During our recent road trip around Chiang Rai province, one of our favorite stops was the Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Garden. It’s one of the most popular attractions in the region, so we couldn’t pass it up while we were in town. We also tried out the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk, which is a relatively new and exciting attraction there.
Before we started this trip, we had said the name of this mountain wrong all these years. It’s pronounced doi dtoong (ดอยตุง) not doi tongue. Woops!
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Garden
On the last day of our three-day adventure around Chiang Rai, we decided to end our trip with a visit to the Doi Tung Development Project. It’s near the northern part of the province just a few kilometers from Burma. There are a half-dozen sites to see within the development, but we had to make do with about two hours. So we spent our time exploring the Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Garden and the Tree Top Walk.
Following the road signs toward Doi Tung, we found a parking spot very close to the main ticketing building and purchased tickets to the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden for 90 baht a pop.
The entrance to the garden led us down a few flights of stairs and then opened up into an area with manicured flower beds, tall trees, and paved paths.
Northern Thailand is blessed with a climate that’s cooler than the rest of the country. This makes it conducive to growing ‘exotic’ Western flowers (temperate breeds) that are typically found outside of Thailand. Roses, dahlias, and tulips were arranged in European-style flower beds. Scattered about the garden were fountains, rock art, wooden structures and a small evergreen maze as well.
Areas of the park were also dedicated to traditional tropical plants and flowers including a fern house, orchid house, and night garden. There’s a special enclosed cactus house but we didn’t view that during our short visit.
Doi Tung Tree Top Walk
Not far inside the Mae Fah Luang Garden was a sign for a Tree Top Walk. A quick Google search revealed that this has been around since August 2016 and it’s a fun activity that allows visitors to see the jungle from a bird’s-eye view. Rope bridges take you above areas of the forest where you can overlook coffee trees, seasonal trees, the dam and distant mountains, and a vetiver grass plantation.
After a quick equipment briefing (in Thai no less, but the visual instructions were clear) we hooked up to the platform and walked our way up to the first suspension bridge.
Here how it worked: We stepped into a harness that secured around our legs and hips. The harness was hooked to a cable that continuously secured us to the treetop canopy walk suspension bridges. Each time we moved from platform to bridge or from bridge to platform we had to transfer the safety cable to a new connection point.
The cable connection was much like those metal brain teaser puzzles. You know, where you have to twist a pair of bent nails in just the right way to get them to unlock and then vice versa to get them hooked together again. It took a few attempts to get it right the first time!
This activity felt like a mix of zip lining and going on a nature walk. There were a few places where the bridges were really high above the ground. Even though the mesh railing was tall and sturdy and the floorboards were solid, we were happy to have the harnesses.
As we walked along these super skinny robe bridges we quickly learned to let one person go at a time so that the bridge didn’t wobble so much. Even though they swayed a bit, the bridges were in excellent condition and looked to be constructed well.
A few things to keep in mind while on the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk:
- The maximum number of people in a group is 13. If possible, go with a small group (four people is good).
- It is not possible to pass another person. You are permanently hooked to the walkway structure in the order in which you attached yourself.
- You can only finish when everyone in front of you has finished. The people behind you can only go as fast as you are going.
- Although you are secured to the structure, your belongings (shoes, purses, phones, cameras) are not. Be careful not to drop anything!
There are seven bridges of varying lengths and six resting points in between to get your balance and regain your bearings. These resting points are small wooden platforms a few feet across with railings and not much else. It’s a good place to wait for the people in front of you to finish the rope bridge before you begin your turn.
The Treetop Canopy Walk is just under 300 meters long (total) and took 15 minutes for us to complete. Granted, we were the first people in our small group. We’d imagine that for larger groups it would take the full 30 minutes (or maybe more).
Open: Daily from 8am-11am and 1pm-5pm
Departure: Every 30 minutes on the hour and half hour
Cost: 150 baht per person entrance fee (in addition to Mae Fah Luang Garden fee)
Age: Must be 12 years old or at least 120 cm tall to participate
|NOTE: We don’t recommend the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk if you have a fear of heights or rope bridges. If you think the wobbly bridges will be a challenge, then we recommend going last so that you do not hold up the group.|
Refreshing Snacks at Doi Tung Café
After unhitching ourselves from the Treetop Canopy Walk and handing over our harnesses, we followed the path back toward the entrance of the Mae Fah Luang Garden. Along the way we passed a Doi Tung Café. We treated ourselves to iced espresso drinks and frozen yogurt passion fruit popsicles. They were delish!
The land within the Doi Tung Development Project that once grew opium now produces high-quality Arabica coffee beans, among other organic produce. In fact, the coffee served at the Doi Tung Cafés is what’s grown, harvested, and roasted locally. There are several cafés around the property, including one just next to the ticketing booth and another near Wat Phra That Doi Tung.
