Asia : Southeast Asia : Thailand : Northern Thailand : Chiang Mai Province : Chiang Dao
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 2186 m (7174 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 1000 - 1200 Baht one-way (~$35US).
The easiest and cheapest way to get in and out of Chiang Dao, is to stay next to, or near Highway 107. Anywhere along side the highway, one can wave down a bus or Songtheaw to either go towards Chiang Mai (40 Baht), or Fang (40 Baht). Buses run quite often (between 6am - 6pm every half hour)
You can ask the driver to stop anywhere along the side of the road, which is ofter better than getting off at the Chiang Dao bus stop, where Sontheaw 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 the cheapest option 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, instead of asking the guest houses as they mark their prices sometime quite dramatically.
The town of Chiang Dao is adjacent to Chiang Dao National Park , which covers over 1000 sq.km. 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 semitropical, 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 in the park.
Doi Luang Chiang Dao () is a limestone mountain in the Chiang Dao Wildlife Reserve area, Amphoe Chiang Dao. This cone-shaped mountain is 2,195 metres from sea level, which makes it the third highest mountain in Thailand after Doi Inthanon and Doi Pha Hom Pok. Narrow plains on top of the mountain overlook spectacular views that include a sea of fog on the Amphoe 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 Wildlife Reserve Division, Royal Forest Department. It must arranged at least 2 weeks before travelling. Call 0 2561 2947 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. 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.
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.
Every Tuesday morning the town has a big market with many hilltribe people coming down to trade.
There are also a few Thai Karaoke Bars in and around Chiang Dao, for those who are a little more adventerous.
Chiang Dao now offers quite a few guesthouses and resorts, some located right near the Chiang Dao - Fang Highway, others near the bypass or near the cave and mountain temple. There's no luxury accommodation though, since the Baan Krating resort closed in 2007.