This is an overdue blogging on one of the best places in Thailand for a relaxing getaway. Although this place was getting more attention, thanks to the internet, Phu Chi Fa was still relatively freer from the tourist crowd. In fact, most of the tourists here were locals. There were less foreigners.
Phu Chi Fa means ‘The Hill that Points to the Sky’. It is located around 3 hours drive away from Chiang Rai. I came across it when I was looking through TripAdvisor on things to do in Chiang Rai, other than Wat Kong Run. When I saw writings on Phu Chi Fa, I knew I had to go there. But how? It was not easy, unless one was willing to pay for an expensive tour package from Chiang Rai. I traveled alone. So, tour package was out of question. Luckily, with a bit help from here and there in the internet, I managed to reach Phu Chi Fa the town near Phu Chi Fa before sunset.
I wrote quite detailed explanation of my ‘adventure’ in TripAdvisor. This is what was written back then.
“Here are the tips on going to this heaven from Chiang Rai and stay there for less than 1000baht.
Go to Terminal 1 Bus Station Chiang Rai, which is within the town. Ask around for Phu Chi Fa. You will be shown to a counter, where a hand-written signboard is hung above a desk. Tell the lady who sits behind the desk that you want to go to Phu Chi Fa. The return tickets is 300 baht (at this time of writing). The van will come to pick you up at 1pm. The journey takes more than 3 hours. The same van will pick you up the next morning at 9am, at the same spot of the van station at Phu Chi Fa.
I reached the Phu Chi Fa station around 4.15pm. Without any reservation of a accommodation, I was confident (blindly) somehow that I could find a place to rest. At the van station, there was a lady who held out a cardboard, written in English telling me she had a place for 500 baht only. So, I took it. The chalet came with free wifi and hot shower. It was just alright.
Some travelers opted for a tent. This costs 300 baht.
After checking in, I took a quick walk up the steep tar road to view sunset at the top of Phu Chi Fa. The road stretched a long 2.5km and it was really difficult for me, who was walking faster than my normal pace, as I was trying to reach before the sun set. That 2.5km distance brought me to the car park near the view point. There was another 760 meter to continue on. However, these 760 meter was not so taxing as the earlier 2,5km.
The reward was worth it. There were less than 20 tourists at the top, leaving the view point almost empty for quiet time, and appreciation of the wonderful sights of the mountains and surroundings, of Thailand and Laos.
I came back to learn that there were pick up trucks to bring anyone up (or down) for a fee of 30 baht each way. My guest house arranged one to pick me up at 5am. That would give me an additional hour to sleep in, as I was planning to get up at 4am to walk up.
Do bring torchlight. At the top, there were more than 150 tourists already taking their seats on the ground, awaiting for the sunrise. However, the better spot to view the landscape is not on the peak of the view point but to the left. A few steps further, I was able to avoid the crowd and enjoy wider landscape view.
Another good place to take photo is to walk back down the trail, and stop at the nearby spot where the cliff can be seen. As the sun rises, but still below the height of the cliff, the view is simply breath-taking.
Internet articles will tell you that the place is really cold and one can suffer hypothermia. Not true. You should have your jacket with you but the temperature is not that bad. The guesthouse thick blanket is already good enough to provide warm sleep.
The articles will tell you that there are hardly any eateries there. Time has changed. There are several places you can enjoy your dinner and breakfast the next morning. However, I brought some snacks up to the cliff, since that I knew I would be spending hours there. I was hungry. Thankfully I had something to keep the hunger away.
There are the tribal kids, all dressed up, singing for any amount of money donation. Support them, if you want to. They do look adorable.
Be prepared to have a sleepless night. During the peak season (Nov to Jan), many locals would head there. They must have been really excited to see one another that they would stay up all night, just to chat and laugh. In a high volume. My German friends told me they suffered in their thin tent. As for me, in the chalet, I could hear my neighbours talking into the late morning but it was not that loud to disturb my sleep.
I am planning to go back there again. And this time, maybe I will stay for two nights. The life there seems so easy and relax, some thing that this aching old body of backpacker would wish to enjoy longer, just to get away from the crazy city life.”
*I was told Phu Chi Fa was best to be visited between Nov to Jan.