How to See the "Sea" in North Thailand

Programs for this blog post

Teach in Thailand Program

Authored By:

Ava B.

Thailand is home to stunning beaches with crystal clear water and silky white sands. The Southern islands have enthralled tourists looking to escape to the warm waves of the Thai seas. While you're in Thailand, you should definitely wander down to the beaches in the South, but if you're placed in the North (or visiting for a holiday), there's actually another "sea" that you can see all the way up in the mountain ranges near Chiang Rai. This "sea" is the legendary "sea of fog" that mesmerizes foreign tourists and Thai locals alike. 

What is the "Sea of Fog"?

The "sea of fog" in Thailand is the common name for the natural and gorgeous phenomenon visible in the Northern mountain ranges of Thailand. If you traverse the chilly mountain ranges in the early morning, you can witness this gorgeous sight. The phenomenon gets its name from the illusion that the thick blanket of clouds is the “sea,” making the surrounding mountains appear to be islands floating in the distance. 

Phu Chi Fa mountain with mist around it.
Where to see it:

 Although there are many places in Thailand to see this natural beauty, me and my friends opted to journey to the mountain of Phu Chi Fa (or PhuCheeFa) while staying for a short time in the city of Chiang Rai. The mountain Phu Chi Fa (translated as “mountain that points to the sky”) is an ideal place to see the “sea of fog” because of its proximity to popular tourist spots like Chiang Rai. In addition, the mountain is still relatively “unknown” to foreign tourists. The mountain range is most popular with Thai tourists, giving the entire experience an authentic feeling. 

Picture of PhuCheeFa National Forest sign.
How to get there: 

One of the trickiest parts of seeing the fog is getting there. We were lucky and had a co-worker with some friends who were willing to take us. However, if you don’t know where to start, hiring a taxi service to take you up the mountain is a great idea. Additionally, many of the hostels in Chiang Rai can give you advice on the best way to get up the mountain. 

When to see it: 

For the best views of the fog, my recommendation is to catch the clouds right at sunrise- when many tourists flock to see the first rays of the morning sun. Of course, if you want to catch the mist at sunrise, you’ll need to stay in the nearby mountain town of Phu Chi Fa. After you wake up (at around 4:30 am!) the town organizes tuk-tuks to take the tourists up to the mountain top (about a ten-minute drive). From there, you will be able to walk the short 10-minute hike up to the foggy viewpoint. It was an early morning, but trust me, it was worth it!

Sea of fog at Phu Chi Fa.
Where to stay: 

Phu Chi Fa is far from undiscovered, which means, luckily, there are lots of options for staying the night in the mountain town. For those seeking something with more comfort, the town rents out luxury cabins with great views. For those seeking a bit more adventure, you can rent a camping site (plus tents and blankets) at many spots on the outskirts of town. Staying the night in tents was an amazing experience for my group, and spending the evening around the tiny town gave us the opportunity to try amazing Thai food and watch the incredible sunset. 

4 girls at a restaurant booth looking at a sunset.
What to expect: 

In addition to seeing the “sea of fog,” there are many things that make the journey interesting and exciting. While you’re in the town of Phu Chi Fa, make sure to buy some fresh fruit. Many farmers grow strawberries in the mountains, and they taste fresh and delicious Also, do not be surprised if you find yourself in Laos as the mountain straddles the border. There is even a border marker at the outlook that is a great spot for a photo. Additionally, it can be a little chilly, so make sure you bundle up when you travel to the overlook in the morning! 

Basket of strawberries.

When I first arrived at Phu Chi Fa, I had no idea what to expect. Now, I can confidently say that the sunrise and the sea of fog is one of the most beautiful natural sights I have ever witnessed. The view of the slowly rising sun around the serene ocean-like clouds is something that I hope every person gets to see. Next time you make a list of all the seas in Thailand you want to see, make sure you include this unique “sea” of fog. 

4 girls show "mini hearts" with mountains and clouds in the background.