Climbing Doi Mon Jong, Thailand: Learning the Art of Survival

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Marcel Proust, a French novelist and adventurer once said: “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Sometimes you don’t need to climb the highest mountains to experience the beauty of the world. Doi Mon Jong proves exactly that.

Doi Mon Jong (ดอยม่อนจอง in Thai) is located in the Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary near Chang Mai in the northern part of Thailand. You don’t need to be an expert in trekking to reach these beautiful view tops overlooking green landscapes. Doi Mon Jong is the golden mountain of Thailand, full of lovely scenery, a fascinating local community and fields of rhododendron- a rare flower that can only be found in these parts.

Getting to Doi Mon Jong

After arriving at Chang Mai however way you like, you need to hop onto a bus from the main city to the Omkoi prefecture which takes around three hours. Just note that there are typically two buses that leave each day to Omkoi from Changmai. Once at Omkoi, you can go to Doi Mon Jong by a truck, driven by one of the local villagers. It will pass the tourist service office before entering a breath-taking trail up to the mountain. The roads are bumpy, full of mud and require you to dodge branches as you hold on for your dear life for about 40 minutes. It is adventure at it’s best! Only four-wheel vehicles can go up the road as they get tend to get washed away every year from mudslides. We arrived at 7:00am to Omkoi and started to hike up at around 7:45 am.

Doi Mon Jong is only open from November to February (we went in November) and there is no admission fee. If you want, you can get some locals to climb the trail with you and carry the heavier items like cookware or tents, which is useful if you are travelling in a group. High season is during the months of December and January and is when a lot of tourists visit from Chang Mai. Climbing in the morning is highly recommended as there will be less people on the trail.

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Doi Mon Jong: “They Said It Was Easy”

After parking at the end of the road, we were greeted by a golden Buddha which was where we began the hike following the trail up to the peak. The cool breeze keeps you nice and fresh as you enter a maze like path which keeps taking you higher and higher through the forest. While the trail is generally easy, there are moments when you need to climb over trees, slipping on fallen leaves as you carefully step over cliffs. Warning: This trail was not made for clumsy people.

We stopped at around 11:30am for lunch when we were about halfway through the trail. We didn’t know that there was still some distance to the Hua Sing peak which we wanted to reach before sunset. Coming from the busy streets of Bangkok where we live, it was quite beautiful to just be at peace with nature and escape the city life. We continued on crossing fields of tall grass as we slowly started reaching the first signs that we were nearing the peak. We laughed out loud when we saw signs that pointed into what literally translated to the “Dog Panting” trail.

We climbed up the dog panting trail, pausing to catch our breath from time to time. Not too long after, it lived up to its name as we found ourselves breathless. What amazed us was that a few older villagers carrying items on their backs, were passing us , walking up this steep hill, completely barefoot like it was nothing. We reached the mountain top at around 2:00 pm where we were greeted by the warm sunlight and a view overlooking the Omkoi Wildlife Sanctuary which protects wild elephants and other wildlife. Soon, we set up our tent and started a little fire nearby to keep us warm.

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Reach for the Stars

After we settled down, we went back up to take some photos and enjoy the fresh air. Only one of us decided to continue onto the highest peak which is supposed to look like a lion’s head. This steep climb which we would never recommend to attempt at night, ends with a lovely rope sign confirming the 1,980-meter summit. The Rhododendron flower would cover the peak, however in November they were still sprouting. But we were in luck because it was one of the only days in the year where you can clearly see the Milky Way which was beyond stunning. With the valley below and the starts coming out, we sat down and just enjoyed the beauty that Doi Mon Jong had to offer.

As the sun slowly hid behind the horizon and exposed yellow hues reflecting off of the clouds, this picturesque evening gave off beautiful silhouettes, too beautiful to capture with our camera. The night came fast and we made our way back to our tent after an exhausting day.

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Learning the Art of Survival

We met one of the local villagers and discovered that many of them although fairly young, already had a few children of their own. They had to learn how to survive in the wild, sometimes walking into elephants or other animals that would destroy their crops. We met one young man, Klong Joi who showed us how he creates a bed from branches next to a fire. Listening to the local villagers stories was both fascinating and intriguing.

The next morning, we woke up at around 7:00 am and made our way slowly back to the start where the van was waiting for us. It took us back down the mountain and even stopped by a local village where we bought some fresh, homegrown beans, rice and honey. A lovely way to end this memorable, fantastic adventure!Rob and Eve mountain

What You Need To Bring for Doi Mon Jong:

Doi Mon Jong, isn’t very demanding but depending on what month you go it can be quite cool in the evening. Temperatures do get around the eight or nine mark at night around January so do bring an extra set of clothes.

  • Comfortable walking boots
  • Change of socks
  • Long trousers
  • Flashlight
  • Camera
  • Battery pack
  • Flip Flops
  • Tent
  • Camping Bag

In terms of costs for the local truck, you can negotiate anywhere from 300 to 500 THB depending on the month. We joined other hikers and in total it came out to 50 THB a person. The locals don’t speak much English so find a Thai person (there are many Thai groups who climb) and ask them to help you out in translating.

Overall, Doi Mon Jong is a great escape for two days if you want to get away from the busy cities of Bangkok or Chang Mai. Here, as you are one with nature, you can learn about the local culture and way of life.doi-mon-jong sunset

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