Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand, 15th - 21st November 2003

Published by Surfbirds Admin (surfbirds AT


by Dave Gandy


Overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (Baht 800 one way 2nd class with air con), then picked up a Suzuki 4WD jeep from Mr Order (tel 01 289 4913, or 053 206 955). Mr Order asked me for Baht 700 per day, but I managed to bargain him down to Baht 600 per day as I booked the car for 3 days. There are a plethora of places in Chiang Mai to pick up motorbikes and Suzuki jeeps for hire.

I had to go back into Chiang Mai after 3 days to sort out some business issues, and I then hired another jeep from Queen Bee Travel Service (tel 053 275525, 208988, 208135) for Baht 700 per day for a further two days. The advantage of this deal was that the excess on insurance, should you have a crash or the jeep be stolen, is only Baht 2,000 (much higher with Mr Order).

The drive to Doi Inthanon National Park entrance takes roughly 90 minutes.


I stayed at Mr Deang's Birder's Centre at Km 30 on the road that runs from the Park entrance to the Summit of Doi Inthanon, using my tent and pitching it for a nominal Baht 20 per night. Mr Deang and his wife do good, simple food at the centre, and there is a logbook of recent sightings. Mr Deang provides a very useful map of the main birding sites at Doi Inthanon, and this proved invaluable; however, during the last few days of my trip I explored some other areas which provided some new species and subtly different bird communities - so if you have time, do explore a bit more widely.

I spent one night staying in Chiang Mai at Gap's Guesthouse (Baht 500 per night), a lovely place and worth the expense after camping for a few days. This place is listed in the Lonely Planet.

Weather, insects and leeches

The weather was fantastically bright and sunny for the whole of my trip, but cold early on and after dusk. Insects were not much of a problem (I never used any repellent), and I only found one leech - but it almost cost me Silver Pheasant!


Saturday 15th Nov

Arrived early afternoon and went to KM 34.5 trail, highlights here included Golden-throated Barbet, Mountain Tailorbird and Mountain Bulbul, plus the caeuleus race of Blue Whistling Thrush (later found to be common).

Continued on to the Summit, and walked the boardwalk (note this area is busy with tourists on the weekend), seeing Chestnut-tailed Minla, Chestnut-crowned Laughingthrush (very tame!), Dark-backed Sibia, Green-tailed Sunbird and Mrs Gould's Sunbird.

Back down at Mr Deang's I did the fields opposite the birding centre, with a few northern migrants present - Taiga Flycatcher, lots of Olive-backed Pipits and a Long-tailed Shrike.

Sunday 16th Nov

Very cold overnight (was grateful of 4 season sleeping bag!), got to Summit at 5.30am in hope of avoiding Thai tourists catching sunrise. This was far too early to be at the Summit as it was only just getting light, but I did hear Brown Wood Owl calling. Birding once it was light was very quiet, with the only new species being Ashy-throated Leaf Warbler - until a huge crocodile of Thai tourists came along the board walk at 7am, at which point I decided to abandon the Summit. I would strongly recommend avoiding the Summit, for birding, on weekends.

Headed back down mountain, stopping c.1km from the Summit to check roadside forest. This produced a big flock, of sunbirds, phyllocs and Rufous-winged Fulvetta and Chestnut-tailed Minlas.

Walked KM 37.5 trail, encountering a flock that contained Yellow-bellied Fantail, Dark-backed Sibia, Greater Yellownape, Yellow-cheeked Tit (a real cracker!) and Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo. Also found a small party of Chestnut-capped Laughingthrushes, and a Pygmy Wren Babbler skulking in the undergrowth. Got a fleeting, untickable glimpse of a male Silver Pheasant's tail as it disappeared off the path (I had been busy removing a leech from my boot!).

Went for lunch at Park HQ, just below Mr Deang's, then headed to KM 34.5 trail, seeing Black Bulbul in the secondary forest near the trail head, and further along I went off trail, sitting quietly for a few minutes then pishing - this was very successful at pulling in White-gorgeted Flycatcher, a pair of Large Niltava and a male White-tailed Robin. Walking back to the main road, I heard Bamboo Mountain Partridge calling.

Monday 17th November

Went to the Summit for 6.30am and met two Swedish birders I'd run into the day before. We birded the boardwalk, getting excellent views of Pygmy Wren-babbler, White's Thrush, Rufous-winged Fulvetta, Snowy-browed Flycatcher, Yellow-cheeked Tit and several Yellow-bellied Fantails.

The KM 37.5 trail mid morning produced Grey-chinned Minivet, Blyth's Leaf Warbler, Eye-browed Wren-babbler and Bronze Drongo.

Afternoon at the KM 13 trail was hot and pretty unpleasant compared with the cool forests further up the mountain, but my efforts were rewarded with Crested Treeswift, a pair of Collared Falconets, a party of White-crested Laughingthrushes and Red Junglefowl.

I stopped off at the waterfall near KM20 on my way back up the mountain and soon found a pair of Slaty-backed Forktails that the Swedish birders had told me about, and Plumbeous Redstart (one adult and juvenile).

Tuesday 18th November

Did KM 37.5 trail early morning, seeing Red-headed Trogon, a pair of Large Niltava and a White-tailed Robin. Also heard Pygmy Wren-babbler.

Rest of day spent in Chiang Mai, travelled back to Doi Inthanon on Wednesday afternoon with two non-birding friends.

Thursday 20th November

With non-birding friends in tow, the birding pace slowed a bit and I spent more time appreciating just what fantastic scenery Doi Inthanon has. After watching the sunrise from the car park at KM 42 and doing a spot of high altitude yoga (!), we walked the KM 42 trail, for which you have to pay Baht 200 per group, and go with a guide. This trail produced another Slaty-backed Forktail, and my two friends flushed a pair of Silver Pheasants from the path - fortunately they pushed the male towards me for brief but very satisfactory views!

We walked the KM37.5 trail again mid morning, seeing Chestnut-fronted Shrike Babbler, Pale Blue Flycatcher and Yellow-faced Tit.

Friday 21st November

Early morning was spent at Siribhum Waterfall (near KM 30), with a flock here containing two Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Chestnut-fronted and White-browed Shrike Babblers as well as Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo.

A walk to the waterfalls along the Mae Chae road (off KM 37.5 junction) produced a stunning male White-throated Rock Thrush, plus Radde's Warbler and another pair of Slaty-backed Forktails.

Major dips

Both Green and Purple Cachoas are present at Doi Inthanon (especially KM37.5 ), but Mr Deang said that this was a bad time of year to try to see them - consequently on other birders I met had seen either species during my stay (a couple of guys had heard both on KM37.5 however).

Black-tailed Crake is present near the Park HQ campsite, but there was a lot of disturbance around the pools here and again no one was seeing this species during my stay.