The small hamlet of Ban Pa Pong Piang lost in the mountains of the Doi Inthanon National Park in Chiang Mai province undoubtedly offers one of the most beautiful rice terraces in Thailand, if not the most beautiful ones. I was there 4 days ago. Let me explain you everything you need to know go there and enjoy it !
Beautiful scenery of Ban Pa Pong Piang at the beginning of September
Ban Pa Pong Piang and its terraced rice fields
After a long journey by local transport which I will explain in detail later in this article, here there are: Ban Pa Pong Piang rice terraces that I can watch from Ban Nong Nam Pu wooden house the my guesthouse for the night. The view is just beautiful with the terraced rice fields and a mountain range in the background.
Ban Pa Pong Piang rice terraces (the view from the terrace in front of my room)
I can see the rain is coming but I still decide to walk on the labyrinth of the slopes of the rice fields. After a one hour heavy downpour, I resume my walk. The rice is fairly high and has an intense green almost fluorescent color. The sky is loaded with clouds that drop a little drizzle on me but nothing that can restrain me from enjoying the scenery.
We can clearly see the rain in the distance that inexorably comes closer . Mai pen rai 😉
The afternoon moves forward and I see some couples descending into the rice paddies and photographing each other. AL of them are Thai. The majority of the visitors who come here are local tourists. Not a lot foreigners know about this place.
The next morning, I woke up at 6:30 am, the weather is a little bit less covered so I rush in the rices fields again for more pictures.
Accommodation in Ban Pa Pong Piang
If it is possible to come stay a few hours to see the rice fields and go back to Chiang Mai on the same day (but not with local transport, it would be too tiring), you will only really know what Baan Pa Bong Piang is by passing the night here. This will give you a chance to see the sunset exactly in front of the huts of most guesthouses. Considering the weather my sunset was not that nice but you may be more lucky when you come.
There are a few guesthouses in Ban Pa Pong Piang , I stayed at Ban Nong Nam Phu but not really by choice, it was the only one that had room (I called 2 others before). Because that is the main difficulty to come here: find a room available.
In any case all accommodations in Baan Pa Pong Piang are almost the same, they are all in wooden cabanons on the mountain flanks with a terrace that overlooks the rice fields and small rooms with mattresses on the floor and a mosquito net and a small shed outside hosting a common bathroom (usually for 2 bedrooms) with Turkish toilets and a large barrel of water with a small basin with a handle to shower. No electricity, at night they give you candles that you dispose of as you want. So if you are looking for comfort, this is not the place for you 😉
The rooms are very basic but you come here for the view not for the comfort;)
All rooms at Ban Pa Pong Piang are at the same price: 500 THB per person per night (so if 2 people in the same room, it will be 1000 THB), this price includes dinner and breakfast (rice soup).
Dinner is served ! 😉
There are very few accommodation options up there and each has a small number of rooms, I put on this page the guesthouses of Ban Pa Pong Piang. Book your room in advance especially if you plan to go on weekends or holidays !
Coming to Ban Pa Pong Piang by booking a guesthouse is the best way to come safely. They will take care of sending you a 4×4 car to pick you up for the last few kilometers.
When to come to Ban Pa Pong Piang ?
What makes the charm of Ban Pa Pong Piang is its rice fields so it is only interesting to come when the rice is planted ie from early-mid-July to late October early November. The rest of the year, they do not welcome visitors. The guesthouses are closed.
And for me the most photogenic moment, it is probably at the beginning, right after the rice is planted around mid-July (the date depends on the rainfalls) when the rice is still quite short and the rice fields full of water with the sky and the clouds reflected in it. I had seen it during my small weekend in July in another mountain with rice terraces. And by coming at this time, you will also be able to participate and plant rice with the locals.
The rice fields just after the rice paddy in July 2017 (in another mountain near Chiang Mai)
Getting to Ban Pa Pong Piang from Chiang Mai
A beautiful landscape like that, you have to deserve it! Coming by local transport from Chiang Mai may seem complicated but it is mainly long (3h30 minimum), it is the cheapest option of course but also the longest and the least comfortable one. This is obviously the one I have chosen to be able to explain it to you in detail.
