Doi Tung (Mae Fah Luang)

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Doi Tung, the charming mountain that filled with love

Formerly the significant drugs marketplace and later turned to “the land of inspiration” that lures the vast number of tourists both local and abroad to visit this lovely mountain continuously. Due to the prestige of belated King Bhumiphol (Rama IX) and his mother the Princess Srinagarindra that spread over the highland that well-known widely as “Doi Tung”. From that time on, the living here changes perpetually.

Knowing Doi Tung

Doi Tung” nestles in the area of Mae Fah Luang district in Chiang Rai province. The geography of the location is high mountain range stretching lies on the left side along the way heading to Mae Sai district. Doi Tung is the critical venue of land and living development followed to the initiative of HRH Princess Srinagarindra resulted in the establishment of Doi Tung Development Project. Also called Mae Fah Luang Foundation under Royal Patronage (Mae Fah Luang mentioned to the title given to Princess Srinagarindra by the hill tribe people in the north of Thailand). Over three decades with the gracious kindness of Mae Fah Luang or so-called among the Thai people “Somdej Ya” (The Princess Mother), the tribal people and the residents live in the plain area of Doi Tung has been better with the sustainable living.  

Background of Doi Tung Development Project

Background of Doi Tung Development Project

Begin with the establishment of Doi Tung Royal Villa dated December 1987 when the Princess Mother was 88 years old. The princess, actually, stated that she will not relocate to Switzerland once she enters to the age of 90. Thus, the Princess Mother’s Personal Affairs Division then chose Doi Tung that is the pleasant hill with a lovely atmosphere to build the royal villa to her royal highness. 

Initially, Doi Tung was the scalp hill that was damaged by the hill tribe people to use the land for shifting cultivation. Owing to the Princess Mother visited the site and graciously stated that “I will afforest over the land of Doi Tung”. Thence, the government in 1987 initiated implementation of Doi Tung Development Project under the Royal Patronage by reforesting over the space of this mountain and induced the tribal people to participate to the reforest project.

Consequently, the residents of Doi Tung who lived the life by cultivating and partake the opium, deforest, and mobile cultivation changed the way of life to do the cold weather plant farming, coffee plantation, and macadamia cultivation. Also, the plan promoted the craftsmanship regarding the textile weaving from natural local materials and handicraft to the products applied to the modern living. Nonetheless, the 30 diverse ethnic groups of the hill people still live peacefully at the hillside and the peak of the mountain. And the most important they are not dominated by the urbanization; instead they maintain the beautiful native culture and tradition tightly.

The Must-Visit in Doi Tung

For the tourist who plans to take the trip to Doi Tung, here are some interesting tourist spots that you should not skip.

1. Hall of Inspirations

A must-not-miss landmark of Doi Tung for the tourist, especially for local visitors. Hall of Inspirations is a Thai contemporary style building displays a fascinating exhibition regarding the life and achievement of ‘the House of Mahidol’ which is the present royal family of Thailand. There are the presentations of the royal duties of the late and most beloved King Bhumiphol and the member of Mahidol Family with the strong intention to improve and develop the well-being of the people in Thailand.

Formerly “Hall of the Royal History” that was developed to the “Hall of Inspirations”. The building stands at the front of the royal villa to displays the history of King Bhumiphol, Princess Mother, and the member of the royal family. The venue allocated to 7 partitions which are;

Gallery 1: House of Mahidol  

As a little family filled with love, the section presents the life of the Mahidol Royal Family and the gracious kindness to ease the suffering of the people. And also delivers the better life with self-reliance and sustainably.

Gallery 2: The Story of the Royal Family

The story of the royal family that told through the history of Princess Srinagarindra with the concept “the great things start from the little spots around you, particularly the family”. This room exhibits the story of the Princess Mother since she was a little girl with the goodwill and effort until she became the spouse of the royalty. Princess Srinagarindra had absorbed the great determination of Prince of Songkhla her husband to give the effort to work for the country. Also, as a mother of the royalty with the notable nurture of her children to be ‘the perfect and completed human”. And finally, as “Mae Fah Luang” which means the Royal Mother from the Sky for the citizen of Thailand by gave all her effort to make changes and opportunities to the unprivileged ones to have the better life. 

Gallery 3: Returning to the Homeland of the Mahidol Family

With the royal honor and responsibility to the nation, the Mahidol Family decided to leave the simple and pleasant life in Switzerland behind to return to the homeland and served the country as the king of Thailand during the time that the country was in chaos.

