Chiang Dao lies above the Menam Ping gorge on the green slopes of Doi Chiang Dao mountain. The name means "City of Stars", and derives from its earlier name Piang Dao, or "(at the) level of the stars". True to the name, limestone peaks reaching a height of 2,186 m (7,174 ft) make Chiang Dao an impressive area. The village is a quiet little picturesque area, with a quaint northern Thailand feel.
The nearest major airport is in Chiang Mai. A metered, air conditioned taxi will cost about 1,000-1,200 baht one-way.
The easiest and cheapest way to get in and out of Chiang Dao is to stay next to, or near, Hwy 107. Anywhere along side the highway, one can wave down a bus or songthaew to either go towards Chiang Mai (40 baht), or Fang (40 baht). Buses run quite often (between 06:00-18:00 every half hour).
There are buses six times daily from Chiang Mai to Tha Ton, which stop at Chiang Dao along the way. 90 minutes, 40 baht.
You can ask the driver to stop anywhere along the side of the road, which is often better than getting off at the Chiang Dao bus stop, where songthaew drivers charge 100 baht or more to take you one-way to a resort.
Most guesthouses can arrange motorcycles for rent for around 200-300 baht/day. This is is one of the cheapest options as there are very few taxis in the town and they employ a price fixing strategy. Be prepared to pay 150 baht per ride from one of these regardless of how much you barter.
Taxis usually stay in town close to the 7-11. Better to negotiate with taxi drivers directly, rather than asking at your guest house as they mark up their prices sometimes quite dramatically.
Places such as Mon and Kurt's Restaurant and Guest house, also rent reliable bicycles and mountain bikes (100 baht per day/24 hours).
Tip: If you are travelling Hwy 107, the songthaews that travel there are only 10 baht within the Chiang Dao area all the way to the Muang Ngai turnoff, north of town.
Birdwatching Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows cater to bird watchers and are very helpful with information.
Chiang Dao Cave (ถ้ำเชียงดาว Tham Chiang Dao), 5 km off the main highway. The best-known attraction here, offering 12 km of stalactite-laden caves, although only five of the caverns are accessible to the public. Chambers are large, but lack spectacular decorations. Admission: electricity fee is 40 baht. You can tour the lighted part of the cave alone, or hire a guide with a lantern to view the unlit caverns. It will cost you 100 baht per group (goes to the temple?), plus the guide will expect the tip of about 100 baht/person. Bringing your own flashlight is recommended.
Hot springs The original hot springs consisted of several small concrete basins fed from a pipe. A few years ago the friendly owner, Ura, of Take Restaurant, built two very nice Japanese gardens, with bamboo gazebos, and a changing room, showers, and toilets. There is also a small restaurant on-site. The concrete basins, further up the road, are free to use, while the fee for the Japanese Garden is 100 Baht.
San Phakia is a spot for overnight camping located on the mountain with a fantastic view over Doi Luang Chiang Dao and the valley below. In January it's a good place to see cherry blossoms. Tents, sleeping mattresses, and blankets are available for rent (300 baht/tent). A few bungalows are also available. Access via 24 km dirt road. Turn off the main road at Mae Na. Drivable on a small bike, but not on a heavier bikes with street tires.
Tuesday Morning Market Located in downtown Chiang Dao, on Hwy 107, offers colourful displays, local and hill tribe goods and many great deals. A great way to spend a Tuesday morning in Chiang Dao.
Waterfall in Chiang Dao National Park
Doi Luang Chiang Dao (ดอยหลวงเชียดางว). At 2,225 m, this is the highest peak in the area (and the third-highest in all of Thailand after Doi Inthanon and Doi Pha Hom Pok) and doable as a two-day trip. It is a limestone mountain in the Chiang Dao Wildlife Reserve area. Narrow plains on top of the mountain overlook spectacular views that include a sea of fog on the Chiang Dao side, Doi Sam Phi Nong, the Chiang Dao mountain range, and the far end of Doi Inthanon. The peak is cool and windy. It is full of rare highland flowers, birds, and butterflies. Visiting Doi Chiang Dao needs an approval letter from the Director of the Wildlife Reserve Division, Royal Forest Department. It must arranged at least 2 weeks before travelling. Call +66 25 612 947 for more information.
Getting there: The peak is accessible on foot. At Chiang Dao cave, guides, porters, and chartered transfers to the starting point of the trail are available. A rented local truck costs around 900 baht and a porter is 300 baht per person. There are no tourist facilities on Chiang Dao mountain. Visitors must bring their own sleeping bags, food, and water. If you are a very fit trekker you might be able to climb up and down in one day if you start very early. There is a small village with lodging near the start of the northern trail, easily accessible on a motorbike via paved road.
Descending the mountain is possible on the trail near Ban Tham, which is located near Chiang Dao cave. The trail is rather steep. Nevertheless, it could shorten the walking distance upon descending. It is quite difficult to climb up.
