Tag Archives: doi suthep

Rainy day at Tad Mok waterfall

A couple of weeks ago I went to Mae Sa waterfalls on the edge of Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. On the way back, I noticed a sign saying Tad Mok waterfall, 9 km. It was already too late to make the little side trip so I postponed the visit until the next suitable time.

A lot has changed in one month, since then. The rains have finally started in earnest – I am not a fan of the thundering water on the neighbour’s tin roof at night, but I realise how important the rain is in keeping the jungle alive and moist enough to slow down the spread of forest fires at the beginning of the hot season.

There was a brief gap in the rain this afternoon when I decided to set off, taking chances, carrying a change of dry clothes, and of course my precious raincoat. I have never understood why so many Thais are taken by surprise when the downpour comes and get drenched – of course we did, about 15 kms out of town. The rain was then on and off, so I decided to go on anyway, it’s just water.

The road to Tad Mok waterfall is off the Mae Rim – Samoeng road, one of those narrow rural roads that may be swallowed up by the jungle in any minute, it feels. The trees lean over the concrete and form a tunnel, drivers on motorcycles need to be really careful not to get hit on the face by a low branch. The undergrowth is also spilling onto the road, you can almost see it grow. There are small villages made up of mostly wooden houses along the road, the odd fancy resort, banana plantations, and mountains covered in mist, trees steaming clouds, deep, rich greens all around. Sometimes in the distance, ranges of mountains to the north and east, a real feel of wilderness, only half an hour away from downtown Chiang Mai. This contrast never ceases to amaze me.

Unfortunately, my camera was tucked away safe and dry well under my raincoat, so no photos of the scenery, again. Next time. The road seems to go on to Samoeng around the mountains so there will definitely be a next time.

When I got to the waterfall, the sun decided to shine on me for a few minutes before disappearing behind the clouds. There was absolutely not a soul around, so I did not dare to take a dip (in case something happens and I need to be pulled out). The falls are about four storeys high, and the stream is surprisingly narrow and insignificant both above and below the waterfall. Looks like a lot of splash for so little water. You can climb up to the top of the waterfall, and, slightly ignoring some warning signs, you can look down as well.

It is a little park, with a short walking trail, you can take it all in within an hour, including a picnic. There are no shops – maybe on a good day there is a stall – but there are benches and tables.

I was wondering how many little waterfalls like this could be scattered around Thailand. Maybe tens of thousands. Probably there are even ones deep in the jungle that no humans have ever set eyes upon. In my country, this would be a major tourist attraction. Around Chiang Mai, just a little dot on the map. It could actually be one of my favourites if there was a little more to this park, maybe a longer walking trail, some more nice scenery to take in along the path. It is definitely recommended for waterfall enthusiasts and for anyone who is passing by while getting lost in the mountains.

The national park charges 50 baht for foreigners and 20 baht for motorcycles to enter Tad Mok waterfall. When I suggested I leave the motorcycle outside, and walk (all the strenuous 200 or so metres to the parking lot), it did not go down very well. If you buy a ticket, it is valid on the same day for all the waterfalls in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. It is only 30 kms from Chiang Mai, and the area (along the main road) is dotted with attractions like orchid farms, the Mae Sa elephant camp, Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, and various animal shows. It is clearly signposted in English at every junction where the traveller may wonder.

I have marked this location on the Chiang Mai and Northern Thailand map – I am not 100% sure it is that exact bend, but it must be pretty close. (I think it will only be online tomorrow, though. Bear with me.)

Bhubing Palace: garden in the clouds

When my mother comes to visit Chiang Mai, she always asks me to take her to the Rose Garden first. She insists that she knows this enchanted place from a previous life and gets annoyed when I point out that Bhubing Palace (Phuphing Palace) wasn’t constructed until 1961.

Bhubing Palace is the winter residence of the royal family, which has also been used to welcome royal guests or heads of state from other countries. When none of the members of the royal family are in residence, the gardens are open for the public – the buildings remain closed at all times.

Situated at 1400 metres of altitude, the palace enjoys cool climate and lots of moisture all year round. Even when the entire mountain dries up in the worst of the March heat, the palace gardens are in full bloom, with the help of a reservoir that traps and conserves some of the abundant rainfall in the rainy season.

In each season, on every visit, the gardens surprise the visitors with different sparkling colours, new outbursts of grace and beauty.

In the rainy season, you can literally find yourself in the middle of a cloud rolling in and cooling off the air within seconds. This is also a splendid time for hundreds of orchids to shine in all colours of the rainbow.

Around Christmas, the Christmas flowers take over the scenery. In Europe, most often they only survive in pots, here on the upper slopes of Doi Suthep, they grow into huge trees and are a colourful and cheerful substitute for Christmas trees as we originally know them. (I am also trying to grow my own.) You may see them all along the upper reaches of the winding road leading up to the palace as well.

In the hot season, Bhubing Palace is nearest to the city if you are looking for a bit of shade and momentary relief from the stifling heat.

It is difficult to get the time right for the rose garden. For a start, they need special care at this climate. And, of course, their bloom is timed for the royal visits, when visitors are not allowed. We were fortunate enough to see the roses in bloom in November 2003, but at that time, I did not own a camera. On other occasions, it was not nearly that spectacular compared to that first magic, but still amazing for a tropical country.

The official website of Bhubing palace has wonderful photos of the rose garden.

Besides the most spectacular highlights, there are hidden treasures such as this tree, which is claimed to be the tallest bamboo in the country.

Bhubing Palace is 4 kms beyond Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple. Taxis collect people moving between the two sights. It is also easily accessible by motorcycle (100cc can carry two people up to both places) or by car. The garden is open every day from 8:30 to 4:30 (there is a lunch break for ticket sales). Tickets are 50 baht for foreigners, 20/10 for Thais. Respectful clothes are required: covering knees and shoulders. Loose trousers and shirts can be rented for a small fee. For elderly visitors or wheelchair users, golf carts are available for 300 baht per car, which can access most of the grounds. Outside the palace, small shops sell souvenirs and food, including hilltribe handicrafts, locally produced coffee, and in the cold season, fresh strawberries.

You can find more photos of the gardens at the Chiang Mai Forum. I have also marked the location for this attraction and other places in our Interactive Map of Northern Thailand.