Gallery 4: Hardship of the subjects

It was not the end of the fairy tale; instead it was the beginning of the severe hard-working throughout his reign. The King Bhumiphol devoted himself to improving the well-being of his subjects.

Gallery 5: Resolving the hardship of the subjects sustainably with the king’s philosophy

Map, radio communication, pencil, and camera are just simple things, but they were the main utility that late King Bhumiphol use for his work. Those of things reflects the principle and vision of the king in order to comprehend and find out the development applause to improve the prosperity of the citizen of Thailand whether the hill tribe people on the highland, residents in the plain land and all through the coastline. The audience will take pleasure in the ‘Shadow animation’ technique which is the way to describe any complex problem-solving applauses as simple to understand. 

Gallery 6:  Resolving the hardship of the locals in Doi Tung

In the occasion of the 87th birthday anniversary of the HRH Princess Srinagarindra, she graciously initiated to set up “Doi Tung Development Project” to improve the life condition of the unprivileged people in the critical area “Golden Triangle” in the north under the concept “people and forest can co-exist in harmony”. HRH Princess Mother had learned from her son HM King Bhumiphol’s development projects and applied to the project at Doi Tung as known the applause is “Mother learns from Son.” Presently, both people and the forest in Doi Tung land are revival and have lived prosperity and sustainably.

Gallery 7: Room of Inspiration

The delight inspiration of the Mahidol Family shares each other leading to the potential applauses to ease the suffering in the hardship of the subjects and positive benefits the nation.

The Hall of Inspirations opens every day from 8.00am through 5.00pm with about THB50 fee of admission.

2. Doi Tung Royal Villa

2.1 About Doi Tung Royal Villa

About Doi Tung Royal Villa

Doi Tung Royal Villa was a once residence of HRH Princess Srinagarindra. So-called the Princess Mother first home that she constructed the property by her personal fund. Doi Tung Villa was built in 1988, combine the design of Thai northern Lanna and Swiss chalet architecture. The most notable thing of the Royal Villa is on the ceiling in the main hall which is the handcraft wood decoration of the Princess Mother’s configuration of stars that specific at the same position dated October 21, 1900, which was HRH Princess Srinagarindra’s birthday. Besides, the interior paneled with the delicately engraved wood by northern craftsmen.

It is not only the beauty of architecture and the landscape that highlighted the Royal Villa as a must-not-miss attraction in Chiang Rai. Also, the place is vital to the citizen of Thailand especially the hill tribe people as the Royal Villa was the base for the Princess Mother’s work of Doi Tung Development Project in order to improve the ethnic minorities’ and reforest the property in the highland in Chiang Rai based on the development applauses regarding appropriated and potential occupation giving better and sustainable income and living. The project succeeds apparently as the villagers stopped to live the life by opium poppy cultivation that caused to the narcotics problems and turned to do the temperate agriculture.

The interior of Doi Tung Royal Villa, although it’s simple, it exudes the functionality and elegance. There are displays of the Princess Mother’s way of life including her private area and hobby that reflects the nature of the Princess Mother very well. Undoubtedly, the visitors who come to visit the place especially local ones would be appreciative to HRH Princess Mother’s merit towards the people of Thailand.

2.2 Doi Tung Royal Villa Opening Hours

Doi Tung Royal Villa Opening Hours

Doi Tung Royal Villa opens to the tourists all through the year, anyhow taking the tour inside the property needs the Royal Villa staff to guide the trip. Also, visiting the royal residence must dress politely followed to the visitor guideline, and it is restricted to take the photo and record VDO inside the Royal Villa. Moreover, to facilitate the visitors both Thai and international, the audio tour device providing to the tourist with the information in Thai, English, Chinese, Japanese, for example.

The operating time of Doi Tung Royal Villa is 7.00am – 5.30pm with the admission fee is THB90 per person. However, the Royal Villa limited for the visitors during the state visit of the royal family.

3. Mae Fah Luang Garden

Yip-In-Soi Continuity

A lovely landscaped garden filled with the winter climate flowers nestled in the Doi Tung valley. The garden covers a total area of 25 rai at the terrace in front of Doi Tung Royal Villa. Built in 1991, The Mae Fah Luang Garden is fantastic with various kinds of temperate flowers that rotating to welcome the tourist all year round – Blue Salvia, Petunia, Begonia, Roses, and ornamented plants, for instance. Besides the outdoor flowers plots, there’s the greenhouse which cultivates the rare species of Lady’s Slipper (Paphiopedilum orchids), as well.

