A Day Trip to Chiang Dao: Unveiling the Secrets of a Sleepy Thai Town

Hinoki Land koi fish- featured image

A Day Trip to Chiang Dao: Unveiling the Secrets of a Town Less Traveled

Everyone knows Pai. But nestled at the foot of the mountains, sits the hidden city of Chiang Dao, waiting to be explored. You may not have heard of her. But like her sister city of Pai, Chiang Dao invites travelers to immerse themselves in serene landscapes, cultural wonders, and a much-needed escape from the chaos of the bustling city life in Chiang Mai. Join us as we recount our recent day trip to this tranquil town, where we discovered the perfect harmony of natural beauty, tasty treats, and spiritual richness. Chiang Dao revealed itself as a haven of tranquility, boasting waterfalls, hot springs, mountainside bungalows, diverse culinary options, and vibrant artistic workshops. The town’s manageable size made exploration easy, providing a peaceful retreat from the urban hustle.

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Where We Stayed

The View Hotel: A Rooftop Retreat

Located just a few hours (75 km north of Chiang Mai) our journey kicked off at The View Hotel, an enchanting accommodation that provided a comfortable stay and a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding mountains and the charming town of Chiang Dao. It seemed out of place in the vast fields surrounding it. But that’s Chiand Dao– expect the unexpected.

Breakfast on the rooftop was a surreal experience, setting the tone for a day filled with exploration and wonder. The best part of the hotel was the stunning rooftop bar and restaurant with magnificent views of both the mountain and the rice fields, good place to chill and unwind in the evening.

Breakfast included a combination of hot and cold foods, fresh fruit, coffee, and juice you ordered the night before.

The hotel is relatively new and an unexpected luxury with a state-of-the-art gym and pool, flat screen TV, WI-Fi, karaoke bungalows, and a massive garden with selfie stations, including a swing. The room was modern, with clean lines, a sauna-like bathroom, and floor-to-ceiling windows. I really appreciated that the hotel looked exactly like its pictures.

Website | Map

Microkosmos Craft Beer and Burger

As night descended, Chiang Dao transformed into a quiet oasis. No crowds anywhere. The main road became a tranquil stretch with dimly lit streetlights, shuttered shops, and the occasional 7-11. The tourist bungalows, slightly more illuminated, featured low-key bars scattered around, creating a cozy ambiance to cap off our day. We ventured into the heart of Chiang Dao for a culinary treat at Microkosmos Craft Beer and Burger Joint. It’s always nice to find a good craft beer establishment when we travel.

Microkosmos has an excellent reputation among beer snobs. And the burgers aren’t bad, either. I had the Umami Burger with aged cheddar, grilled tomatoes, caramelized onions, miso mayo, and umami ketchup. It was juicy and delicious and by far one of the best, if not best, burgers I have ever had in Asia. The fusion of craft beer flavors and mouthwatering burgers provided a perfect crescendo to our day, satisfying our taste buds and adventurous spirits at this open-air spot.

Website | Map

Wat Tham Chiang Dao Temple

No visit to Chiang Dao is complete without exploring the spiritual haven of Wat Tham Chiang Dao. The vibrant yellow-colored flowers that surround the temple and the massive cave create a captivating scene. Our journey through the cave, adorned with numerous shrines and prayer areas, offered a unique blend of spiritual reflection and physical exertion.

Giant Tree Grove: A Humbling Pause

En route to Chiang Dao, a stop at the Giant Tree Grove provided a humbling experience. Surrounded by towering trees, the sheer scale of nature’s giants made us feel small in the grand tapestry of the environment. This refreshing break added an extra layer of awe to our day trip.

Exploring the Chiang Dao Cave

One of the highlights of our journey undoubtedly was the exploration of the Chiang Dao Cave and temple grounds. Beyond its fascinating formations and religious significance, the cave offered a unique perspective on both geography and spirituality. The journey through the dark trail, guided by a local with a kerosene lantern, added an adventurous touch to the experience. This cave is humongous. I felt a little claustrophobic towards tge end– speeding towards the exit. But the artifacts and history is so fascinating, I’m glad I was talked into it. And no, I didn’t see any jumping spiders– supposed residents in the dark and dank depths. You are more than welcome to veer off course. We stayed close to the light shed by our guide.

Hinoki Land

Before returning to Chiang Mai, we stopped for coffee at Hinoki Land. I wouldn’t stop there if I had to do it all over again because I’ve been to Japan. Immersive and culturally enriching, Hinoki Village is a Japanese-themed park that lets you dive into traditional Japanese culture, constructed specifically for Thai people.

The best part is you can rent genuine Japanese outfits. Oh yeah and the massive pond filled with koi too. Additionally, you can leisurely stroll through the park and capture memorable moments with great photos at the impressive 4-story tower. You can walk through the colorful red Torii gates, usually seen at the entrances to Shinto shrines. If you’re feeling hungry, there’s a restaurant serving traditional Japanese dishes and Thai favorites. However, if you do visit, check out the shops selling wooden items. They sell beds, lovely handmade quilts, and blankets for that extra special touch of craftsmanship.

Conclusion

There’s a unique charm to this place – an authentic reflection of northern Thailand. It was a last minute trip. The hotel was lovely, but if they had returned my call in time, we would have stayed in one of the beautiful mountainside bungalows we saw online. I’m not worried, we’ll check them out next time.

It’s a destination I wholeheartedly recommend, and the drive from Chiang Mai is quite easy too. The well-worn roads weave through majestic mountains, leading to hot springs nestled in an enchanting forest. Charming coffee shops and artisanal details add to the tranquility. Whether exploring the national park, savoring local cuisine, or interacting with the friendly locals, Chiang Dao stands out as an underrated gem in Northern Thailand. Personally, I hope it doesn’t get too popular.

Skip Pai and go to Chiang Dao instead for a more authentic Thai experience. You won’t regret it! Hope you enjoyed my epic guide to Chiang Dao! It proved to be a hidden gem worthy of exploration. Whether seeking spiritual enlightenment, outdoor adventures, or simply a respite from the daily grind, Chiang Dao has something to offer. Subsequently, we transitioned from the expansive mountain views and delved into the cave’s mysterious depths. For this reason, our day trip left us with cherished memories and a longing to return to this enchanting part of Northern Thailand.

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