Doi Tung is a mountain in the highlands of the Chiang Rai Province of northern Thailand, in the area known as the Golden Triangle. It is here where the current King of Thailand’s mother had her summer residence built. The grounds and area contain not just the late Princess Mother’s former residence, which is now a museum, but a complex of buildings and grounds, including a hotel. We checked into the hotel where each room has a balcony with a view and then hopped on the hotel shuttle to the gardens.
The gardens are part of many projects of the late Princess Mother to improve the lives of the people of northern Thailand. This included the objective to retrain and refocus the local population from growing poppies for opium and give them new skills and sources of income. Many of the local area farmers now have greenhouses where they grow plants and flowers to supply to the gardens of Doi Tung.
The Mae Fah Gardens cover 25 hectares in the stunning setting in the slopping hillside below the Royal Villa. The gardens are fairly new having opened in 1992 with the support of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Within the gardens are several features including a rock garden, a water garden, a plant garden and an ornamental plants garden.
At the centre of the garden is the statue of children climbing called “Continuity” to convey the effort of of the Princess Mother to improve the lives of the people of Thailand.
We could have lingered for hours in the garden but we needed to make our way up the path to the Royal Villa before it closed for the day. The Villa was built in 1987 for the Princess Mother to carry out her environmental and development work. Many local materials and craftsmen were used in building of the Villa and it has a beautiful natural feel. Not to mention amazing views from the balcony. Inside you learn of the many talents and projects of the late Princess Mother.
The next morning at 1,000 meters above sea level, we were greeted with breakfast above the clouds in the open sided restaurant adjacent to the hotel. This brings back some good memories and we both said later we were so happy we decided to include an overnight stay at the Royal Villa. It is hard to describe the peaceful, yet energising atmosphere of the surroundings.
After breakfast the clouds had slightly lifted and I had time for a quick trip up the hill to the retail area of shops.
There is a Handcraft and Outlet Centre further down the hill which we didn’t have a chance to visit but pictured below are some of the wonderful woven pieces for sale in the retail area of Doi Tung complex.
Here is an explanation of the Handicraft Village and Cottage Industry summary from chiangmai-chiangrai.com:
The Doi Tung Development Project recognised that improving the quality of life and raising the income of the people of Doi Tung would not be possible through agriculture alone. A variety of activities have been promoted under the Project by establishing both a Cottage Industry Centre and an Outlet to help residents to develop their skills.
Young villagers are trained in handmade carpet manufacturing. These carpets are sold entirely on the international market.
Women already skilled in weaving and clothes making are given additional training to enhance their traditional skills. The goods they produce incorporate traditional elements with improved quality and color as well as new designs appropriate for domestic and international markets.
Sa paper is made from the bark of mulberry trees planted in the forest. This handmade paper is used for wrapping and other decorative purposes, including paper flowers and photo frames.
A center has been established to produce and roast the Arabica coffee beans, and the aribaca coffee blends are available for sale under the Golden Triangle Brand name.
A little further along was the independent bazaar and handicraft section of the local people. So impressed with how all the fruit was so beautifully and carefully displayed, like a work of art.
Soon it was time to leave this pleasant sanctuary and we were back down the mountain on our way for the next leg of our journey across northern Thailand.