There are some easy hikes you can do on your own around Chiang Dao, such as a marked nature trail or a climb up to a mountain temple.
Like much of Thailand's mountainous north -- Doi Inthanon, Doi Ang Khang, Pha Hom Pok), the area is renowned as a bird watching mecca.
The cool upper elevations form the southern limits for many Eurasian temperate species, with the warm lower slopes being the northern limits for tropical varieties. Bear in mind that in Thailand a common European blackbird or chaffinch is highly exotic! Those interested will be able to arrange trips at places like Malee’s and Nest.
Just a short distance past Nest you’ll see the nature trail indicated on the left side of the road. It winds its way down a wooded valley to the Chiang Dao Cave and takes around two hours.
Past the nature trail you’ll arrive at the headquarters of a wildlife sanctuary, from where steps lead up the mountains to a small temple/shrine called Tham Pla Pong. It’s 510 steps to the top, so not only will the view at the top take your breath away, the climb up will too. There are lovely views over limestone cliffs and lush vegetation, with more good birding opportunities too. At the shrine is the tomb of Luang Pho Sim, the temple's founder and one of Thailand's most celebrated monks. (The sanctuary headquarters below is a bit of a non-event and is crying out for a decent visitor centre.)
By Mark Ord.