Doi Suthep Camping in the Clouds, Chiang Mai
What is it about camping that's so awesome?
I love camping, especially in Thailand. In rainy England, camping often equals spending quality time wrapped up in sleeping bags while the rain pours outside, consulting the dictionary for acceptable Scrabble words that contain J, Y and X (hint: there isn't one).
Dry-weather-camping in England is great (English countryside is beautiful), if it weren't for the nights. Even in Summer... it's freaking cold. We can't afford a big tent so I always end up with my face squished up against a freezing wet tent wall flapping in my face at 3am and the slippery sleeping bag slides down the slippery sleeping mat until the only thing actually holding me in the goddamn tent is the zip and a fierce determination to be one of those people that take all these camping tribulations in their stride.
Observe please the zen of camping in Chiang Mai:
That's our tent in a campsite near the top of Doi Suthep mountain in Chiang Mai, sitting pretty in the early morning Sunday sunshine. A few moments before I took that photograph, I'd just woken up and was ready to hunt for caffeine. We had arrived on Saturday evening in the dark, so hadn't really had the chance to look around properly. When I unzipped the (dry!) tent door, this is what I saw:
Amazing, right!? Coffee could wait. I wandered around taking photographs, listening to nature sounds and looking at nature stuff:
Beware of the LeechDon't worry, you won't find the suckers anywhere near your tent. You'll only find them if you're here at the right time of year and go for a stroll along the nature trail to the summit of Doi Suthep mountain. We decided to do just that before we left. Happily, there were no leeches at all. Sadly, the Nature Trail was a bit of a disappointment, in that you had to have a machete to actually walk that far along it. I must remember to pack one next time.
This isn't a roughing it kind of campsite - you don't even have to put your own tent up. It costs 150 baht to rent a big two-man tent for the night, a little more for bigger ones. You can rent a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, pillow, gas lamp and blankets. Don't forget camping essentials like a torch and some plastic bags.
FacilitiesThere are several toilet blocks that are clean enough, and freezing cold showers that are guaranteed to wake you up way more than a 3-in-1 Nescafe coffee from the canteen area. The nice lady in the eating area cooks cheap fried rice, kale with crispy pork, other Thai food. We had fried rice (pretty good) and pad si ew (not that great). She was fine cooking vegetarian food for Andy. You can buy coffee, tea, water, toilet roll, instant noodles and biscuits - and soft drinks if you're lucky.
How to get to the Doi Suthep campsite
Get in your car or motorbike and drive to Wat Doi Suthep - the famous big golden temple on Doi Suthep mountain. Drive past it. Drive past the King's heli-pad on your left. Keep going. Drive past Bhubing Palace. Go straight on over the roundabout. Keep going. When you reach a fork in the road, go right, past the entrance to the hill tribe village. Keep going. Remember to beep your horn frequently because the road gets quite narrow. Finally, after a lovely ride through the forest, you'll see signs for the campsite and then the entrance to the campsite is on your right. Here is a map. It takes about an hour to drive.
I don't know if red cars go there, but I don't see why they wouldn't. I don't know how much this would cost. If you do, please let me know in the comments section :)
This was the perfect place to fall in love with Chaing Mai all over again, have lovely romantic times with Andy and catch up on sleep. I will finish this post with a massively sincere recommendation to get your ass over there.