Did you ever wonder what it looks like beyond Wat Doi Suthep? If you go a little bit higher up on the mountain you will pass Bhuping palace and then enter the smaller road leading to Doi Pui. I have considered doing some camping in Doi Pui for over ten years. But so far we have just gone there for sakura watching.
So, finally, we decided to go. Since the area is quite spacious and I heard from friends previous years that it was possible just go without any pre-booking. We tried. Even for the high season leading up to New Year. On arrival, approximately one hour drive from Chiang Mai the parking was a bit busy but 210 campers out of 300 were registered. When I woke up it was 299/300. Anyway, we arrived around 4 pm. The best camping spaces overlooking Chiang Mai were taken. However, it is a short walk past the small coffee shop and visitors centre the slope down where there is a restaurant and two pavilions overlooking Chiang Mai. People often worry about the small road you enter after Bhuping palace. It is paved but narrow. Drive slowly and be prepared for meeting other cars. Signal the horn now and then. During the cold, dry season it is a drive that doesn’t require a four-wheel-drive or so.
On arrival, my wife presented our vaccination passes. There was no need for any document for our 9-year-old daughter. We got numbers for the tents to stick on the tent, and they have a covid screening centre in the visitors centre. You don’t pay on arrival but when you check out. Many of the campers from Central and Southern Thailand come with all equipment and camping gear you can think of. Part of the experience is to cook up a muu Katta, a Thai Barbecue. Alcohol is as usual officially banned. Note, officially!
The elevation of the camping is 1454 m above sea level. So at night temperatures drop. Again this cold season the silver went down to around 12 degrees C at night. So, prepare some warm clothes. The restaurant in the camping area is open from 7 am to 8 pm and serves inexpensive and easy dishes.
It is possible to order a muu katta set for 499 baht as well. The coffee shop servers instant noodles and opened at 7 am, closed earlier than the restaurant though. There was also a small market at the site, selling Thai meatballs and avocados.
And one more thing, there is a good connection with mobile data in the camping. A lot of people also use the moble charger service available in the visitor centre.
Toilets at the visitor centre are good. But at times it gets dirty because the staff can’t keep up with cleaning when the camping gets busy.
So here you have a few cherry blossom trees, but otherwise, the Agriculture centre located 3 kilometres from the Camping is the highlight for experiencing the sakura. Apart from the social aspects of camping together. Sunset and especially sunrise is especially enjoyable here. We woke up at 6 am and waited for sunrise that was at around 7 am this time of the year. It is stunning when silhouettes of trees frame the big city and you see red and orange stripes on the horizon over the mountains in the distance.
It is not very long but well worth the walk up to the peak at 1685 metres. It takes a bit of an effort still for someone like me to go up. At the actual peak, there is no view. But if you continue for another ten minutes or so you come to the point where the bed watching trail meets the Doi Pui Camping trail. Continue and follow the stairs down and you will have stunning views of the hill tribes(Hmong)villages and fields and the mountains as a contrast to Chiang Mai on the other side. Very fresh air also. We did the walk around 8 am. we met just a few hikers and some bird watchers and then two farangs on mountain bikes. I would say that this trial was over my expectations, but it happened only after the official camping trial was done. One day I would love to continue to the Hmong village in the distance. Most Thai tourists checked out early morning. When we came back out tent was almost the only tent still standing.
My sister in law from Bangkok handled the check out procedures and came back with a smile, laughing a little bit. So, the cost of all this was 150 baht!!! For five persons!! We had our tents. But there are tents for rent as well. Since the sakura already started to bloom we drove to the Khun Chiang Kiang Agriculture centre. The road was in awful condition, with construction going on. And our Honda City struggled at times with some holes and wet mud but we were the only ones at the spot aport from two other tourists and the coffee shop was open. It is not in full bloom yet, but still enough to enjoy Hanami.
Lastly, we stopped at The Boat restaurant in Chiang Mai on our way home. Reliable, cheap, fast cooking and delicious.
Camping in Doi Pui is so enjoyable, doing the trail made it even more worth it. And it was just 1 hour and ten minutes from our house in Hang Dong. Incredible when you think how near these attractions we are, Ob Khan, Samoeng, Doi Pui, Doi Inthanon and Hot.