Page Contributor(s): Ard Oostra, Switzerland; Joe Bachmann, Los Angeles, California, USA; Lulu Wong, Napa, CA, USA
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Cycling Doi Inthanon
Ride 24 miles gaining 7,620’ at 5.8% average grade.
The Doi Inthanon cycling climb on route 1009, south of Chiang Mai, is the third most difficult road bike climb in Asia. We begin this amazing experience at the Doi Inthanon National Park entrance/checkpoint #1. The Park is 119,105 acres and was established in 1972.
Center photo, John and our exceptional guide Ghing,
he is the BEST and can be contacted for guiding inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The “wai,” (demonstrated by John and Ghing in the photo above) is a respectful gesture. It is made by “pressing the palms together in prayer-like fashion and bowing the head. The wai is used to say hello, thank you, goodbye, and “I’m sorry.” The higher the hands and deeper the bow, the more respect is shown.” Read more about the wai here.
Doi Inthanon National Park was named in honour of King Inthawichayanon, the seventh ruling king of Chiang Mai (1870-1897). During his life King Inthawichayanon was concerned about the forests in northern Thailand and wanted to act to preserve this land. After his death the forest was renamed to Doi Inthanon in his honor (Doi Inthanon National Park). The shrine at the ride’s summit is dedicated to him and his ashes are deposited there.
The summit is one of the main attractions in the park, which is also popular for its wonderful views, two temples, and waterfalls within hiking distance.
Naphaphonphumisiri one of two temples on the mountain. The interior is stunning.
At 2565 metres (8415 feet), Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand, and is nicknamed “The Roof of Thailand.”
Do not forget to touch the high point marker for good luck!
As of December 2018, the cost to enter the park is 300 baht for foreigners ($9.20). On May 10, 2019, PJAMM Cycling confirmed that cyclists must pay this entrance fee to enter the park.
The climb begins modestly at 2.6% for the first 11 km. There are several brief descents over this long 38.6 kilometer climb. The crux of the climb begins at km 30.4 and is 6.5 km at a 12% average grade until softening for the last 1.5 km to 3%.
In the midst of the steepest kilometer on the mountain -- beginning at km 33 (16%).
Finish at the Princess Sirindhorn Neutron Monitor sign.
PJAMM’S MAY 2019 ASIA TRIP - INCLUDING CHIANG MAI
Landing in Chiang Mai at sunset May 9, 2019.
WELCOME TO THAILAND.
Doi (meaning “mountain” in Thai) Inthanon was the middle climb of our whirlwind sweep through Asia – first stop Mt. Fuji, Japan (four routes), second stop Doi Inthanon (with Doi Suthep and Doi Pui as a Thailand bonus), and finishing with Wuling Pass, Taiwan (three routes to the summit).
PJAMM’s May, 2019 Asian Bike Climb Itinerary.
Mt. Fuji, Japan (four routes -- May 4-5, 2019).
Wuling Pass, Taiwan (three routes -- May 11-12, 2019).
Nearly all PJAMM trips are self-guided and self-supported. However, Lulu Wong, my friend from Santa Rosa, California, had participated in a Chiang Mai Backroads tour and knew I intended someday to travel to Thailand to ride the great Doi Inthanon. Lulu was most impressed with her Thai Backroads tour leader, Ghing (email@example.com) and put me in touch with him in the event he could be of assistance. I am forever grateful to Lulu for introducing PJAMM to Ghing – the contact made for our most interesting and fun road bike climbing trip ever – and that’s saying something! We LOVE Thailand and were lucky enough to have the greatest guide any cyclists travelling to a foreign country could ever hope for.
Left to right: Ghing, John, Mitch, Javier.
We landed in Chiang Mai on May 9, 2019 and were picked up at the airport by Ghing, our tour leader. Ghing is a 51-year-old cyclist who grew up and lives in Chiang Mai and speaks excellent English. Having an interpreter and someone who knows the area so well is invaluable in countries without great GPS maps, that do not have a good percentage of English speakers, and that have heavy city traffic that drives on the left side of the road. Thus, instead of our normal pattern of getting to our climb and figuring things out in the moment, we were quite fortunate to have a guide who knew the Chiang Mai area like the back of his hand and who could not have been more kind, informative and interesting – I figured out pretty quickly that Ghing is not a lead Backroads guide for nothing!
