The apocalypse had begun. Thick fog hung down like a curtain and draped around the entire town, embracing it like a mother hugging her child. I could barely see ten feet in front of me and quietly waited for the moment a dark blob would appear and drag me into the abyss.
“Where do we go?” I said to my friend. Cloudy smoke came out of my mouth as I spoke as if I were breathing fire.
“I have no idea.” He was walking in front of me, leading us into the unknown. Strange shapes started to appear as I walked further down the road. They eventually turned into tiny guesthouses as my visibility cleared. There was an eery silence in the town, as if I had just entered the movie Silent Hill.
“We could try this place,” I said, pointing to one of the guesthouses.
“Let’s do it.” We had no plan and not the slightest idea of where we were staying that night. We wanted to get out of the bitter cold that nipped at our legs and hands more than anything.
I was in Phu Chi Fa, Thailand. It’s a tiny mountain town in northern Thailand that borders Laos and is about three hours from Chiang Rai.
After clicking through more Google search pages than I wish to admit, I could not find any information on how to get to this tiny town or where to stay. I only knew it offered exceptional sunrises, picturesque views, and that it was barely known to tourists. Of course I had to visit.
Here is my guide to Phu Chi Fa, so you don’t have to blindly find your way to this town. It’s a place straight out of a fairy tale, it’s only reachable by meandering roads and is tucked away between azure colored mountains that are covered by pearl white clouds like a blanket.
Step 1: Get to Chiang Rai
Chiang Rai is three hours north of Chiang Mai, and is reachable by bus or plane. I took the Green Bus Thailand company from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. One way was about 263 baht for V-Class, which is what I took. There’s also X-Class and A-Class, both are around 150 baht one way.
I went to the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai and hopped on an 8:15 am bus. We bought our tickets from 7 Eleven the day before, which you can do. Here is the bus schedule.
The more adventurous can rent a motorbike and scooter their way through the mountains and into Chiang Rai.
Step 2: Get to Phu Chi Fa
Once we got off the main bus station in Chiang Rai, we had no idea how to buy a bus ticket to Phu Chi Fa.
After asking eight different people, we finally found a table with an obscure sign hanging above it from a string that said Phu Chi Fa written in marker. This table is towards the end of the bus station, on the opposite side of the ticket counter.
We walked up to the woman around 11:15 A.M and bought roundtrip tickets to Phu Chi Fa for 300 baht each. The woman gave us a piece of paper to write our names on and told us to be back at 13:00, which is when the bus would leave. She also told us the bus would head back to Chiang Rai at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Make sure you get to this booth early, my two friends tried to get tickets an hour or so later and the bus was full!
At 12:45, we came back to the ticket counter and asked the woman where the bus was. We followed a random Thai man around the corner and to a van that said “Phu Chi Fa” on it. We found our ride!
I luckily got a seat, one kid had to sit on a child’s stool the entire time.
After a dizzying 3 hours of speeding through the mountains, we made it to Phu Chi Fa.
Step 3: Find a Guesthouse
The bus dropped us off at the Police Station and told us to be back tomorrow morning before 9 A.M., which is when it would leave. He said this all in Thai: I had to get a young Thai guy to translate for me (my friend and I and two German girls were the only foreigners!).
We hopped off of the bus and straight into the fog. My friend and I and the two German girls stuck together and decided to venture off and find accommodation.
I recommend doing what we did: don’t book accommodation in advanced. There are plenty of guesthouses on the way, and from my experience, you’re not going to find anything online. I imagine it to be quite difficult to find your guesthouse once you arrive as well, since many of the locals don’t speak English.
We found a guesthouse to stay at after a half hour or so. I’m convinced it was nameless, since I could not find the name of it anywhere (unless it was in Thai). We stayed in a guesthouse directly before Goodview Resort (it’s one street with a few restaurants and guesthouses). The exterior was pink.
We went to Goodview Resort first. After much debate, they told us it would be 500 baht each for the night. The four of us looked at each other, laughed, and turned around. We were on a budget, after all.
We went to the pink resort, which was 700 baht for one room for one night. We decided to rough it for the night and all share one room, meaning we would all share one full sized bed (cuddling is fun!).
It ended up costing 175 baht each for the night as opposed to 350 each. It was hilarious. We had just met these girls and we were all sharing a bed. It worked out perfectly in the end, since our room was freezing.
The gap underneath the door decided to be friendly and let in a chilly draft the entire night. The curtains were happy about it too, as they swayed with each breeze that came into our room. I slept in all of my clothes and my jacket, squished between three bodies, and was still cold.
Step 4: Find Food
There is nothing to do in the town except watch T.V. and eat. There are a few restaurants along the ‘main road.’ We picked one, ate some Thai food for dinner, and then watched a movie in the room.
Step 5: Wake up for Sunrise
We woke up at 4:45 in the morning to get to the mountain to watch the sunrise. We had no idea how we were going to get to the top of the mountain, so we wung it.
Step 6: Find a Taxi
We walked towards the mountain in complete darkness and luckily found a bunch of taxi’s waiting on the side of the road at 5 in the morning. These taxi’s were waiting right near the police station. They took us to the base of the mountain for 30 baht each. Wear warm clothes and bring a blanket!
Step 7: A 760 Meter Hike Up the Mountain at 5 a.m.
This hike is strenuous, especially at 5 in the morning. It’s uphill, rocky, and slippery. Bring a flashlight or use your phone’s flashlight! It’s pitch black otherwise.
Little kids were singing in the darkness as I hiked upwards, making me feel like I was about to enter some other world and never see the daylight again. I made the mistake of turning around at one point, only to see an immense amount of fog and complete darkness.
Step 8: Wait
It’s FREEZING. And I mean freezing. I was wearing four shirts, a Northface wind breaker, and pants. I was shivering for two hours waiting for the sun to come up. It’s windy, dark, and misty, so pack warm clothes!
As it gets closer to sunrise, more and more people climb up the mountain. It was packed!
Step 9: Watch the Sunrise
Or in our case, stare at a wall of fog. We were unlucky and didn’t see the spectacular sunrise we were promised. However, it was still so much fun. We were practically meters from Laos and surrounded by local Thai people. We were the only foreigners and were in a place undiscovered by most travelers. Once the fog cleared, the surrounding mountains offered a spectacular view.
Step 10: Hike Down the Mountain and Get a Cab
Try and move your frozen limbs and hike down the mountain with the hundreds of other tourists.
Once we were at the bottom, we picked a random van and hopped inside. He took us down the mountain for 30 baht each and we warmed our souls with banana and egg roti for 30 baht. Yum. We also ate our breakfast in the company of a few of the town’s dogs.
Step 11: Unfreeze Your Limbs and Get the Van Back to Chiang Rai
Check out of your guesthouse and walk to the Police Station at 9 a.m. We luckily saw one of the most incredible views I have ever seen in my life on the way out.
We were above the clouds and the fog had finally cleared. It looked like I was staring into a white ocean. The clouds moved up and down like waves as the mist moved upward and into the sky. That was the view I was looking for.
And that is how you get to Phu Chi Fa. It is definitely worth the trek. It’s an off the beaten path adventure to a place in Thailand most people will never see.
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