PU CHI FA: Golden sunrise in a sea of mist

by Aparna Sharma

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” 

While I was standing on the summit of Phu Chi fa waiting for the sun to rise, I could not help looking at this amazingly beautiful planet and it pained me immensely to think about the rate at which we are destroying it. It felt surreal to stand so close to a mist of floating clouds and watch the beautiful sun turn the earth into shades of orange with her gold droplets.

This beautiful hill station is located in northern Thailand near the border of Laos. I was told that it is still considered an undiscovered place so I was super excited but when I climbed the summit at 5.30am, there were so many people there. It is a popular destination amongst locals and I saw some foreign visitors too so I would not really call this destination unexplored but that should not be a big concern if you really want to visit. It is easy to get there by car from Chiang Rai, I stayed there overnight to ensure I was on time for the sunrise. Standing and watching the sun rise over the misty mountain was such a surreal experience, it was one of the most glorious displays of nature I have witnessed. My pictures can never do justice to what I witnessed with my own eyes.

I was told that the name Pu Chi Fa translates to, ”The mountain that points to the sky” and it definitely lives up to its name. When you are viewing the sunrise from the top of the summit, it literally feels like you are in a dream. I spent some time there after sunrise too, a lot of people start leaving after the sunrise but I really enjoyed staying there and clicking pictures. You can walk around the summit and discover different paths, I walked down one path and tried clicking some pictures. This is a dream destination for landscape photographers and if you can get there very early, it is possible to set up a tripod right in the front. The change in colours and the way the clouds come out after the sunrise is interesting to watch.

The best way to go there is by car from Chiang Rai, it’s roughly 2.5 hours. If you want to watch the sky turning from dark purple to pinkish orange, it is recommended to reach there as early as possible depending on the time of the year. You can get this information through local people or websites, I went there in December and the weather was a little chilly. I stayed at a local hotel, there are lots of options for tents too if you are interested in camping overnight.

My schedule to visit Phu Chi Fah in mid-December looked like this:

4.45am: wake up

5:15am: Leave our guesthouse in a songthaew for the summit, the guesthouse owner had her own songthaew. It took 10 mins.

5:25am: Begin the 760 metre hike up the Phu Chi Fa Forest Park trail (15 to 20 minutes)

5:40am: Reach the summit, wait for the sunrise and click photos of the summit’s silhouette 

6:55am: Sunrise is complete!

7:00am: Stay and watch the mist clear up around the mountain tops

8:00am: Start walking down the summit (20 minutes)

8:20am: Take a songthaew ride back 

My biggest disappointment was that there is still so much single use plastic being used by all the resorts there. It is important for travellers and travel makers to protect the environment, it pains me to see the lack of education and understanding that nature needs to be loved and cared for by human beings. I carried my own water bottle and strongly recommend to avoid single use plastic when you travel to the mountains.

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