Coming by local transportation from Chiang Mai
The journey takes place in 3 stages. First you have to go to “Pratu Chiang Mai” one of the 4 gates of the central square of Chiang Mai city. This is the gate next to Saturday Walking Street for those who know it. Otherwise, say “Pratu Chiang Mai” to a tuk-tuk or a red car, he will know where to bring you.
From there, yellow cars (songthaews) to Chom Thong depart every 20 minutes or so,Take it. Make sure it goes to Chom Thong before climbing in as there are several yellow cars . Mine was parked almost exactly in front of “Pratu Chiang Mai” but ask the driver to be sure. (35 THB per person you pay when you arrive)
Yellow car (songthaew) from Chiang Mai to Chom Thong
After about one hour and a half, you will arrive in Chom Thong and will be dropped off thirty meters from the main temple, right in front of the market, to a small bus station to take a second yellow car to Mae Chaem.
Local bus station in Chom Thong
Departure Times for Mae Chaem
Be careful, for this one, there are departures only every 2 hours (see picture) . In order to not spend too much time waiting but still have enough margin to be sure to not to miss the 2nd yellow car, I advise you to leave from Pratu Chiang Mai 2 hours before the time of the 2nd yellow car that you want to take. As for me the best is to leave Chiang Mai at 9:30 am and take the 11:30 am yellow songthaew to Mae Chaem.
Please tell the driver that you are going to Ban Pa Pong Piang (or tell him ‘Namtok Mae Pan’) . After another 1h30 journey on a winding mountain road you will be dropped on the road.
You will be dropped off at an intersection: on the left, the road to Mae Chaem, on the right, the road to the Mae Pan waterfall which is a few kilometers before Ban Pa Pong Piang (70 THB per person) . This is where you will pick up by a 4×4 car sent by your guesthouse.
The yellow car will leave you there. The guesthouse will send a pickup to pick you up here.
Oh yes, I almost forgot, in your ascent in the 2nd yellow car, you will pass Doi Inthanon National Park checkpoints, the entrance fee is normally 300 THB per adult and 150 THB per child but by taking this mode of transport, you will not be asked to pay it. I think that even if you come by your own and tell that you go to Ban Pa Pong Piang, you can go through without paying. But I am not sure. When you arrive at the 2nd checkpoint, make a call to your guesthouse to ask them to send the pickup to take you at the intersection you will be dropped to (it avoids waiting too long).
The price of the pickup that will take you on the last kilometers is 700 THB for a round trip regardless of the number of passengers (you will pay the driver when you leave Ban Pa Pong Piang). You may be lucky enough to have other people doing the same route as you, which will divide the price. It may sound expensive but when you see the state of the last 2.5 kilometers on a rugged and muddy road, you will not regret taking a seat in this 4×4 with a driver used to drive here!
Coming by car, motorbike or van
Coming by public transport as I explained takes around 4 hours. It is long and not always very pleasant. For more comfort you can hire a car or a minivan with driver to take you to the Mae Pan waterfall and then ask the guesthouse to send a pickup to pick you up there. It should take you around 2 hours from Chiang Mai to reach the waterfall.
Most travel agencies can find you a car or a van with driver. It should cost around 2,000 THB (about 50 €) per day so 4.000 THB if you sleep one night over there.
You can of course make the same trip with a rental car or scooter but leave them at the car park of the Mae Pan waterfall and take the vehicle with driver sent by your guesthouse to finish your journey. You risk getting bogged down or even worse by venturing by yourself on the last 2-3 kilometers.
Small tips and advice if you sleep up there
Avoid coming to Ban Pa Pong Pieng on weekends and holidays, it’s full weeks in advance, coming here is very popular with Thai people. When I was there, 2 girls traveled from Bangkok by plane just to come to Ban Pa Pong Piang and go back. During the week days you will have more chances to find a room.
Bring something to cover (sweater, socks …), it can be cold especially at night. Take a flashlight and a powerbank to charge your cameras and smartphones because up there, it will not be possible.
If you like nature and mountains it is really an experience to live!
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