Doi Chiang Dao



Doi Chiang Dao

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At 7,200 ft (2,195 m), this is the third-largest mountain in Thailand. Home to several Lisu and Karen villages, Doi Chiang Dao features both tropical and pine forests. Today, this peak and the surrounding area, characterized by rugged limestone scenery and dense teak forest, are more of an attraction than the nearby town, Chiang Dao.

Running for some 8.5 miles (14 km) under the mountain is a network of caves, Tham Chiang Dao, best reached from Chiang Dao town. Most of the caves house statues of the Buddha that, over the years, have been left by Shan pilgrims from Myanmar. The highlight of the batin habited caves, however, is their huge stalactites and stalagmites. Lanterns and guides can be hired in order to make the most of these impressive features. The tours take visitors along an illuminated walkway through the caves

Near the caves is a temple, Wat Tham Chiang Dao, with a Buddhist meditation center and a small room displaying gongs and other instruments. Beyond a huge tamarind tree, by a pond, is an old Myanmar style chedi. Nearby, a small market offers a wide selection of locally gathered forest roots, herbs, and spices.

East of Doi Chiang Dao, and dominated by the peak, is Chiang Dao town, with its traditional teak buildings along the main street. It was founded in the 18th century as a place of exile for phi pop, (“spirit people”), who were suspected of being possessed by evil spirits. In fact, the symptoms of their true illnesses, such as malaria, had been mistaken as signs of madness

Tham Tup Tao, 30 miles (48 km) north of Chiang Dao, are two large caverns. Tham Pha Kao (“light cave”) houses two large Buddha images and a stalagmite carved in the shape of a group of elephants. Inside Tham Pha Chak (“dark cave”), which can be explored only by lantern, is a bat colony.

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