Phu Chi Duean- Chiang Rai
Elevation gain - Approximately 533m total elevation
Elevation of Phu Chi Duean - 1742m (Topographic map only states 1709m)
Trail length - Approximately 3-5 km
Time required - 1-2 hrs for ascent & 1 hr for decent
Difficulty & Danger - Easy
Entry to trail coordinates - 19°52'39.6"N 100°29'22.6"E
Water intake - 2 litres per person & take some snacks
Just wow! I do not think words can describe how utterly awesome this hike and view is. Firstly, it is probably for everyone and if you do not want to hike it up the trail you can always get a truck to drive you. Either way, no one is missing out on this spectacular view and neither should they. This was one of the most memorable and enjoyable days of my life. Not only was the hike amazing, the view amazing, the drive up to this area amazing but also May said yes and we are now engaged.
After the big hike up Doi Luang we made our way to Chiang Rai and to a cosy homestay called Bambuh Boutique Homestay; we stayed in the superior chalet which I would highly recommend. We spent the next 24hrs recuperating and enjoying the authentic feel of our room and the nature outside.
We woke up early the next morning and set out on what will always be remembered as one of our most special days. You drive out of Chiang Rai, through the farms and small quirky villages with their Lanna-esque design. The Lan Na or Lan Na Kingdom meaning, Kingdom of a Million Rice Fields. The Lan Na Kingdom was between the 13th and 18th centuries when it ended with the retreat of the Burmese and the annexation by Siam and King Thaksin of the Thonburi Kingdom. I was always joking with May about how spooky the place felt, the Lanna design definitely is different from the rest of Thai design and architecture; for me it is definitely somewhat spooky but unique and special in it's own way.
We found once you get out of Chiang Rai there are no decent coffee places but be patient and you will come across Can Coffee and Mulberry who serve a great coffee. Once you are through the farms, you will find yourself on a long road with the Phi Pan Nam Mountain Range ahead of you. The Phi Pan Nam Range Mountain Range ironically includes Doi Luang where we had just hiked. Doi Luang is near the base of the range whilst Phu Chi Duean is near the top. The road is brand new, definitely a great few minutes of music and windows down. It is pretty cool to think, whilst driving towards this mammoth block of rock, you will soon be on top of it enjoying the views and feeling.
The road up to the border area is fun to drive and most cars or motorbikes are capable of making the journey. We have a Toyota Yaris called Lizzy and thus far, as expected, she has taken everything we have thrown at her; an absolute beast of a car! If you have a 'B' gear in your car, life will be a lot easier. The border region is truly like another world, the rolling green hills and valleys with the winding roads is a thrill in itself. There are various viewpoints and rest areas on the climb and I would take full advantage of them as they all offer a different view and a chance to give your car a well deserved rest.
With a few stops along the way, it took us about 2.30hrs from Chiang Rai to reach the trailhead. I have given you the trailhead coordinates in the notes section. You can basically park opposite where some truck drivers seem to wait for customers to drive up to the viewpoint. We had seen another hikers pictures from the top but where not sure about the trail itself so we got some information from one of the waiting truck drivers. He was pretty cool seeing that we were not going to take a truck up so I do not think you will have any problems here. We were planning on giving him a 100B for the info when we got back but he had already gone. A lift in a truck costs about 300-500baht per person depending on your negotiating skills.
So the hike will start on a small dirt road with a sign saying Phu Chi Duean, so you really can't miss it. The trail is just a dirt road which is only accessible to a truck or MX bike. If you have Thai countryside teenager Honda Wave type skills then you might be able to do it on a normal bike.
You will meander up the road for approximately 3-5km. It is not too vertical and there are regular breaks with flat sections. The first 10metres a nice lady gave us a tour of her small farm. She was growing corn, cabbage and spring onion and kindly said we could take a sample of whatever we wanted; her husband was equally nice as does everyone seem to be up here.
There is a coffee farm called 'Waguar Coffee' for about the next 20metres and although on an old dirt road, you still get quite a good touch of nature. We actually saw quite an array of insects and flowers we hadn't seen before just along the side of the road.
At the top of the road there is a small parking area and viewpoint platform. I suppose you could park up here and camp for the night. You would be able to get both sunrise and sunset views.
It is a short hike from here up to the viewpoint with a couple of benches along the way. We took my drone up with us so we got some great shots overlooking the Mekong river and the surrounding peaks. It is, for me, a once in a life time kind of view, one that everyone should try and get to. The view looking into Laos, the Mekong and the Luang Prabang Mountain Range is unmissable and quite moving.
I am glad I chose this spot to propose to my partner and lucky that she said yes so we can come back here every year!
We chose to hike Phu Chi Duean because it is apparently less busy than the other peaks nearby. We were totally alone that day and the weather was not too bad. I am looking forward to coming back in the rainy season when everything is even greener and the sky clearer. There is a trail that you can hike along the top between peaks but we were in the moment and enjoying the view so didn't do it.
Below are some photos of the views and different peaks along the ridge.