Get out of the city and explore the north of Thailand with Citylife every month in our newest column, Road Trip! This month’s road trip is to the leafy land of Phrao, a district just an hour or so northeast of Chiang Mai. So grab a travel buddy and a motorbike (don’t forget your helmet, the traffic police are everywhere) and let’s go!
Head out on the 1001 towards Phrao and as you near the Chiang Mai-Phrao Junction, stop off for a refreshing dip at the Bua Tong Waterfall (น้ำตกบัวตอง GPS 19.03575,99.135204) where you can literally run up and down the limestone-coated falls without fear of slipping.The tree-lined falls are a fun place to linger and the white rocks reflect rainbow colourswhich sparkle in the sun.
Next, check out Tad Meuyin (น้ำตกตาดเหมย GPS 18.248287,98.594674) in Longkod Sub-District, a beautiful and little-visited waterfall surrounded by rhododendrons in the winter months.
Then head toward Wat Doi Mae Pang (วัดดอยแม่ปั๋ง GPS 19.217484,99.212046), home of the late Luang Pu Waen (a monk who, it was claimed, surprised an airplane pilot in the late seventies when he, ahem, levitated…). In fact, he was a wonderfully compassionate, friendly and wise monk, who at the time was by far the most famous in Thailand. His temple is a pilgrimage site where you can pay your respects to his rather eerily life-like wax statue.
Another quick stop, if you haven’t had your fill of waterfalls, is Mon Hin Lai (น้ำตกม่อนหินไหล GPS 19.240495,99.147636), where a nine-tiered waterfall comes with a stunning viewpoint as well as a one-kilometre “Nature Study” route which includes even more waterfalls, caves and limestone cliffs. This area is called Doi Mae Wa. (ดอยแม่วะ) The highlight of this area is the mammoth Pa Daeng Cave (ถ้ำผาแดง GPS 19.577896,99.059664), so large you can play football inside it under the stalactites.
Phrao is a lovely (and minimally-touristed) place for anyone who enjoys exploring the great outdoors, with plenty more hidden gems to uncover, so keep your eyes peeled along this route for turnoffs with well-marked signs leading to waterfalls, caves, hot springs, villagers and viewpoints. There are also many hotels, resorts, guesthouses, campsites and homestays available along the route as well as in Phrao town itself, so don’t hesitate to make a weekend of it.
To find out more road trip routes, check out the Citylife-produced “13 Unseen Routes in Chiang Mai” published by the Tourism Authority of Thailand (which you can pick up at the TAT office). Visit www.tourismthailand.org/chiangmai for more information.