Thailand in Another Perspective
Many of us have this general perception about Thailand to be one of Asia’s hottest destination because of its undoubtedly amazing temples, world-famous street foods, 24/7 night life, incredible elephants and top-notch beach resorts which are all surprisingly affordable. In fact, Thailand is one of the many Asian countries with high number of expats according to the latest survey.
And when I went there last March, I can see why many people from around the world would settle their lives here. But I’m not contented. I know Thailand have so much more to offer aside from the mainstream tourist spots that their Government is promoting. Until I saw my ultimate travel inspiration, OneStep4Ward, posted something about Mt. Phu Chi Fa. It was love at first sight(even if they were just pictures posted in Facebook). I told myself, “I’ll definitely go there!”.
Sunrise at Phu Chi Fa
Mt. Phu Chi Fa or also known as Phu Chi Fa Forest Park is residing in the mountainous area of Chiang Rai, a northern province of Thailand bordering the nearby country, Laos. It’s a 2-hour zigzag drive from the city center. We arrived at the base around 5 in the morning, it was still dark and SUPER COLD. Important note: This mountain may only measure less than 2 kilometers above sea level but the temperature at the top is superb especially near sunrise. Be sure to bring a jacket. There are food stalls that sell instant noodles and coffee at the base so don’t worry but just expect a higher price. Scarfs, shirts and jackets are also available for purchase.
The actual trek lasts around 20 minutes from the base, very straightforward and you don’t really need a guide. However, our driver introduced us to these 2 kids who were “on-break” from school and it would be a little help for them if we hire them. And I’m like “Ahmm—okay” and didn’t argue. Anyway what you do really need is a flashlight because the surrounding is totally pitch black before sunrise. So the kids accompanied us and lighted our way as we ascend to the top. I gave them 100 bhat for their effort. They went down after receiving the money. Haha Kids these days.
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Kids from Hmong Tribe entertaining the tourists at the top of Phu Chi Fa Forest Park
While we were patiently waiting for the sunrise, an upbeat music from afar suddenly roars slowly coming to us. And there we saw these children in cute costumes with speakers tied on their hips and then dance. They really did stole our attention away from the sunrise. Some tourists took a picture with them but with a catch! They won’t pose for the camera until you give them money.
It’s sad to know these children are forced to hike on this mountain and face the biting-cold weather every morning and milk cash from the tourists just to help their parents earn extra income. But what can we do? None at that moment. So we just enjoyed their show.They are sooo cute after all.
Toilet in Phu Chi Fa
Before we arrive at the base, we dropped by first at a public toilet in the middle of a forest. It seemed abandon and clearly not maintained. The place was totally dark like no lights inside so the headlamp from our car remained on. It was dirty as expected with many mosquitoes flying around. It’s quite a distance from the base as far as I can remember. Just ask the locals if there are nearer toilets available.
How to go to Phu Chi Fa Forest Park? Day Tour Trek
There are buses at Chiang Rai Bus Station that leave for Phu Chi Fa daily at 1PM and return the next morning at 9AM, since most tourists go there for sunrise viewing only. Ticket costs 135 bhat per way.
However, the bus schedule totally doesn’t fit our itinerary and our time in Chiang Rai. So we decided to hire a private car with driver and searched in Trip Advisor for trusted licensed tour guide in Chiang Rai. I sent emails to a couple of people, some of them responded but we chose Tony since his rate was the cheapest. He’s quite famous actually and I definitely recommend him. He speaks good english, very informative and professional. Just what you expect from a tour guide.
He fetched us from our hostel in Chiang Rai at 3AM. I was kinda shy to ask but he offered for a quick stop at 7/11 to buy some snacks! Then we headed straight and arrived at our destination around 5 in the morning. He patiently waited us from the base and we departed around 8AM after we finished a quick breakfast from a nearby local resto. He dropped us at the Chiang Khong border as we are going to Houayxay, Laos after. We gave him 3000 bhat(for 2 people) for his good and satisfying service.
You can email Tony here: firstname.lastname@example.org
So if you happen to be visiting Chiang Rai in the future, be sure to include Phu Chi Fa Forest Park in your itinerary and I guarantee that you will be blown away!