Introducing Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
Sixteen kilometres northwest of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep (1676m), a peak named after the hermit Sudeva, who lived on the mountain’s slopes for many years. Near its summit is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (entrance fee 30B, tram fee 20B); first established in 1383 under King Keu Naone, it is one of the north’s most sacred temples. At the end of the winding road up the mountain, a staircase of 306 steps leads to the wat. You also have the option of riding a tram from the parking lot to the wat grounds.
At the top, weather permitting, there are some fine views of Chiang Mai. Inside the cloister is an exquisite Lanna-style, copper-plated chedi topped by a five-tiered gold umbrella – one of the holiest chedi in Thailand.
Within the monastery compound, the International Buddhism Center (IBC;
About 4km beyond Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is Phra Tamnak Phu Phing, a winter palace for the royal family with palace gardens (admission 50B;
The road that passes the palace splits off to the left, stopping at the peak of Doi Pui. From there, a road proceeds for a couple of kilometres to Ban Doi Pui, a Hmong hill-tribe village. Don’t expect much evidence of village life here though – it is basically a paved market selling Hmong crafts and other souvenirs, and there are some Nepalese stalls. There is a tiny museum (10B) giving some information about hill tribes and opium production.
Most visitors do a quick tour of the temple, the Hmong village and perhaps the winter palace grounds, altogether missing the surrounding park. This 265-sq-km reserve (adult/child under 14 yrs 200/100B;
There are extensive hiking trails in the park, including one that climbs the 1685m Doi Pui; the summit is a favourite picnic spot. If you’re cycling or driving to the summit, you can stop off along the way at Nam Tok Monthathon (admission adult/child 400/200B;
Other trails pass Hmong villages that rarely get foreign visitors. For a less commercialised Hmong village than Doi Pui, instead of going left on the road past the palace head right. Look out for the sign saying ‘Kun Chang Kian Mong Village – 7km’. The road is paved until you hit the Doi Pui camp ground, and from there it is dirt track for 3km to the village (difficult to travel along in the rainy season). In between the camp ground and the village is a coffee plantation where you can stop and have a cup of coffee or stay the night in basic accommodation (room 150B) with fantastic views.
Accommodation in the national park includes smart bungalows (