Sunday, February 01, 2009

Hiking to Doi Suthep via Wat Phalad

Guidelines, a free tourist monthly in Chiang Mai, had an article in the December issue on the trail to Wat Doi Suthep, the temple on the mountain above Chiang Mai. I can't find the article by Oliver Hargreaves itself on line, but it was the encouragement and support we needed to find the trail and make it to the top yesterday.

The trail begins not far from our place so we walked Suthep Road to the end of the University wall and turned right, then soon, up the hill.
The trail itself starts near the TV station. You can just barely see the tower in the lower right where the arrow points.

We passed the back entrance to the zoo. Although it says entrance to the zoo, he said you couldn't come in this way without a ticket and the tickets were at the other entrance. But we continued up the road to the left.
On the right is the entrance to the tv station. You can just see the brown sign on the left in the greenery.

The trail goes up. The map in the Hargreaves article suggests a climb of about 600 meters and I'm guessing about 3-5 kilometers distance.
While it was cool in the shade, it was warm walking up in the sunny parts.

Ah, the power of concentration. J chose the safe way across. I had no problem where the log was on the ground, but when it went over air, I paused. It was silly, just concentration. I got across fine. We both walked it without any problem on the way back.

Then I struggled through a sign in Thai that talked about a 100 year old bridge on the trail to Wat Doi Suthep. The log didn't seem that old. But then I looked up and there, right in front of me was the bridge. And we were now on the grounds of Wat Phalad. Clearly this temple has been recently renovated. A delightful spot along the creek in the woods. Almost no people - we did see a monk - and a few cats.

It's hard to figure out which leg is the cat, which is the shadow in the picture on the right.

It wasn't clear which way to go past the Wat. I think there was a small road to the main road, but we tried the trail on past the Wat. Fortunately we met two guys coming down the steep incline who told us after we cross the road, there was a sign in Thai. The trail was on the right of the sign, not the left where the waterfall was. OK, that seems easy.

After being in the woods, we were suddenly back in the world of cars briefly. I looked for a sign that said which way the trail went.

We found the waterfall, but the trail didn't seem to go anywhere. We went to the right, but I didn't see a trail sign. Then I realized that they meant the big sign warning about forest fires. Just a misinterpretation. I assumed that because they said the sign was in Thai, that they didn't know which way to go. But this had a big picture and was clearly not a trail sign and so I hadn't considered it to be 'the sign' they meant.

Here you can see the sign. The waterfall is to the left and the trail is on the far right where the little black arrow is pointing at J's feet.

The trail went up steeply at first, but there were steps, sort of, carved into the sandy soil. I would go on up ahead and then stop and listen to the birds and watch the butterflies and flowers until J caught up and passed me.

This second part of the trail (after crossing the road) followed a powerline. For a while, one of the lines dangled close to and then on the road. We passed another couple at this point. I think we saw a total of four other people on the trail over several hours up and down.

We got into a thick forest.

This guy was hard to catch on camera. He did hold still a while but it was in the shade and holding the camera still wasn't easy and the first couple of shots were blurry and this one isn't perfect. There was another damselfly that had a yellow head and tail, but that picture is too bad to post.

I figured it would take three or four people to circle the girth of this tree.

And then, after another short but steep climb, we were back into the world of traffic, just down the road from the entrance to Wat Doi Suthep.

We were hungry and thirsty and enjoyed Khao Soy while watching people climb up the steps to the Temple. We decided we enjoyed the peace of Wat Phalat better.

There were no shops at Wat Phalat.

Going back was much faster. The black cat was still at Wat Phalad when we got back there.

And as we got near the trailhead, we could see Chiang Mai, bathed in the late afternoon sun that we had lost long ago climbing down the east side of the mountain.


  1. Thank you very much for this wonderful map !

  2. Hello!

    Thank you very much for such detailed and visual description, me and my friend repeated this path, then me and my wife with our daughter in baby backpack) performed a short hike to Wat Phalad and back (suddenly little scorpion bite my wife in Wat, in "Low your Ego" place, so we rolled down in 5-7 minutes like crazy).

    This is route on map, tracked by mobile GPS app:

    Thanks again!

  3. Sam, glad this is still helpful in 2011. And thanks for the gps/photo link, that is cool.


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