We had already eaten lunch, but there is a nice onsite restaurant called Krua Tamnak Restaurant that serves Thai food. They offer a buffet as well as an à la carte menu. We hear the sweet and sour deep fried whole fish is a great choice.
A Little History About Mae Fah Luang
The Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden is just a small part of the larger Doi Tung Development Projects. It covers ten acres of hillside that was originally home to the Akha village, Pa Kluay. This community was once a major production and transportation hub of opium within the infamous Golden Triangle.
Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the late Princess Mother (the late King’s mother) was responsible for setting up this garden. To this day it provides ethical working opportunities for the local villagers who were trained to grow and tend to the organic plants and flowers instead of harvesting opium.
The Mae Fah Luang Garden is among the most popular attractions within the development projects. It has hundreds of different types of tropical flowers. It also had a large section home to temperate flowers. This allows Thai people who have never traveled overseas to cooler climates to see these unusual breeds.
Attractions at the Doi Tung Development Project
We didn’t have nearly enough time to visit all the attractions on Doi Tung. An oncoming rainstorm also unfortunately flushed out of the park. If we had had the entire day to spare, we would have definitely explored the other attractions.
|Activity||Hours||Price Per Adult||Student, Senior,
|Hall of Inspiration||8am–5pm||FREE||FREE|
|Doi Tung Royal Villa||7am–11:30am and
|90 THB||45 THB|
|Mae Fah Luang Garden||6:30am–6pm||90 THB||45 THB|
|Mae Fah Luang Arboretum||7am–5:30pm||90 THB||45 THB|
|Set of 4 Attractions||See above||200 THB||100 THB|
|Doi Tung Tree Top Walk||8am–11am
|200 THB||100 THB|
Hill Tribe Market
Near the ticketing booth and across from the parking area is a small walking street market. Local hill tribe people sell clothing, wares, and Thai souvenirs similar to what you can find in other markets in Northern Thailand. We were happy to see that they also sold locally grown organic fruits, beans, vegetables and even honey. We bought a few items to take back with us to Chiang Mai.
This Thai-Swiss style Royal Villa was built for the late Princess Mother. Simple but elegant, the home is constructed out of teak wood. It’s also one of the top attractions at Doi Tung. The Royal Villa served as her winter home while she dedicated her time bettering the local hill tribe communities, establishing education programs and encouraging sustainable farming practices.
Hall of Inspiration
The Hall of Inspiration is an exhibition that explores the efforts of the Royal Family and how they improved the lives of the Kingdom’s people through education, sustainable work, and healthcare. It summarizes the life, achievements, and philosophies of five members of the Royal Family.
Wat Phra That Doi Tung
Roughly 8 kilometers north of the Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden is Wat Phra That Doi Tung. This temple is famous because a relic of the Buddha is enshrined within one of its twin Lanna-style chedis. It also has incredible views from its spot on the mountain. There are also a few stalls serving Thai snacks and a Doi Tung Café near the temple.
Mae Fah Luang Arboretum
Slash-and-burn farming technique destroyed large portions of the forest on Doi Tung. The Princess Mother dedicated herself to restoring a particularly damaged area, which is now known as the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum. It’s 9 kilometers north of the Doi Tung Royal Villa and is replanted with native and non-native flowers and trees. There is a walking path, too, that offers panoramic views of Thailand’s neighboring country, Burma.
How to Get to Doi Tung
Doi Tung is about is a little over an hour’s drive (60 kilometers) directly north of Chiang Rai’s city center. We’re glad we drove a rental car for this trip. The route from Chiang Rai, which consists of fast highways and mountainous roads, isn’t ideal for motorbikes.
It’s possible to take a bus then a songthaew or taxi to get from Chiang Rai to Doi Tung. Green Bus #619 commences its journey in Chiang Mai but departs Chiang Rai every few hours (12:50 pm, 3:50 pm, 5:20 pm, 6:50 pm) and then goes to Mae Sai. But don’t go all the way to the Mae Sai Bus Station on the bus! Instead, hop off a few miles before at Baan Huay Krai (a furniture store, marked on the map below). Hail a songthaew or taxi from the main road and ride the rest of the short distance to Doi Tung.
Also, Chiang Rai has Uber! We would have used that option if we hadn’t had a car of our own. If you’re new to Uber, you can sign up for an account and get 50 THB off your first two rides using the discount code tielandtothailandsue.
If you want to stretch your trip for more than one day or don’t want to drive back to the main part of town after your visit, you can stay at the only hotel in Doi Tung, the four-star Doi Tung Lodge.
Have you ever been to Doi Tung? If so, what was your favorite part?