Photo: Spectacular.


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Lying less than 75 kilometres north of Chiang Mai City and set amid bucolic mountain scenery, the town of Chiang Dao has long been considered a contender to rival Mae Hong Son’s tourist Mecca of Pai.

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Scenery-wise and in terms of sites it is right up there and remarkably Chiang Dao is said to be the only Thai district where all of the six main hill-tribe groups. (Akha, Hmong, Karen, Lahu, Lisu and Yao), are represented, yet, perhaps luckily, the hordes have just failed to materialise.

The impressive Chiang Dao peak. Photo taken in or around Chiang Dao, Thailand by Mark Ord.

The impressive Chiang Dao peak. Photo: Mark Ord

Some locals point to the town’s layout which in contrast to cosy, compact Pai sees existing tourist facilities split between the town itself—laid out along the side of a long straight main street—and Ban Tham a few kilometres distant by the famous caves. The two are separated by a new 4-lane bypass while the scenic and virtually undeveloped Ping riverside lies beyond town to the east. If these disparate elements could be grouped into a compact and convenient little package then you would have more chance of a budding Pai 2 but geography obliges and for now, tourism in Chiang Dao advances at a slow pace.

Despite the dashed dreams of some local entrepreneurs, so much the better for those who do make it up here and it is precisely the un-commercialism of the town that provides its charm.

Laid back scenes near Arunothai. Photo taken in or around Chiang Dao, Thailand by Mark Ord.

Laid back scenes near Arunothai. Photo: Mark Ord

Chiang Dao refers to the district, the main regional town, the eponymous caves and the neighbouring wildlife sanctuary as well as being commonly used to refer to the huge limestone massif (officially Doi Luang) that towers above it. Dao means star in Thai as the mountain is so high—Thailand’s third highest at nearly 2,200 metres (exact figures vary)—it’s supposed to be on the same level as the stars themselves. While the district is large; starting at Mae Taeng, just north of Chiang Mai and extending all the way to the Burma (Myanmar) border at Arunothai and west and east to Wiang Haeng and Phrao respectively—the “City of Stars” itself ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,600 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Dao.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Dao.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Chiang Dao.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Dao, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Chiang Dao? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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