7 Practical Traveling Tips to Stay at the Mountains of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

by Tania Ho
18 January 2022

There are many wonderful mountains around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai area that provide small and simple homestays, camps, and resorts for people to stay at.

Famous mountains to stay at include Phu Chi Fah, Doi Chaang, Doi Mae Sa Long in Chiang Rai, and Moncham in Chiang Mai.

I highly recommend staying at least one night in the mountains to experience its magical energy and majestic presence.

Last year I stayed at Phu Chi Fah mountain for one night and hiked up to the famous view point to watch the sunrise in the cold, and this year I went to stay at Moncham mountain for a relaxing family trip (you can read about my experience here).

What do people usually do in the mountains? Typically, most people check into their accommodation by the afternoon, enjoy the sunset while having a barbeque dinner and check out the next morning after sunrise. Of course the itinerary will look differently depending on what your purpose of the trip is.

Below are seven practical traveling tips coming from my own experience that hopefully can help you plan your mountain trip better:

1. Find a confident and safe driver

If you plan to drive up to the mountain yourself, make sure you are a confident driver. The roads are often steep and curvy, and if you are not confident with your own driving skills, it is better to find someone else to drive or hire a car.

Because some mountain roads can be quite steep and some roads are not paved properly, it would be safer to drive up with a vehicle with a four-wheel drive. When we went to Monchan mountain, we drove with our CUV and it was fine, though we did get stuck in a muddy road because we went the wrong way. I did see a lot of sedan cars driving up the mountains so that should be okay too.

2. Book your accommodation early

In the winter months from November to February particularly on the weekends, lots of people flock up to the mountains for a one-night stay to experience the cool mountain air.

For my trip to Moncham mountain in November 2021, I booked my accommodation about one month prior and there were only a few rooms left. Some homestays I checked were already fully booked at that point.

The few homestays I checked only used Facebook page to promote their accommodation and facilities and most of the time the information was in Thai. The ones I checked do allow you to book the rooms online directly and an English page is available.

I did ask my Thai friends to help call the accommodation to check on a few details. For example, some accommodations require the guests to be fully vaccinated in order to stay there, and paperwork needs to be presented upon check-in. Be sure to check if this is any specific requirement and make sure you bring all your paperwork.

Remember to book your accommodation early as they get full real quick especially on weekends
3. Get a Thai friend to help

As mentioned previously, I asked for my Thai friends’ help to check and book the accommodation. Also, when we drove up to Moncham mountain, I realize all the signages are in Thai only. In all the homestays that I have been to, usually the staff can only speak Thai.

If you cannot read or speak Thai (like me – I can’t read Thai), it may be better to travel with a Thai friend, or hire an English-speaking driver who can drive and translate for you.

4. Rely on your road sense, not Google Map

Sometimes the map directions provided by the accommodation’s Facebook page are not accurate, and even Google Map does not know everything. When we were driving to our homestay at Moncham mountain, the map directions from their Facebook page were not correct and we got lost.

We used Google Map but ended up entering into this “shortcut” road that was not paved properly. As a result, our car got stuck in a muddy road. We had to call the homestay, and their staff brought a pickup truck to tow us out of the mud.

My husband actually saw the signage in Thai when he was driving but because Google Map showed that we were not there yet, he kept on driving. If he had followed his own road sense, we probably would have gotten to the homestay much sooner.

If you are unsure of the directions to the accommodation, make sure to call them right away for help (remember you would need to be able to speak Thai to communicate though).

5. Be okay with simplicity

Most homestays in the mountains provide quite simple accommodations and facilities. A lot of people actually prefer to stay in camping tents as part of the experience. There may be a few bigger resorts that offer more of a standard resort room type but these are very rare.

Be okay with the simple facilities (especially the toilets and showers), and let go of any expectations. There won’t be a lot of toiletries provided except for a bar of soap. The point of staying at the mountain is to be present in nature and enjoy the ambience.

Disconnect with the internet if you can. Use your camera to snap lots of photos then be completely present to soak up all the mountain magic.

We didn't stay inside this tent but many people love the camping experience.
6. Bring your own snacks and drinks

For dinners, the homestays I’ve been to usually serve moo kor ta (Thai-style pork barbeque). In some homestays you can also order other food but most are Thai dishes and menus are in Thai only. For breakfasts, they usually serve a simple boiled rice with pork or chicken.

If you are vegetarian or require other types of food, it is best to bring your own food and drinks as you won’t have convenient access to buy much when you are up on the mountains.

I brought snacks for my toddler and myself in our last two mountain trips, as sometimes the meals may not be served at the time when you or your child are hungry. I also pack enough water bottles and stock them in the car, as most homestays only provide 2 complimentary bottles of water in the room.

Mirren and I having boiled rice with pork and boiled egg as breakfast
7. Check the weather and pack appropriately

A lot of people like to visit the mountain during the cooler months from November to February. Make sure to check the temperature at the top of the mountain, as usually there is quite a difference in temperature between the top and the bottom of the mountain.

Particularly at night when the sun goes down and in the early morning, the temperature will drop quite a bit. Get ready for the wind too. It’s better to pack a warm jacket and layers that you can take off during the day.

Most accommodations I’ve been to do not provide heater nor air-conditioner in the room, only a fan for the hotter month. If you are not sure if it will get too cold for you at night, it’s best to pack warmer clothes to go to sleep.

If you plan to walk around the mountain, for example to hike up to Phu Chi Fah mountain to watch the sunrise, pack appropriate shoes for the hike too. It is a steep climb in some parts of that hike and the pathway is not paved.

Remember to pack warm a warm jacket and layers as it can get quite cold in early morning. Obviously we forgot to bring hiking shoes to walk up Phu Chi Fah mountain.

I hope that these tips can be useful for planning your next trip to stay in the mountains of Chiang Rai or Chiang Mai.

If you are coming to visit Chiang Rai in the winter months from November to February and if you have enough time, I highly recommend you to stay one night at the mountains. You can read about my one-night stay at Moncham mountain back in November 2021 here.

It is definitely worth it to be present and be surrounded by mountain mama’s amazing energy.