Pha Daeng National Park, . The town of Chiang Dao is adjacent to the park, which covers over 1,000 square kilometres of the stunning craggy mountains in the area. Being fairly high up, it's noticeably cooler and drier than on the plains and can get downright cold in the winter. The local flora are semi-tropical, with extensive bamboo forests and a number of mountain streams and waterfalls. The area is popular for trekking, as in addition to the mountain views, there are many Lisu and Karen hill tribe villages scattered throughout the park.
Chiang Dao Nest Tours and Trekking, . Offers a wide variety of 2-3 day treks in the national park. Small, private groups led by local hill tribe guides.Roughly 1,000 baht/person/day, all-inclusive.
Every Tuesday morning the town has a big market with many hill tribe people coming down to trade.
Chiang Dao Nest (Western food) and Chiang Dao Nest 2 (Thai food), (on Hwy 107 at km72, in Chiang Dao, just after the Chiang Dao Inn Hotel, turn left towards Chiang Dao Cave and Malee's Resort.). Delicious, fresh, local ingredients, high quality. Worth a stop even if you're not staying at the nest. Beautiful setting in the mountains to boot.
Haniba Coffee, (opposite PTT gas station). Nice coffee shop. Cheesecakes!
Malee's Nature Resort, (close to Chiang Dao Cave), ☎ +66 81 961 8387, . Reasonably priced selection of Thai and Western foods. A great breakfast with fresh home made bread and jams. Cosy garden with great views. Also offers sturdy, well-maintained bungalows with private bathrooms. Cheapest rooms (200 baht) have shared bathroom and a fan. Family and honeymoon suites are also available. The location offers a pool in a cosy garden with views of the surrounding mountains. Free Wi-Fi. There are detailed maps of the area on display and there is a bird sightings log.
Mon and Kurt's Restaurant and Guesthouse, Chiang Dao (across the street from the Chiang Dao Inn Hotel), ☎ +66 84 173 9975, . 10:00-22:00, Tu-Su. Mon, the owner, serves delicious Western, Thai, and vegetarian food, along with her mouth watering cheesecakes. Nightly BBQ's. She also brews a great cup of coffee. You may have to wait for a while for your food and it is recommended that you make reservations on weekends because the place is quite popular with local expats as well as Thais. It is well-worth the wait! Fast, free Wi-Fi, air conditioned inside during hot season. Large selection of imported beers and wines. Every evening, starting at 16:00 and also during the Tuesday Morning Market, Mon sells her delicious khanom Jeen, for 20 baht per bowl. Guest house has clean, new, spacious rooms. Comfortable beds with clean, quality sheets and towels. Air Conditioned, 500 baht, fan room, 400 baht. Conveniently located at the first class (Bangkok) bus stop. Free, hi-speed Wi-Fi in all the rooms and in the restaurant. Beautiful mountain views from rooms and nice garden sitting area, outside the air conditioned restaurant downstairs. Bar offers a good selection of wine and imported beers, along with shooters and highballs. They use quality alcohol. (Jose Quervo Especial Tequila, Jack Daniel's, Jaegermeister, Russian vodka, etc.) They are conveniently located downtown, have a happy hour, between 12:00-14:00 and 17:00-19:00 (big bottles of Chang, Chang Export, and Leo for only 50 baht).(N19 22.369,E98 57.964)
Take Cafe. Japanese restaurant, run by a Japanese gentleman and his wife on the road between Chiang Dao village and the cave. Very reasonable prices, jovial host, and enjoyable, inexpensive Japanese food.
Restaurants and guest houses are the places to drink in Chiang Dao. There are also several karaoke bars scattered throughout the town.
Chiang Dao Hut, ☎ +66 87 208 1269 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . A small, new, cosy, guest house run by a young friendly Thai couple who have had many years of hotel experience in Chiang Mai and speak reasonable English. There are 2 fairly large, simple but clean wooden bungalows (one double, one twin) each with fan, attached bathroom and hot shower. They have a small cafe at the front which is a great place to relax with a latte, fruit shake, or some Western or Thai food like pizza, spaghetti, pad Thai, etc.380 baht (low-season)-580 baht (high).
Nature Home. A nice, quiet place, offering nice rooms with private bath. The owners are a local couple who speak no English but are very friendly. If you are lucky, you might get some kind of free breakfast in the morning.400 baht.
Orange buses (every hour, 40 baht) and orange songthaews (every 30 minutes, 40 baht), pass through Chiang Dao on Hwy 107. You can wave them down anywhere and they will stop for you, if not full already.
VIP (32 seat sleeper), first class, air conditioned bus, leaves at 18:30 (664 baht), in front of Mon and Kurt's Restaurant/Guest House, for Bangkok. Arrives at approximately 05:00 in Bangkok.
Regular 52 seat sleeper bus leaves from in front of Mon and Kurt's Restaurant (reserve tickets across the street, at local mini-mart) as follows:
Leaves Chiang Dao 08:30, arrives in Bangkok 20:00. 569 baht.
Leaves Chiang Dao 19:30, arrives in Bangkok 07:00. 569 baht.
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