Monday, February 13, 2017

The Thailand Winter Getaway Series 2016: Sunrise at Phu Chi Fa (ภูชี้ฟ้า), Chiang Rai

It's been a peculiar winter in Bangkok.

The chill came for a week early December and some unexpected heavy showers took over thereafter (it really isn't supposed to rain during winter even if it isn't cool). Just when we thought the Bangkok winter has become a pipe dream, I saw FB posts from friends of low temperatures hitting again at the end of January 2017 for a couple of days. This morning, the temperature was as low as 20degC again, and expected to remain cold for the week. It's already mid-February, I guess we're going to have a wintry Valentine's in Bangkok this year.

It's a little late, I know, but my blog is not complete until I make a new annual entry to this Thailand Winter Getaway series (you can always use it for future winters right?). I spent winter way up in Chiang Rai again this time, and instead of chasing the sun at Doi Phatang again, we explored the more popular Phu Chi Fa, hoping to catch an even better view.

Before I give my verdict on the view, I have a few pointers for all of you planning the hike up Phu Chi Fa.

Had to do a lot of cropping to get a picture of myself with the view

1. Be prepared for companions

A lot of them. Prior to seeing the sea of clouds (that is if weather permits), brace yourself for a sea of people first, like maybe more than a thousand of them.

Taking a proper picture of the view will be a challenge.
So I tried taking a picture to my right.
And then to my left

Fret not, such is the wonder of nature, God makes sure that the scale of natural beauty is so huge that no human wall can stop anyone who made the effort from having a chance to admire what they worked hard for.

2. Cover your head

As your visit will likely be in the winter months between November and February, the wee hours of the morning will be extremely cold. It was early December during my visit, and the temperature was already below 10degC as we began our journey.

Beautiful sunrise over a sea of clouds
Unlike last year's comforts of sunrise-viewing at Doi Phatang, which was the home-ground of our guest-house, Phu Chifa threw us a curve ball. We had to park our minivan mid-journey and continue our ascent at the back of a pick-up truck, in the open pitch-dark gusty cold, winding up hilly tracks for no less than 20 minutes. At such temperatures, 50% of your body heat is dissipated from your head, so get your head covered (I didn't) unless you want a really uncomfortable ride.

3. Know that you can get to the top, and enjoy the process

I have stopped proper exercise since Noah arrived (that's more than 5 years ago). The trek up is not considered long, but a little steep at certain points. I certainly felt tired more than once and wondered whether it was necessary to go all the way up. Anyway, I would just like to tell you that you can do it. Since you made it all the way here, just suck it in and push yourself to the top. Phu Chi Fa has its way to make sure you remember your conquest.

Our group photo, we did it, 1,628m above sea level!

So, is Phu Chi Fa worth the trouble?

I would say yes, if you have not been there before. Even though the sun is the same (duh!), you can enjoy a more extensive view of the surroundings at Phu Chi Fa compared to other spots like Doi Phatang.

Captivating view on the descent too, but just look at the number of people.

You might even find yourself falling in love with one of the many kids jostling for your attention along the way.

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