Doi Inthanon National Park
This is a place well worth a visit when you are in Chiang Mai. It is easily done in a day trip.
It is the highest mountain in Thailand,at 2565 metres (8415 feet), just a little higher than Australia's highest (Mt Kosciuszko) which is 7310 feet or 2228 metres,and although it is relatively cold up top, it never snows there.
Mid-day temperatures hover about 10 to 12 degrees Celsius during the day (there is a thermometer at the top).
To get there, you can either drive yourself, hire a car through your hotel or a travel agent, join an organised minibus tour, or be a little adventurous and hire a songthaew for the day. A songthaew (two bench open-air taxi) will cost you about 2,000 baht for the day, including petrol (ask first!)
A minibus tour will cost around 1,100-1,200 baht with an English-speaking guide. The trip includes visits to the peak, two waterfalls, twin chedis, a royal development project, and a Karen village (somewhat uninspiring). The price also includes all entry fees. It is far cheaper to book direct with the tour operator rather than through a hotel or agent. The tour is from approx 08:30 to 16:30. All fees and (indifferent) lunch are included and you will be picked up and dropped off at your hotel (costs as at June 2011 using Journey Tours of Chiang Mai). The Journey Tours operation is professional and has very safe drivers. It is likely the other operators have similar standards.
It takes two to three hours to get there, and you will pay the entry fee for each person (not the driver,if it is a hire),and also the car entry fee. For farangs (Westerners) admission is 300 baht, for Thais 50 baht, and for the car 30 baht.
As you drive up the winding road to the top it will become steadily cooler. At the top you can walk around and check out the sights there. There is a shop for souvenirs and also for drinks and snacks. (also toilets).
Keep in mind that in the wet season, there is near-perpetual cloud there, so you can see little.
On your way back you will stop at the twin chedis (stupas) on the right part way down near the top. The view is tremendous. The chedis are well worth a look, and the gardens are beautiful. There is an entry fee but it is reasonable. Escalators are available to those who do not want to walk up the many steps.
Towards the bottom of the mountain to the left there is a beautiful waterfall (with shops and toilets, (called "Vatchirathan"?), and a little further just beyond the park entrance is another on the right, with a market. Besides Vatchirathan/Wachirathan waterfall, you may also find one of the biggest waterfalls:- Mae Ya Waterfall in the park. Although it's situated in the park to explore it, you have to go to another different entrance at the park. Keep you entrance ticket, as you can access all the entrances with the same ticket on the same day. If not, you may have to purchase a new ticket.
A little further along on the left is a hill tribe village, and you can watch and buy their weavings.
On the way back to Chiang Mai, you may also want to visit either the Ganesh Temple/Museum (well worth a look even if you are not Hindu or Buddhist), or the Umbrella Factory (very touristy.)
Make sure you book your planned itinerary with all potential stops before you hire the driver or he will charge you extra.
You should not miss the jungle trekking at Kew Mae Pan Nature Trail. It's compulsory to hire a guide at the entrance, which is only about 200 baht per group. Where as if you hire guide for the trek at Chiang Mai, it's about 600 baht per person. The scenery at the trail is well worth it.
Flora and fauna