Climbing Mountains along the Thailand-Laos Border
Chiang Rai Province
Using our Suzuki truck we drove 4 hours from Chiang Mai to Thoeng District staying at the ‘Teak Villas’. Having witnessed many mountains en route, I felt great anticipation for the 5.30am start to climb Phu Chi Fa the following morning. Chiang Rai province is one of those places I experience immense intrigue, equivalent to that I’ve felt when exploring new countries. Perhaps that comes from the scale of the mountains and region or from its close proximity to neighbouring nations and cultures.
Phu Chi Fa (Mountain that points to the sky)
As dawn broke an incredible mist descended, creating atmospheric views and cool temperatures for the 50km journey towards Phu Chi Fa. We passed densely forested hill communities and negotiated steep, twisty roads to reach the National Park parking area. The hike to the summit is about 30 minutes, short by our recent standards, however, the views were to be genuinely savoured. We arrived as the sun was permeating the clouds which encircled the valleys of Laos. Additionally, there were just a handful of other people even though we visited during the higher tourism season.
Phu Chi Dao (Mountain that points to the stars)
Around 7km from Phu Chi Fa, the route to the Phu Chi Dao viewpoint runs alongside the mountainous Laos border. We needed to hire a truck to take us from the closest village as the road becomes unpaved and steep. Prior to jumping aboard we enjoyed a tasty, spicy minced pork, egg and rice in the village. Phu Chi Dao has two peaks to explore and they form the literal border with Laos. The tranquil setting left me awestruck and blessed at being able to witness such a fabulous amount of mountains across two countries. Meanwhile, there was just a small quantity of other tourists during our time at Phu Chi Dao.
Doi Phatang (Phatang Mountain), Phatang District
Leaving Phu Chi Dao we headed 15km north to Phatang, stopping for coffee before reaching our idyllic accommodation for the night. Baan Chomdoi provided spectacular panoramas of mountains to the west and the imposing, closeby Doi Phatang to the east. After a chilly night, we awoke early and drove to Doi Phatang for the short summit walk at sunrise. To say the backdrop, enveloping clouds with a vivid sunrise, was spectacular is an understatement, I prefer to use mind-blowing. Certainly, with two mountains already visited I felt privileged to witness the exquisite sunrise above mountains of Thailand and particularly Laos.
Wiang Kaen, Mekong River
Now parallel to the Mekong River we continued onto our final destination Wiang Kaen, via lunch at Khao Soi Sibsongbpanna in Chiang Khong. From Doi Phatang to our hotel on the Mekong, Raan Kiang Khong, was approximately 40km with Chiang Khong another 15km inland. Having previously stayed riverside at Chiang Saen, I was keen to see a further stretch of the Mekong and Thai-Lao border. We were grateful to witness the majesty and serenity of the Mekong at sunset and sunrise. Indeed the Laos side appears less developed, an indication as to why the country experiences considerably less tourism than Thailand.
Thai Travel Reflections
This journey contributed many beautiful sights and landscapes, along with awareness of places and people in the Thai and Lao borderlands. For instance, the views over the soaring mountains provided further fascination into the stunning biodiversity. When visiting new places, each additional one encourages me to research further whilst also being able to provide knowledge that I’ve gained. I am fortunate to be involved in several online projects which don’t consume excessive time and hence offer travel opportunities. Since moving to Thailand in 2018 I believe I’ve progressed personally as well as professionally, much of which because of travel.