Phu Chi Fah
This mountain sunrise is one of the most breathtaking views in Thailand, yet well off the tourist trail.
Phu Chi Fah is a must for anyone seeking the perfect sunrise experience. Located on the Thai/Lao border, this mountainous area is several degrees removed from the mass tourism Thailand is known for. It is quite far (almost 60 miles) from the nearest city, Chiang Rai, and there are hardly any other sights in the vicinity. And let’s not forget that in order to get to the peak before dawn, you need to wind up and down rural roads in the dark. Yet, it is well worth it.
Once you’ve reached Phu Chi Fah before the sun rises, darkness begins lifting, and most days a thin layer of mist appears from the lowlands, forming a bed of fluff through which the higher hilltops peek through. This is the signature view of the Phu Chi Fah sunrise. Once the mist begins lifting, the view opens up, revealing forests, hills, valleys, farmland and the mighty Mekong River all the way to Laos and beyond. And above it all, colorful hues and shades turn the sky into an ever-changing work of abstract art.
The beauty of the Phu Chi Fah sunrise appears in many tourist brochures and posters, but its name is rarely mentioned, which also goes to explain why so few visitors make it here—that is international visitors, as Thai locals are very fond of this place. The Phu Chi Fah viewpoint is the top of a steadily rising mountain that terminates abruptly with a dramatic drop. The most photogenic spot is just before you arrive at the top, so that both the cliff and the misty blanket are in sight.
Know Before You Go
Phu Chi Fah can be visited by staying at one of the hotels along the way there from Chiang Rai. Get acquainted with the rural roads the previous day so that reaching Phu Chi Fah in the dark is not as daunting. It can also be visited as a one-day trip from Chiang Rai, but that means setting off by 3 a.m. and navigating roads you’ve never been on. Either option requires your own means of transport. Phu Chi Fah can also be reached via public transport, but it is probably a 3-day trip, with the problem of getting to the top before sunrise—possible but difficult.
The last 13 km to Phu Chi Fah are on Road 1093, which branches off from Road 1155 in an easterly direction. Road signs are not clear, so you may have to ask around. From the parking lot, which is also the end of the road, it’s an easy 15-minute hike (if you’re reasonably fit) to the viewpoint. Visit Phu Chi Fah on a weekday for a chance to have the place all for yourself.
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