus

Taking the Public Bus from Chiang Mai
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 5 years ago
Taking the Public Bus from Chiang Mai

Pretty much a straight shot from Chiang Mai with no real stops. Allot 1 1/2 hours. The pick-up in Chiang Mai is near the North Gate. From the Old City, walk through the gate, across the moat, to the first intersection with a light and turn right. There is a white domed landmark thing some Thais will point you to that is adjacent to the bus station. You'll see a bunch of yellow and red songthaews parked at a gas station. Ask around where you can buy a ticket to Chiang Dao, joke with the tuk tuk drivers and pay your 40 baht fare. You will be dropped off on the main road in Chiang Dao proper where you can then hitch a ride (lots of trucks) or pay for a taxi (150 baht) to Chiang Dao village near foothills to the caves. We stayed here and loved it.