From strolling through blooming Sakura trees to hand-painting umbrellas, Chiang Mai is an eco-traveler’s paradise.
Ecotourism is not only the act of appreciating nature, but also shows how mother nature has helped villages thrive. From strolling through blooming Sakura trees to hand-painting umbrellas, Chiang Mai is an eco-traveler’s paradise. Have the chirping of cockereals as your alarm clock, beginning a day of zip lining and hiking. Learn more about umbrellas, the cultural symbol of Chiang Mai, in a quaint village. Scale mountains and swim in hot springs less than an hour away from your hotel. Here are four eco-travel places that show how Chiang Mai lives up to its nickname, “Rose of the North.”
1. Baan Mae Kampong
Located an half an hour away from the city, Mae Kampong is teaching locals and tourists how to lead a sustainable lifestyle. The village of 300 persons encourage tourists to take part in home stays. Villagers hosting home stays teach guests their way of life and culture. They show how the village thrived on the creation of a delicacy formed from fermented leaves. The first famers came 200 years ago, hoping to grow tea. The roots of agriculture and sustainability have been part of the beating heart of the small community for more than 100 years. Staying in a rustic, genuine home, visitors are immersed in a lifestyle that seems like it’s from another era. Wake to the song of cockereals and home-cooked food. Walk through the emerald forests and sit by the Mae Kampong Falls which is bursting with mountain pools. Zip line through the trees or drink coffee at a cafe that overlooks the lush greenery.
Home stays will cost 600 Baht per room (USD $19.19). You can request a room at homes with a “homestay” sign.
2. Doi Inthanon National Park
Nicknamed “the roof of Thailand,” the park hosts the nation’s highest mountain. The park is full of waterfalls, off-beat trails, secluded villages and gorgeous gardens. Known for its high humidity and chilly temperatures, the park is another world from the Old City. Entering the area, lush evergreens and pine cover the grounds. Serows and wild boars are sometimes spotted roaming the vicinity. Walk the summit of Doi Ithanon for scenic views and many waterfalls cresting the cliffs. Scale the mountain in the morning, as the summit faces east for the sunrise. Another Instagram-must-do on your list should be the blossoms of the Siamese sakura flowers. Sakura trees cover the park in a luscious pink during the months of January and February. Visit the pagodas of the king and queen, or scale the breathtaking waterfalls. Forgot to bring sunscreen? Stroll through the Mae Pan Nature Trail with the trees giving you shade and coverage.
The park opens at 6 AM and closes at 4:30 PM. The admission fee is 300 Baht (USD $9.59) for foreigners and 150 Baht (USD $4.80) for their children. It’s 50 Baht (USD $1.60) for locals and 20 Baht (USD $0.64) for their children. Keep your tickets close to you as you will need to show them at different checkpoints.
3. The Umbrella Festival at Bor Sang
Come to this small village to learn about the art of umbrella making. It’s a quiet, tranquil escape from the Old City as the residents work hard on their main industry: umbrellas. Visit the town in January, when the town holds their annual Umbrella Festival. Every umbrella is made from bamboo, and is hand-painted to the artisan’s image. Visit the shops full of vibrant umbrellas, or take part in a workshop to observe the mesmerizing process of umbrella making. Artisans produce an array of hand-painted works such as tiny cocktail umbrellas and enormous parasols. Along with bamboo, the fabric on the top is made from the bark of mulberry trees and cotton. Check out the Umbrella Factory where craftsmen and women develop umbrellas from scratch.
The story behind the umbrella making lies with a traveling monk. He stopped by the village to meditate and thus decided to introduce the art of umbrella making to the locals. Now, tourists and locals can appreciate the customs and beauty that comes from the environment and enriches a village.
4. Chiang Dao Mountains
Located in the northern part of Chiang Mai, the Chiang Dao area is brimming with breathtaking scenery and hill tribes. It’s called the “city of stars” as it has the third highest mountain in the nation. The area is generally covered by a thick fog and temperatures are cool in the rainy season. Tackle a three-day hike walking through bamboo forests, lush forests and steep cliffs. Chiang Dao is full of dense rainforests, Mandarin plantations and rice fields. Visit the tribes in the Maetang River valley and sleep at a home stay. Learn about their lifestyles and tradition while eating northern styled Thai food. Take part in bird watching at Malee’s Nature Lovers Bungalows, or soak in public hot springs.
Bring your flashlight while exploring Chiang Dao cave. Although there are over 100 caves in the mountains, only five are open to the public. Discover the exquisite rock formations formed over millions of years. Visit the shrines in the Tham Seua Dao and Tham Phra Nawn, two of the most popular caves in the complex. The other three caves are brimming with natural limestone and crystal formations.