Unknown to many, camping in Thailand is not only super easy but also a lot of fun. After discovering the top quality campsites in Northern Thailand, we were on a mission to try to do it regularly. There’s just something about camping and getting away from the hustle and bustle of it all. Armed with a couple boxes of wine and chips, we hopped on our motorbikes and headed towards Doi Pui which is probably one of the most accessible campsites if you’re staying in Chiang Mai.
Doi Pui National Park
Ancient Thai folk tale refer to the two towering peaks, Doi Suthep and Doi Pui as the guardian spirits of Chiang Mai city. Formerly known as Doi Aoy Chang, these two mountains are popular day trip destinations from the city of Chiang Mai. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Chaing Mai’s most famous temples and is a beautiful spot to watch the sunrise.
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How to Get to Doi Pui National Park
If you’ve been following this blog for some time now, you would know that we are big on our motorbikes! We love riding and Northern Thailand has some of the best roads for it. To reach the campsite, we suggest renting a motorbike and driving up yourself. It’s cheap and super fun. From Chiang Mai city, follow the signs up to Doi Suthep, driving past the temple, and a few Hmong villages. As soon as you pass the temple, continue along the road another 5.9 km beyond, past Bhubing Palace. From here, you will take a sharp right to head deeper into the park (after this sharp right, the road becomes one lane, so drive slowly and beware of oncoming traffic). Doi Pui is only 24 km away from the Old City and is very accessible. Similarly, if you are not confident on a motorbike, you can strike a deal with a songthaew to take you if you’re traveling with a large group of people.
The area has lots of signs but to be safe, your best bet would be to buy a local sim from any 711 and use the GPS. The entire drive takes anywhere between 40 minutes to 1 hour through generally beautiful concrete roads. While most of the roads are paved, you will reach a steep, narrow one-way road full of dirt roads and rubble. As the roads are narrow, you will have to give way to other bikes and cars coming from the other direction.
We usually stop in one of the Hmong villages past Doi Suthep where we grab packed dinner, drinks, and wander around. There is an old lady that has a full bow and arrow game set up. 10 baht and you get 3 shots to hit the three fruits she has hanging. Trust me, it’s loads of fun and is definitely part of the whole experience.
Insider Tip: There are no stores in the campsite- at least in the two times that we have been. With that in mind, make sure you bring with you enough food, water (and wine) to last you the night. We always just stop by one of the local restaurants and order some fried rice and a few meat skewers.
Camping at Doi Pui Cost
As mentioned, camping in the Thai National Parks is awesome!! It is literally easy as pie. You head on to the headquarters and there is usually a lovely gentleman to help you rent gear. While their English is rather limited (and my Thai is non-existent) be prepared to do some charade signing. No worries though as the words tent, sleeping bag, and mats are easily understood. You can rent all the camping equipment that you need and within five minutes, you can start finding the perfect spot to pitch your tent.
Tent (good for 2-3): 250 THB
Unfortunately, I can’t give you exact prices as we always go in large groups and just split everything in the end. What I can say though is that it is super affordable! Sleeping Bag, pillows, and mats are all available for rent as well. I cannot remember the exact price but for all three, it would not exceed 100 THB. If you have your own camping gear, it’s around 35-50 THB per person in order to use their camping facilities. Insane right?
Total camping cost: around 180-200 THB per person
The Campgrounds at Doi Pui
Similar to the camping grounds in Doi Inthanon, everything was clean and organized. The campgrounds have multiple tiers, spanning out to a rather large area. At the very bottom, there is an area where you can light a campfire and a public toilet with showers. There are also concrete gazebos where you can hang around. Within a few minutes, we set up our tents and cracked open our boxes of wine.
As we went camping during December (Chiang Mai’s “winter time”), it was COLD! The air was fresh and crisp, our campsite overlooked the entire city, and it was beautiful! The rest of the night, we carried on with doing the usual camp stuff like light a fire (#doubledragon), drink wine and stare at the infinite number of stars. It was beautiful!
What to Bring for Camping in Doi Pui
Warm clothes (depending on the season)
Wine (a necessity in our books)
Lighter for the campfire
Although there is a mini store within the camp compounds, it wasn’t open the last two times we went. Some people bring food to cook but we were too lazy so we just bought ready made fried rice and some bbq skewers for dinner. During our first camping trip, we were banking that there was somewhere nearby to buy food but there wasn’t so we ended up going back to the Hmong village for a quick supply stop.
Things to Do at Doi Pui National Park
Go Trail Hiking
(Difficult) If nature trails are your thing, you’re in luck! There is a pretty decent trail spanning from the peak of Doi Pui all the way to Doi Suthep. It’s a fairly long trail (14km) but with a good part of it going downhill. Along the way you will find loads of tall trees, lush greenery, and if you’re lucky, maybe a few wild animals. The entire hike takes a good 5 hours or so, depending on your fitness level. For more details on this hike and direct GPS coordinates, you can check it out here. If you’re staying in the campsite, you can easily negotiate for a songthaew (red truck) to take you back
(Easy) For those who are looking for a slightly easier trail and aren’t too keen on hiking for five hours, there is an easier trail right by the campsite. If you look up towards the mountain, the trailhead should be towards your left. From the start, it’s an easy 1.6km hike towards the summit. Unlike most mountains, there are no breathtaking views from the summit of Doi Pui- however, the walk up is still highly recommended.
Related: Climbing Up Doi Mon Jong, Thailand
Explore the Waterfalls
Within the entire park, there are loads of waterfalls that you can visit either on your way up or down. A few of these are Huay Kaew, Montathan, Mork Fa, Tad Mok, Mae Sa, Mae Yi and Sri Sangwan. Huay Kaew is one of our favorites as you can picnic around the area or even take a quick dip in the shallow pool.
Visit the Hmong Tribe Villages
Nearby, there are various Hmong villages that are located in the entire National Park. You have the Ban Doi Pui, Ban Khun Chang Khian, and Ban Mae Sa Mai. These communities and tribes used to harvest the plentiful opium fields planted in the park. Nowadays, you can just pay them a visit to walk around, see the handicrafts they sell and learn a little bit about their way of life.Overall, it was another successful camping trip outside of Chiang Mai. Definitely highly recommended as it’s so near. The last time we went, we headed up on a Sunday afternoon and made it back down just in time for Monday breakfast at one of our favorite places to eat in Chiang Mai. This is one of the things that I love about being in Thailand! Everything is so accessible. The best part about the trip was that we were perched so high up and our campsite had the best views of Chiang Mai city, all lit up! Trust me, the view from up there is stellar! So if you’re looking for a quick getaway from Chaing Mai, or just looking to spend more time outdoors, consider heading up to Doi Pui.
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