Do you remember the photo with Thai people posing with French log Alp cabins in a pine forest? It is here. This pine forest reserve has a 50-year history, and it is mainly used as a retreat area for fresh and cool air. The more or less stylish cabins that come in different designs usually require very early bookings, especially for weekends or national holidays. But you can go camping in Doi Bo Luang as well. It is inexpensive and gratifying.
Driving to Bo Luang
We took off just after 2 pm driving from Hang Dong on the road 108 towards Doi Inthanon but continuing to Hot/Mae Sariang and on the long way to Mae Hong Son. It was an effortless drive now since the road has been widened and only the last forty minutes or so is curvy. After turning up to the mountains and following the impressive Mae Chaem river, the road is very scenic. The hills are embedded in the forest, and I especially enjoy the teak trees along the route.
We got the location from Bo Luang Facebook page, but it is not entirely accurate. The spot indicated is a small “Larp” restaurant, so you need to go another 4-5 kilometres on the same road up the mountain, and you will see the sign of Bo Luang on your left side. First, you will pass the Bo Kaeo Pine garden. It means that you are on the right way. Driving there took us an enjoyable two hours.
Booking a night in Doi Bo Luang Forest Reserve
If you are trying to book any of the cabins or houses, try to tall them or contact them on Line or Facebook. Communicating in Thai is a great advantage. For camping, it should not be necessary to do any pre-arrangements unless it is a long weekend and a lot of crowds.
They offer three camping zones that have access to clean toilets and showers. Some people drive further into the forest, but I am not sure how acceptable it is. When we camped, it was just six tents in total. The price is 100 baht per person if you bring your own tent. The cabins vary in price from 800 baht++ depending on the size.
What to to bring/facilities
Except for camping gear, we brought a small gas stove and stopped on the way to buy some cup noodles and instant coffee.
But actually, you don’t have to get food. Th A restaurant is available in the park. It is inexpensive, and they offer quite a few easy one dish choices of Thai food.
Most Thai people pre-order the Thai Muu Katta BBQ for 299 baht. The restaurant is just at the entrance, and it is within walking distance from the camping zones as well. Alcohol is available. A large Leo was 70 baht. The area is not a national park.
Remember, you need to show vaccination proof at the entrance/check-in and ID card/passport. A light jacket is recommended and will be helpful in the evening and early morning.
There is also a small coffee shop open from 8 am to 5 pm just by the park entrance.
They have a list of rules that you must agree on by signing a document. It is basically to stay quiet after 10 pm. Park your car at designated car parking areas. Don’t litter and don’t disturb others.
We were confused because the staff wrote the number six on our registration document. We thought it meant zone six. But it was just a number; I guess it referred to us being the 6th camper of the day. You can pick any spot available in zone 1-3.
One of the administration staff asked politely how our sleep was. If it was cold or not? He also mentioned the ghost of the Pine forest. He had never met the ghost, but many people did. We did not encounter any, as far as we know.
On the way home, we made a short stop at Op Luang National park entrance to have breakfast at a restaurant. We will camp there on a later occasion. Ten years or so, I did a nice hike in there. But until now I haven’t camped there. It is a tent charge of 30 baht if you bring your own. We also stopped at Jam Jai Cafe and a restaurant just by the Mae Chaem river. They offer glamping for 2000/2300 on weekends. Or camping by the river 100 baht per person(own tent).
We just had a coffee. Their old building seemed a bit worn, but glamping by the river should be ok in high season with muu katta in the night. We found the glamping price a bit expensive, though.
When to go
This area is popular year-round. The weather is pleasant most of the time. People that like mist enjoy the rainy season. Nevertheless, branches can fall on the tent during windy circumstances. The cold season is dry and fresh. It went down to around 12 degrees centigrades when we were there. The cold season between November and February is the Thai high season.
Experiencing Doi Bo Luang
The place is a major Instagram hotspot. Take photos of acorns and wooden cabins in the mist—something very exotic for Thailand. The park itself is more of a monoculture with tall what they say “Mediterranean” pine trees, but there are sounds from nature, birds and so on.
For me, the feeling was like being in a Swedish forest in late summer. The fragrance of the trees, cool weather, and the sun not burning you but gently sipping through the trees. The Bo Luang park is a great place to relax. There is not much to do in that sense. Just enjoy a campfire and relax. With Dtac, our 4G worked well in the area, but the connection was lost now and then while driving here on the winding roads.