CHERRY blossoms are most commonly associated with Japan where the flowered trees flourish in the springtime, pulling in hordes of camera-slinging tourists.
Pink blooms peek from hiding in what is known as sakura zensen, or “cherry blossom front,” which sweeps its way north through Japan before finishing in Hokkaido in May.
But if you want to avoid large crowds and peak-season prices, move away from Japan and head to… Thailand. Yes, the tropical country is home to some attractive blooms in the northern region of Chiang Mai during the cooler climate.
Just 20km from the renowned sacred site of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the hill tribe village of Baan Khun Chang Kian where a cool climate awaits, and with it, a sea of pastel pink blooms.
The chilly temperatures atop the Doi Suthep mountain mean that sakura trees come in full bloom at the end of the year between late December and late January.
The species that blooms here is known as Tiger Queen among locals, but are officially known as Wild Himalayan Cherry or Prunus Cerasoides.
However, getting up to the village is rather challenging as roads leading there are narrow, winding, unpaved, and often littered with potholes. According to Tripzilla, the best way to get up is by renting a red taxi truck or songthaew from Chiang Mai City or Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, or to book in an organized tour.
Atop the village, you not only get to take in the views of sakura trees, you also get to sample local snacks such as Northern Thai sausages, noodle soups, and local coffee made with arabica beans.
The village – sometimes referred to as the Khun Chang Kian Highland Agriculture Research Center – is run by the University of Chiang Mai’s Faculty of Agriculture.
Note that the village can get crowded on weekends during sakura season.