It is quite impossible to miss Doi Sutheap when you are in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
You see it when the moment you arrive at Chiang Mai International Airport. You see it when you take the public transport to just about everywhere you go. And you can even see it when you are droppin a deuce in a throne room at Central Shopping Mall off Huay Kaew Road.
Doi Suthep National Park covers a vast 262 km² across mountain and forest ranges in three districts in Chiang Mai province. Kru Ba Sri Wichai and the Huai Kaew Waterfall are two tourist attractions here. It also encompasses hills like Doi Suthep, Doi Pui and Doi Buak Ha.
Chiang Mai Province is a few kilometers north of Chiang Mai City. Doi Suthep hill is a part of Thanon Thong Chai Range with granite bed. Huai Kaew Waterfall, a waterfall and Kru Ba Sri Wichai, Buddhist monument are major attractions. Doi Suthep is popular due to the renowned Wat Phra That Di Suthep and golden pagoda shrines. Both these shrines are religiously revered.
Hmong children in their traditional costumes wait for the tourist to take photographs with them. The price? “Pay what you want, sir.”
Visitors can leave a reminder of their visit by purchasing a piece of tile and writing their wishes on it. It will be used later for the building of a new pagoda on the premises.
Wearing modest attire is a must if you plan to visit Wat. Pants are ideal, though shorts are allowed if they’re knee length. Remember: sleeveless tops aren’t allowed!
November – February is where the climate is most comfortable and the ideal time to visit this national park. March – May are hotter and can be suitable if you don’t mind higher temperatures while you explore. Around April 15th comes the Thai New Year and it is a celebration to witness. May – November is rainy and best avoided.
The Doi Sutheap National Park can be visited anytime of the year and is open from 7:00 am – 5:00 pm at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (hours are changed quite often) and 8:30 am – 4:15 pm at Bhubing Palace.
Non-Thai visitors are charged ฿30 at Wat and ฿50 for visiting the palace. At Monthatarn Waterfall they charge ฿200 fee, though other tourist attractions here are free.
Doi Pui is known for numerous dirt roads and perfect hiking trails if you love hiking. I was unable to trek this trail as it was an impromptu visit to the national park and my driver was not prepared to wait 2 hours for me to trek the trail by foot.
Originally this national park was called Doi Aoy Chang and later renamed as Doi Suthep-Pui, a name derived from the mountain where the park is situated. It was named after a hermit Sudeva who lived on the mountain for several years.
Deciduous evergreen forests cover the mountain range. Deciduous is divided into deciduous dipterocarp – oak forest (dry areas) and mixed evergreen deciduous forest, where gullies or streams are present. Dipterocarpaceae, Magnoliaceae, and Fagaceae are more common here.
As for the wildlife, wild boar, muntjac, macaque, and other mammals can be seen. Though they’re not very visible, these are the most common animals here. As for birds, 300 or more species are found here. Birds include red junglefowl, eagles, pheasants, parrots, minivets, and bulbuls.
View point overlooking the city. No wonder it is impossible to miss Doi Sutheap when you are in Chiang Mai town!
Overall, this is a park you must visit when heading to Thailand. The forest areas around the mountain ensure you can enjoy scenic views along the trail and it is a pleasure to behold for any nature lover.