Another exciting thing within The Mae Fah Luang Garden is a sculpture by the late Misiem Yip-In-Soi ‘Continuity’ that named by HRH Princess Mother. The remarkable figure stands prominently in the center of the garden. Furthermore, there is a rock garden furnished with the massive round-shaped mountainous stone, a water garden with lots of aquatic plants and water lily, and palm garden. The Mae Fah Luang Garden opens 6.30am – 6.00pm daily and the entrance fee is THB90 per visitor.

3.1 Doi Tung Café

And for any tourist who wants to take a seat and get some refreshment, the lovely coffee house in the garden “Doi Tung Café’ is the right place for you. The café services premium arabica coffee that is the productivity of the arabica coffee plantation at Doi Tung. Yet, for one who is not a coffee person, Doi Tung Café also offers non-coffee beverages that are not less for the taste and the recommended item is “Macadamia Nut Cream Slush”. Even the other products made from macadamia nut one of the most famous products of Doi Tung Development Project such as macadamia butter cookies, macadamia covered chocolate, salted roast macadamia, etc.

3.2 Doi Tung Tree Top Walk

Doi Tung Tree Top Walk

Surprisingly, Mae Fah Luang Garden also entertain for one who yearns for a bit of exciting activity that is “Doi Tung Tree Top Walk,” an adventure experience to walk on the top of the trees in Mae Fah Luan Garden. A small walkway is about 295 meters long and over 30 meters high above the ground pleasantly environed by lush and shady trees and beautiful landscape of The Mae Fah Luang Garden. And worry-free for the tourists since there is a full option of safety utility and training for basic safety, plus the staff assist the visitor all along the walk. Doi Tung Tree Top Walk operates between 8.30am – 5.00pm with the charge is THB150 per person /round.

4. Phra That Doi Tung

4.1 Phra That Doi Tung History

Wat Phra That Doi Tung

Phra That Doi Tung is a great worshipped pagoda date back for over the centuries. The two vital golden stupas enshrined the Buddha’s relic stand elegantly next to the cliff, and the visitors also can watch the stunning scenery at the viewpoint with the lovely climate, as well. Locally called “Phra That Doi Tung” located inside Wat Phra That Doi Tung compound as the house to store the left clavicle bone of the Gautama Buddha invited from central India. It was the first time that Theravada Buddhism settles in the northern Lanna region of Thailand. Once completion to enshrined the Buddha’s relic in the stupa, the locals created the notable ‘Tung’ which is the Lanna traditional flag with about 2,000 meters in its length and set it at the summit of the mountain. As if the tip of the flag drop at any elsewhere it would be the base of the pagoda, resulting in the title of the mountainous land to enshrine the first pagoda in the Lanna region is “Doi Tung” which means the mountain of the flag.

4.2 Phra That Doi Tung Temple

Phra that doi tung temple

Renowned as the most significant sanctuary, Phra That Doi Tung is famous among the Buddhist both domestic and circumferences to visit the place to pay homage to the sacred pagoda, in particular on the 15th of waxing moon of the 3rd month followed to Thai calendar that set as the annual celebration event at the holy place. Additionally, Phra That Doi Tung also the symbolic pagoda of one who was born in the year of Pig according to the Buddhist belief to come to worship for at least once in the lifetime, too. 

Literally, ‘Tung’ is a traditional symbol of the Lanna culture refers to the prosperity and victory. At the monastery complex, there’s a crack on the ground with approximately 1 foot lied in front of the grand pagoda. It believes that the break was the base to flag the Tung to worship the sacred object. Presently, the vibrant colors of numerous Tung decorated at the front of the pagoda creating the outstanding and exotic scene of this holy site that so-called another must-visit for the tourists, indeed.

5. The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chang Moob

5.1 Doi Chang Moob Arboretum

Doi Chang Moob Arboretum

Also known as The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum or Doi Chang Moob Arboretum, the natural site situated on the top of Doi Chang Moob about a kilometer further from Phra That Doi Tung. It is the highest scenic point of Nang Norn Range located at 1,520 meters above the sea level. Originally, it was the denuded forest from the shifting forest and opium poppy cultivation. And HRH Princess Mother during her visit at the area and witnessed the scalp with only grasses covered the space; hence the Princess Mother initiated to reforest the venue.