Ghing’s fees were extremely reasonable and he was an invaluable source of knowledge regarding Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Buddhism, and the Thai culture in general. We highly recommend Ghing as a guide and you may contact him via his email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or via me (email@example.com). I fully endorse Ghing as a guide for any bike, hike, or general touring around Chiang Mai.
For the next three days we cycled some of the greatest climbs in the world, all while learning about the culture and history of Thailand and Buddhism and visiting some of the most extraordinary temples (Wats) you could ever hope for.
Doi Suthep Wat, Chiang Mai.
The best season for Thailand is during the time Ghing works exclusively for Backroads – October to April. Our timing for Doi Inthanon was based on our Wuling Pass ride, part of a Taiwan cycling club that PJAMM had a good relationship with and had invited us to join them on their Wuling Pass climb on May 11, 2019. My son graduated from college May 18 so we had to do Mt. Fuji and Doi Inthanon before May 11 – not ideal, but who’s to complain about the opportunity to ride those two magical mountains, no matter the timing?
My wife Rochelle is very frugal and she located a reasonably priced hotel that turned out to be an excellent place to stay. We highly recommend the Rainforest Boutique Hotel, Chiang Mai. Please note that all PJAMM endorsements of services or equipment are made for the sole purpose of helping our website’s visitors experience the best cycling adventure possible. We only recommend services that we respect, believe in, and have personally experienced. The Rainforest Boutique Hotel has a very friendly staff, they always have someone available who speaks English, their breakfasts are excellent, and their dinner and bar services are equally impressive – we thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. The total cost, including three breakfasts, room for three, dinner for three one night and for one the other two nights was right around $200 USD. You are guaranteed to get extreme value for you financial investment in a cycling vacation to Chiang Mai.
The weather was a challenge (100 degrees in Chiang Mai each day of our visit) so Ghing picked us up at 5 a.m. for our Doi Inthanon ride. Although we missed the main breakfast that began at 6:30 a.m. that day, the hotel made three boxed meals for us – I mean, who does that!?
We had wheels down on Doi Inthanon by 6:30 a.m. and spent the next several hours experiencing a magnificent climb to the highest point in Thailand – Doi Inthanon is known as the Rooftop of Thailand. Ghing provided excellent support and knew all the best spots to stop for our photographer to get the best photos and video possible. Unfortunately, the Chiang Mai area was quite smoky during our stay, so distant views down into the plains surrounding Doi Inthanon were not available to us on this day.
Ghing hooked us up with a ride through an elephant farm. 👍
Our favorite tour (versus ride) was of the most holy location in Thailand, Doi Suthep. Ghing features the temple on his Backroads tours and also grew up with the temple being a focal point for his family; his father was one of thousands of Thai laborers who volunteered to hand build a road to Doi Suthep in 1935.
Naga guard the entrance to Doi Suthep Wat. 309 steps to the temple.
Naga: Like the Garuda, nagas also originated in Hindu mythology. The original nagas of Hindu art were human from the waist up and snake from the waist down. In time they became entirely snake. They especially like to dwell in bodies of water. In East Asia, a naga is considered to be a kind of dragon. In Tibet and other parts of Asia, however, the naga and the dragon are two different creatures. Sometimes nagas are depicted as legless dragons; sometimes they are more like giant cobras. In Buddhist folklore, nagas are particularly known for protecting scriptures. They are worldly creatures who can spread disease and cause disaster if they are angered.
PJAMM is blessed -- literally by the monk, and figuratively just to be here.
This fabric is wrapped around the statue of buddha seasonally.
We checked with Ghing and he said this was completely acceptable.
A BIT ABOUT CHIANG MAI AND THAI CULTURE
Chiang Mai is an ancient city, and is the largest city in mountainous northern Thailand. From its founding in 1296 until 1558, Chiang Mai was capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom. “Its Old City area still retains vestiges of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center. [Chiang Mai] is also home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang, adorned with carved serpents” (read more here). The culture of Chiang Mai is steeped in rich symbolism and a strong cultural heritage. The Thai people have values and attitudes which frame their lives with joy, and place strong importance on humility. A common phrase in Thai is “mai pen rai,” which means “no worries,” and acts as a general Thai philosophy. Thailand is commonly known as “The Land of Smiles,” because smiling comes easily for Thai people. In general, the Thai people are known for being kind, happy, and thankful. A helpful blog detailing many Thai customs and traditions can be found here.