Thailand's North


by Stuart Cavaliero, UK (March 03)

Global Mark : 16.72

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


4 5 4 3 4 5 5 4 3 16.44

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
6 100% 100% 100% ? 17.00

Description : 
A very authentic place surrounded with Hilltribes, with friendly people, stunning mountain views (particularly from Chiang Dao Cave Village), nice walks up and around the Doi Chiang Dao National Park

Comments :  This place is probably not for very low budget travellers, but for those with a bit of cash, quality is good. Not much English is spoken in this area.

What to do ?  Trekking arranged from local guesthouses or resorts / Hiking around the abundant nature in 
the national park / Birdwatching (over 300 species can be seen locally) / Elephant riding or  shows / Bamboo rafting / Meditation (Chiang Dao Cave Village has a Hindu Ashram with a resident Guru, the nearby temple also has 
meditating and buddhism teaching) / Cycling (there are lots of nice areas to explore). / And of course caving! It's most famous attraction is Chiang Dao Caves which attracts a high number of tourists. It is a nice cave with lots of interesting formations, but sadly this is most visitors only experience of this lovely area.

What you may not like ?  Staying in Chiang Dao Town, though it has charm (how many Thai towns have no 
seven eleven?) , it has a lot of traffic, the accommodation is mainly aimed at Thai tourists, most Western 
travelers head for Chiang Dao Cave village or one of the out of town accommodation options. It may be too quiet 
in Chiang Dao Cave Village for some people. It is not a party town, although alcohol does get consumed until 
the early hours on occasion.

How long ? You can easily spend 4 to 5 days in and around Chiang Dao. Having your own motorbike 
rented from Chiang Mai increases your options. 

Where to stay ? 

  • Chiang Dao Lodge 4 km South of Chiang Dao Town. Homestay - a single teak house for 400B run by Tim and her English husband Steve
  • The Country Home Resort Chiang Dao Town. Bungalows and Homestay from 500B-6000B set in a near botanical garden.
  • Pieng Dao Hotel Chiang Dao Town. Cheap Hotel with basic rooms from 100B 
  • Chiang Dao Inn Hotel Chiang Dao Town. Standard Hotel with rooms from 600B. 
  • Malee's Nature Lovers Bungalows Chiang Dao Cave Village. Bungalows in a nice garden from 300B, Dormitory 100B - Popular with budget travellers. Good information and can make tour arrangements.
  • Chiang Dao Nest Chiang Dao Cave Village. Bungalows 250B - New place. Clean and comfortable. Run by a Thai lady and her English husband. Great setting, and very high quality food. Hilltribe homestays arranged from here.
  • Rim Doi Resort 4km north of Chiang Dao Town. Bungalows from 600B - 2000B. Usual Resort quality 
  • Chiang Dao Hill Resort 30km north of Chiang Dao Town. Bungalows from 700B - 2000B A handy but expensive stop over between Chiang Dao and Tha Ton. Beautiful setting.

Where to eat ? Various places in town on the high street. Chiang Dao Nest has an exceptional kitchen. 

Markets ? Morning market 6.30 in Chiang Dao Town: quite interesting, but not hugely special, a few bugs, pigs 
heads, etc. Tuerday Market : Well worth a visit. Hilltribes from the surrounding mountains come down to sell 
and buy their wares. Not intended for tourists, and all the more interesting because of it.

Other ? There is a very nice temple in Chiang dao Cave Village. The area is surrounded with Hilltribes. Many Lisu who still wear traditonal costume. (The young Lisu girls have started to make really funky modern interpretations of their traditional dress.) 

Festivals ? Loi Kratong is very special in Chiang Dao Town. Temple festivals also great fun. Lisu & Lahu new year in the villages around are also highly enjoyable.

Internet / phone ?  At Malee's , Chiang Dao Nest and Chiang Dao Lodge.

Backpacker's Tips : Kurt Gruen, German/Canadian, owner of Mon and Kurt's restaurant described below (April 06)

 Chiang Dao has changed a little in the past few month. In the beginning of February of 2006, a new Thai - German Restaurant has opened just after the Fang kilometre stone 79. (2.5km past the Chiang Dao 7-11, on highway 107 going towards Fang). The food is very good and prices are geared towards the budget traveller. The portions are huge and refills for their fresh brewed coffee are free. They also plan to start building their "Hippy (Pai) Style" Resort right by the Ping River, where they recently purchased property.

I would also like to mention that the prices for the resorts in Chiang Dao have changed since Steward's original post. Some are higher and some are lower now. At the moment there is one place that only charges 150 Baht per night, but I would not recommend it. Some charge 350 Baht per night ( I was told by one or our Customers that the Rimdoi resort has nice rooms for 350Baht with a fan and bathroom). There is also a new place called Rainbow, which has a few bungalows and also rooms for rent in a nice house on their property. They also have a restaurant with a good Thai cook.

If you are willing to spend a few extra dollars, I would still recommend Chiang Dao Nest 1. The food there is fantastic and their bungalows are located in a nice, quiet area, not far from the Chiang Dao cave. I believe that they will also look after your trekking needs there. We have eaten there several times and have talked to the owner, who is a very nice lady and has received a lot of her training in cooking overseas. She also bakes her own buns, which is a really nice touch.

We also get a lot of customers who stay at Mallee's. I have not had a chance to visit her and her bungalows, but our customers speak highly of her and are happy with the accommodations.

Quite a few Foreigners have moved to Chiang Dao in recent years and there is starting to be quite a little community of us "Farangs".

One thing that I have noticed about Chiang Dao is, that Thai businesses here are professional and take very good care of you. From visiting the local internet shop (at the north end of town across from the afternoon market, next to the school), where the owner speaks English and besides letting you use good ADSL internet for 15 Baht per hour, also does a great job at menus and business cards... to the friendly Thai couple who have a small Thai style gasoline pump and convenience store, located right across the street from Mon and Kurt's restaurant, who will fix your bike, TV antenna or waterpump in a very short time and at very reasonable prices.

There is are also several good websites specifically geared towards Chiang Dao:  and .

I am sure that I have left out lots, but hopefully, I will have time in the near future for new updates about our beautiful little town and it's people.

How to reach ?

By Bus - From Chang Puak Bus Station in Chiang Mai take the bus to Tha Ton or Fang (bus leaves every 30 mins until 5pm) . Ask to be dropped off at Chiang Dao, outside Alien bar. From here you can walk to the accommodation in town or get a taxi to the Chiang Dao Cave Village / Out of town places(approx 80 baht for 1 person, 100 Baht for 2 people) . 

By Car / Cycle - Take highway 107 North from Chiang Mai towards Fang, At 77km you are, in Chiang Dao town. To get to Chiang Dao Cave Village you take a left turn . The caves are about 5km down this road, the accommodationis 1.5km past the caves. 

Your trip to the next destination ? Tha Ton heading north, buses every 30 mins.

Important note from the writer: OK. I'll come clean, I am actually the owner of Chiang Dao Nest. However, I am also the self proclaimed tourist ambassador for the Chiang Dao area (nobody else is doing it!). I don't think I have been too biased. It is a lovely place and can quite comfortably accommodate a few more visitors without getting "ruined". People who come here love it. I have been living here since September last year. My website