So, in 1992, Doi Tung Royal Development Project implemented to response the Princess Mother’s initiative by planting the arboretum in the total area of land 250 rai on Doi Chang Moob. The arboretum serves itself as the center to collect any important species of the local plants within the region of Doi Chang Moob and Doi Tung Range, altogether with new planting of Pinus kesiya to shelter the land, as well.

5.2 Himalayan Cherry blossoms

Himalayan Cherry blossoms in Doi moob

Furthermore, it is the critical plantation of the rare species of Azalea, the subfamily of Rhododendron in various colors from other countries elsewhere. The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chang Moob is so delightful and fantastic natural sightseeing that the one who takes the trip to Doi Tung realm should not miss, in particular when the time that Himalayan Cherry blossoms all around the area during January – February. Unsurprisingly, it is considered as one of the most magnificent wood lot sites in Thailand.

5.3 Chang Moob Stupa

Chang Moob Stupa

Apart from that, there’s a small stupa called “Chang Moob Stupa” stands on the top of a massive rick rock looks similar to crouching elephant. The ancient stupa although there’s no any clue to track back for the origin it assumed that to be more than 100 years of age. Also, there are numerous pine trees and growth trees with over centuries that relocated to plant within site due to the construction of the road Chiang Rai – Mae Sai to preserve the soil and source of water.

Additionally, the arboretum also provides the pleasant walkway leading you along the mountain slope to destine the beautiful terrace features the heart-taking view to the borderline of Myanmar and Laos. And not far is a little creek providing cold and mild water throughout the year. The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chang Moob opens every day from 8.00am through 5.00pm, and the entrance fee is THB50 per person. 

6. Doi Chang Moob Military Operations Base

Doi Chang Moob Military Operations Base

The military operations venue at Doi Chang Moob is the outstanding location for watching the sundown. Not far from The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chiang Moob, it is the boundary of Thai and Myanmar with the Royal Thai Army’s operations base to inspect the conformity of this strategic area. The climate at the peak is mild cold all year round and well-known as the beautiful sunset spot.

The breath-taking scene to witness the last light of the day that the sun is setting down gradually with the golden twilight over the sky and the rolling mountain range as the perfect backdrop is so fantastic and genuinely romantic to anyone and hard to takes the eyes off it.

7. Doi Tung Development Project

The royal development project initiative of HRH Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother in order to maintain traditional culture, custom, and art of the local hill tribe people, also to increase the income and promote the occupation to those to have the better quality of life. The visitors will entertain with the splendid native wisdom and handicraft – textile weaving, coffee plantation, ceramic pottery, and more.

And don’t worry for anyone who would love to get some local products as a gift or for keeping sake. Since there is a merchandise shop at the project center offers various local goods such as scarf, clothes, accessories, and agricultural productivity from The Royal Project that are all the valuable outcomes from the devotion of HM late King Bhumiphol and the Princess Mother.

8. Krua Tamnak Restaurant

Krua Tamnak Restaurant

Indulging in the beauty of Doi Tung Royal Villa and Mae Fah Luang Garden would charm you to forget the meal. Don’t worry there is a recommended restaurant nearby those attractions besides the food stalls that you can see they stand all along the path to the Royal Villa and the garden. Krua Tamnak Restaurant situated inside the property of Doi Tung Development Project serves the customers with an array of delicious menus cooked from the fresh and hygienic ingredients of the Royal Project’s farm.

Worry-free for the gourmet as every dish is rich in nutrient and nutrition. The highlights of the dining room including Yum Hed On Doi Phu Lae (Spicy Mushroom Salad), Gaeng Hang Lay Moo Mei San (Pork Hang Lay Curry), Miang Pla Doi Tung (Fish Wrapped with veggies), for example. The restaurant opens from 7.00am through 8.00pm daily.

*Note: If any tourist plans to visit more than one spot within the Royal Project property, the venue offers the pool passing badges to access multiple locations that are cheaper than separate purchase with the detail by following;

9. Hall of Opium

Hall of Opium

Renowned as the world’s leading narcotics base during the 1960s to 1990s, the strategic location called “The Golden Triangle” where the meeting point of Thai, Myanmar, and Laos boundary. The land over the spot that the Ruak River and Mekong river assembled was the critical venue of the opium cultivation, heroine manufacturing base, and unlawful distribution creating the vicious cycle of the narcotic.

