Thailand’s north is rich in peaks of the Dean Lao Mountain range. It stretches from Thailand over Laos up to the border with the People’s Republic of China. The area is home to many hill tribes and it is much less developed compared to the bustling cities of Bangkok or Chiang Mai. Chiang Dao, the “city of stars”, is located around one and a half hours north of Chiang Mai along highway 107. Only around 16,000 people call the city of stars home. As the name of the peak and the name of the city suggest, it’s a place you can observe the stars from.

Leaving the city itself and good weather is -of course- still a requirement. Many peaks, such as Doi Kham Fah, invite nature fans to peek at Doi Chiang Dao during the foggy morning hours and the stars at night. Chiang Dao itself is primed for stargazing, but it’s been declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 2021. Since then, the already limited access has been further restricted. However, alternatives are plenty with many Doi’s around. Doi Kham Fah says sawadeekrap for those willing to take the challenging travels. In many ways, Doi Kham Fah reminded me of the stories I’ve heard about how Doi Ang Khang used to be, before the paved road was built.

Don't be surprised to get charged for a car you aren't allowed to drive up. Foreigners are paying 100 THB, Thais are 20 THB. Children cost 50 THB/10 THB (Thai). Prices for vehicles vary by size. For example, pickups are 30 THB.

As of December 2021, the entrance prices look like this:

Camping on Doi Kham Fah

The campground on top of Doi Kham Fah is pretty unpopular. This isn’t due to it being unworthy of a visit. Not at all. It’s mostly due to the limited access: The peak can only be reached by cars with four-wheel-drive or by foot. The 8 km hike along the unpaved mountainous road is rather unspectacular compared to the top. The road leads along a river and continues into the mountains after a while. However, it is a road after all.

What makes Doi Kham Fah so tough to reach is also what makes it special. It’s rather undeveloped. You will only find some basic infrastructure, such as toilets and showers. There are no restaurants or shops. You will need to equip yourself with provisions for your stay. Make sure to cover the needs of your family too. For example, headlamps for younger ones are a must up here.

Stargazing from Doi Kham Fah

If the weather gods are kind to you, you will be rewarded with an amazing spectacle in the sky at night. Only Bolivia in South America blessed me with a similar stargazing experience. If you come by rental pick up, make sure to park smartly. Then you can use an air mattress and sleeping bags on the back of the car to take in the sky at night.

Viewing Doi Chiang Dao

If you are able to wake up in time, the next morning won’t leave you empty-handed either. The campsite is perfectly aligned to see the fog at Doi Chiang Dao slowly fading away in the first sun of the day. At Doi Kham Fah, you can enjoy the view directly from your tent. Ideally with a hot coffee in hand. I've been only able to get a day-time shoot in the clouds:
Doi Chiang Dao from Doi Kham Fah

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About the Author


Peter has a passion for the outdoors & software. He loves to hike, discover new and old places, read, and learn about new things as often as possible. Originally from Germany, Peter has lived in New Zealand, Taiwan, Georgia, and Thailand over the last few years. Along the way, he explored many other countries and cities over the last decade. Who was it again who said 'to understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities'? These days he is taking it easy at home planning new adventures with his wife from Thailand!

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