Driving up the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon & visiting Mae Ya Waterfall
When Tripfilms.com asked us to produce 5 videos about Chiang Mai after our previous work on the Bangkok Travel Series ‘8 Miles from Home Snaps’, we decided it was time to get in the car and drive to the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon.
When I told our Singaporean neighbour Patrick that we planned to take our 40 year old car up to the summit of the so called ‘Roof of Thailand’ his eyes widened until they looked almost alien. “Waaaaaah?” he said, “You try drive up there in that car you may never come back!”
This kind of response is now expected whenever we mention any form of mountain roads. However, since the early years of our road tripping travels we have always driven old second hand cars. The breakdowns are very much part of the adventure!
With that in mind, we did our final checks and headed 80kms south down highway 108 en route to Doi Inthanon National Park.
We had recently bought a new Flycam DSLR camera stabilizer and I was excited to test it out for the new SNAPS video. So when we arrived at the edges of the Park we veered left and headed to the first of 8 Waterfalls contained within the reserve, Mae Ya.
Mae Ya is one of the Largest and most beautiful waterfalls in Thailand. At 280 metres high, with water cascading down a series of rock formations and fanning out in width as it lowers to ground level where brave visitors can be seen swimming. It is quite a breath taking sight and shouldn’t be missed.
Due to the amount of camera equipment we brought, we couldn’t jump in for a swim but that didn’t stop Eden our Doggy from jumping around in one of the chilly rock pools.
After spending over an hour taking photos and video of the amazing falls we decided to head straight to the summit of Doi Inthanon so that we could catch the sunset from the mountain top. The drive was a strenuous 45km uphill and the mk1 escort gradually slowed through each downshift until we were in first gear at one point. But it was nothing we hadn’t experienced before on our trip to Mae Hong Son. No mountain has truly killed the beast to date.
On the way up we passed the road signs for 7 more waterfalls that also hold their own individual characteristics and appeal.
We read about each one as we passed them, the information handily collated for us on the map provided by the rangers when we bought our entry ticket. Mae Klang, great for picnics, Watchirathan, the waterfall that produces a mist in the rainy season that creates rainbows, Sirithan, accessible from a viewpoint balcony, Pha Dok Sieo, 10 storey falls that you can walk up, Siriphum, creates 2 thin falling streams and finally, Mae Pan Waterfalls set around a 2.5 km walking trail with multiple falls to discover.
As we climbed higher, gaining altitude by the second, there suddenly was no need for Air Conditioning as we began to see goose bumps appearing on our exposed flesh. For the first time in 7 months in Thailand we had reached a height that the humid temperatures couldn’t reach us. And for the first time we needed long sleeves for reasons other than just respect for holy sites.
When we pulled into the car park at the summit, the old car seemed to have performed as if taking a routine journey to the local Big C supermarket. Exhaust was still attached; fuel lines weren’t leaking fuel and the engine sounded like it always had, Noisy but smooth.
We put Eden on her lead and began walking the final steps to the highest point in Thailand. As we reached the stairway, we ignorantly but purposefully ignored the no dogs allowed sign and continued upward. Within seconds we were at a big sign displaying the worlds ‘The Highest Point in Thailand’, but there was no view!
Instead we were inside a forest nature trail that completely obscured the setting sun. So we quickly ran the loop and headed back to the vehicle.
Grabbing the map we then realised that the Panoramic Viewpoint was actually 4kms before the summit, so that’s where we headed.
At the last moment we had a change of plan and instead decided to watch the sunset from the Great Stupas. Two large cone shaped structures standing tall set inside beautiful gardens with an epic mountainous backdrop. We were so high that the clouds didn’t float past, instead you could actually see them forming from vapour. Naturally for us, a time-lapse was set up while we sat and watched the sun setting over the never ending ridges of Thai mountain tops.
When the sun had dipped below the horizon it was time to return to the car and head home. Shivering slightly from the chilly mountain air I reached for the heater dial on the car dashboard, twisted it to full, only to be met with a ferocious blast of Icy cold Air Conditioned Jets. Despite the 7 month gap since leaving the UK, where every car has a heater, somehow my first cold experience had led me to forget that the old car doesn’t have the luxury of in car heating.
With all the video work complete we set off down the mountain to our home, the temperature slowly rising with our steady descent.
Entry to Doi Inthanon National Park costs 200 baht per adult for foreigners, plus 30 baht for a car or truck. Motorcycles cost 20 baht.
If you are a Thai National entry is only 20 Baht per Adult.
Once you buy a ticket at any of the main entry points the ticket is valid for all attractions within the park for that day.
So if you arrive early it is still good value for money. You need your own transport to get to Doi Inthanon, so rent a car or motorcycle and head south on the 108 Highway, through Hang Dong and onward until you see a sign for Doi Inthanon National Park.
Then turn right and the entrance to Mae Ya waterfall is one of the first large turnings on the left. Or carry on straight to head up to the summit.
Our Map to Mae Ya Waterfall
View Mae Ya Waterfall, Doi Inthanon National Park in a larger map
Our Map of The Great Stupas
View The Great Stupas, Doi Inthanon National Park in a larger map
Jmayel El-Haj – 8 Miles from Home
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