The Hall of Opium is an interactive exhibition features the background story of the opium in the old days that was used legally. Experience the mysterious, murky tunnel that cut through the mountain with about 137 meters in estimate metaphor to the dark side of the opium the root of the narcotic problem that has affected globally.

10. Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park

Although it’s not in Doi Tung The Mae Fah Luang Art & Culture Park is maybe the place for anyone that is not enough to learn more about the story and work of the Princess Mother to develop and preserve the native wisdom and tradition of locals in Highland. An attractive tourist attraction features the exotic and distinctive art and culture of the northern territory of Thailand which well-known Lanna culture.

Also, the cultural museum serves as a learning center for the hill tribe youth by educating and enhancing them to apply the knowledge to develop the community sustainably. The art & cultural park displays the Lanna native wisdom and architecture over the land 150 rai specific the collection of ancient Buddhist art, archeological finds with more than hundred years of age, the work of art created from teakwood, and a large pool surrounded with the growth trees from every regions of the country such as rainbow eucalyptus.

Also, situated in the middle of the park is a modeled figure of the Princess Srinagarindra sits on the rock offering the chance for the visitors especially Thais to pay homage and recall her graciously kindness to the citizen of the country.

Mae Fah Luang Garden Entrance Fee:

Mae Fah Luang Garden Entrance Fee

3 Attractions Passing Ticket :Doi Tung Royal Villa, The Mae Fah Luang Garden, and Hall of Inspirations

General Public = THB190

Seniority = THB90

Students = THB90, and free of charge for the children with less that than 120 cm high.

4 Attractions Passing Ticket: Doi Tung Royal Villa, The Mae Fah Luang Garden, Hall of Inspirations, and The Mae Fah Luang Arboretum at Doi Chang Moob

General Public = THB220

Seniority = THB110

Students = THB110, and free of charge for the children with less that than 120 cm high. 

For any further information, please contact at the Tourist Information Center of Doi Tung Development Project at call +66 53 767015.

The tourist attraction in related to Doi Tung Development Project is not only within the area of Doi Tung only. The significant development plan provides other exciting sightseeing that should not miss visiting, as well.

How to get to Doi Tung

How to get to Doi Tung

Traveling to Doi Tung can get optional directions which are;

By Car:

Route 1:

Uses the new road to go to Doi Tung that passes Tai Yai Rom Sai Village and the viewpoint at the 12th km burrstone. Then, makes a left turn between the 12th and 13th burrstone and keep driving for more 2 km you will arrive at Doi Tung Royall Villa. The total distance is 15 km. alternatively, moves on the old road to pass San Gong Rao Intersection in about 1 km. Then, makes the left turn to enter the highway number 1149 at Ban Huay Krai between the 871st and 872nd km. This road is steeper than the new one, but it’s a bit shorter. The way leads to meet the new road at the 6th km.

And to visit Phra That Doi Tung that is away from Doi Tung Royal Villa approximately 5.5 km. So, the tourist may plan to take a tour around the area of Doi Tung Royall Villa, then moves forward to Phra That Doi Tung.

Route 2:

On the new route to Doi Tung, once you arrive at the intersection that the left fork is the way to Doi Tung and reach the 14th km. Then, there’s a left lane to go to Phra That Doi Tung which is a quite narrow and pretty steep way with about 3 km distant. Of the left is a roundabout way to pass Doi Tung Wildlife Research Center, a junction to Doi Chang Moob, Mae Sai district, and Wat Noi Doi Tung. At the 23rd km burrstone which is about 10 km distant from Wat Noi Doi Tung, the visitor must drive ascending to the hill that is very steep, narrow, and curvy. This area is called “Suan Dhebharak” (The Celestial Park) that needs to drive very carefully since it may be any car drives in the opposite direction.

Hire the vehicle

For the tourist who does not drive a car to the location, from the town of Chiang Rai you can get on the public transport route Chiang Rai – Mae Sai and get off at Ban Huay Krai to transit to the purple pick-up truck to Doi Tung. The charter price is approximate THB750 for round trip of 12 passengers (or THB60 per person). The truck will take you to Phra That Doi Tung, Hill Tribe Local Market, Farm Plants Research Center nearby the reservoir, and Doi Tung Royal Villa. The trip takes about 3 hours.

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