Each year from December to February, across northern Thailand Prunus cerasoides, the Wild Himalayan Cherry Tree, Nang Phaya Sua Kroang, in Thai, puts on a magnificent display of cherry blossoms that turn the mountains and valleys an enchanting pastel pink. The perfect setting for romance to bloom.
Cherry Blossoms near Chiang Mai
Among the best places to see this glorious annual spectacle are San Pa Kia, Doi Inthanon, Doi Khun Mae Ya, Doi Ang Khang, Doi Luang Chiang Dao, Doi Suthep and Khun Chang Kean, all of which are easily accessible from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.
Near to Chiang Mai
You can see the cherry blossoms on the top of Doi Suthep in the gardens of the Khun Chang Khian Highland Agriculture Research Centre and the bumpy songthaew (a truck-taxi) ride to the top of the mountain is rewarded with spectacular views as you breathe in the cool, clear mountain air.
While you revel in the pinkness of your surroundings you might also want to visit the Hmong village located in the area, where you can pick your basket of fresh strawberries and try some of the excellent local coffee.
The cherry trees on Doi Khun Mae Ya were planted after a devastating fire and the mainly cherry and pine tree forest is today a much-visited spot perfect for camping. It is a little remote and takes a good three hours by car from Chiang Mai airport, but once there, with your tent pitched and food in the pot, you can sit back and watch the sun set over the pink-clad slopes and prepare to gaze up at the heavens to a sky littered with stars.
For anyone missing the chill of wintery climes a visit to Ang Khang Agricultural Station, at an altitude of 1,400 metres, will be just the ticket. With a mild year-round climate, night-time temperatures can drop to as low as -3 degrees centigrade, making layered clothing a must.
This is one of Thailand’s most beautiful and well-maintained garden parks, stretching over more than 300,000 hectares. And, in the chill of dawn’s early embrace, in such a gorgeously serene and romantic setting as you gaze out over the valleys and peaks, Shakespeare’s words from Romeo and Juliet come to mind - Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain-tops.
It seems incongruous in a country renowned for its over-populated, sun-drenched tropical beaches that such a haven of solitude exists and for the beach-weary traveller it is the perfect antidote. You can explore the many byways in an area which produces a wide variety of crops, flowers and fruit.
Doi Inthanon National Park
Within the Doi Inthanon National Park is the Khun Wang Royal Agricultural Research Centre, where on the slopes of Doi Inthanon are found cherry blossoms of a darker, deeper pink hue. Temperatures on Doi Inthanon are perfect for the growing of fruit not normally associated with tropical regions, such as strawberries, peaches and plums and pears.
The mountain slopes also provide excellent opportunities for birdwatching, with more than 400 species in the region, all sporting wonderful names like the Yellow-breasted Bunting, Hodgson’s Frogmouth, the Siberian Rubythroat, the Pigmy Wren Babbler, the Dark-sided Thrush and Jerdon’s Bushchat. I’d also keep a wary eye out for the Giant Nuthatch.
There are also a limited number of guesthouses for visitors wanting to spend more than a day on the mountain.
Near to Chiang Rai
Some of the best views of the cherry trees in full bloom are to be seen from the vantage point of the Water Research Station in Khun Sathan National Park. The area provides nigh on perfect conditions, being abundantly supplied with water from the many rivers and streams and is at just the right altitude. Also worth looking at is the Pha Nang Khoi Cave that stretches almost two kilometres in length.
Pha Nang Khoi Cave
Rising to a height of 1,664 metres, Doi Phu Lom Lo in the Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park is home to a staggering number of Wild Himalayan Cherry Trees in Thailand, more than 100,000. Photo opportunities abound and there is no more idyllic a setting for communing with nature.
The park also contains the enchanting Man Daeng Waterfall and a number of caves to explore. During the Cherry Blossom season a dip in the water might not be advisable as temperatures are a tad on the low side.
Doi Pha Tang is about 160 kilometres from Chiang Rai, where from here, you can see the Thai-Lao border. Doi means ‘mountain’ or ‘hill’ in Thai, Pha is the Thai word for ‘cliff’ and Tang means ‘vertical’, which gives you a pretty good impression of the location. At 1,638 metres above sea level the views here are stunning, misty and panoramic to say the least.
Home to some of Thailand’s ethnic minorities such as the Haw, Hmong and Yao, there is also the chance to observe the daily routines and rituals of these hardy people as you take in the stunning views and the pink extravaganza of Cherry Blossoms. Serenity rules here and it is the perfect stress reliever.
As of 17th December the Doi Inthanon National Park announced that its Wild Himalayan Cherry Trees have already begun to blossom. Those at Khun Chang Khian are expected to blossom next month.
Thailand is famous for its gorgeous, powder-soft, brilliant-white tropical beaches, broccoli-green jungle-clad islands, magnificent temples and its pulsating capital, Bangkok, but it is comforting to know that there is always the cool, fresh, reinvigorating Shangri-La of Northern Thailand to run to when it all gets too much, to get you back into the pink of health.