Anyone would agree that Thailand is much cheaper to live in than Japan but does it have sakuras? Turns out the answer is “YES” but here they go by a slightly more exotic name, “Tiger Queen”.
To get to these light pink beauties requires about an hour drive outside of Chiang Mai, winding up the mountain, passed the Doi Suthep temple and climbing still to Khun Chang Khain, the Highland Agricultural Research Centre. There the grounds are decorated with the beautiful wild Himalayan Cherry blossoms.
Our small group choose to hire a songtaew after our usually taxi driver wanted a much higher price to avoid the narrow winding road used to access the Centre. We read people calling the road scary and dangerous, citing accidents, but our songtaew driver “Mr. Cats” (who illustrated his name by holding up his hands as if claws) weaved with the best of them to allow a random sequence of two-way traffic on the tiny road.
We arrived to a lovely sea of pink and dove in taking photos of the delicate flowers. The air was cooler at that higher altitude, the sky clear, and the smell of exhaust had faded so each breath filled our lungs with cool, fragrant air. It was a welcome change!
The Centre grounds were moderately busy with other travelers but a quick walk up the road put more distance between us and allowed for exploration of the coffee beans grown on site and photos with the soaring pink trees. It was a peaceful morning that even the dust and exhaust fumes on the way down couldn’t tarnish.
If you are in town, check out these delicate creatures soon! They boom through January and a bit into February and are definitely worth the hike! Check below for more visitor tips.
- Best viewing is through January.
- Go during the week.
- There are food stalls setup on the side of the road and at the Centre, as well as the locally grown coffee.
- Plan for at least an hour drive each way.
- By Songtaew – Ask them to take you to see the pink flowers and they are likely to know what you are talking about (find a “seasoned” driver). Our group paid 1500 Baht for our day from about 8:30-2pm and we were picked up and dropped off at Maya Mall. [There are probably better and worst prices to be had.]
- If you cannot find a willing songtaew in town, go up to Doi Suthep and look for songtaews advertising the pink flowers.
- Driving – Keep in mind you will be forced to pull over to let other vehicles pass and if you have too low a profile you may get stuck. The road is pitted too so plan on a slow trip.
- If going by scooter, also consider that the road is steep (especially getting up to Doi Suthep) but definitely passable.
- I found this blog which provides a map and more information on how to get to the Cherry Blossoms – http://siamandbeyond.com/northern-thailands-sakura-cherry-blossoms/
Sampling of the Thursday morning crowd –