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Doi Angkhang

The winter playground for Thai people - Doi Angkhang

A updated version
(butched maybe) of an article
by John Leicester for TAT

Doi Angkhang is one of the coldest places in Thailand so is a popular destination for Thai visitors. It is also renowned as a scenic wonderland of orchards, flowers and forests. The area attracts tourists to enjoy the picture-perfect valley in the mountains 1,400 metres above sea-level. Here, the ever-present influence of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, can be sensed, from the Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang to his agricultural affluence and a efforts to better the quality of life to the ethnic people there



Royal Intervention
It was not always such an attractive place to live. In the 1960s, Doi Angkhang was not always such an attractive place to live remote, isolated, with no roads and off limits to outsiders. Its occupants — refugees from Yunnan in China and Black Musers — grewing opium, peaches and rice, living in poverty with no proper access to education or medical treatment.

King Bhumibol learnt about Doi Angkhang iin 1969. “ the King decided to fly to the top of the mountain to see for himself,” explained His Serene Highness Prince Bhisadej Rajani, Chairman and Director of the Royal Project Foundation. “There were poppies and peach trees, but the hillsides were extensively deforested through slash and burn cultivation.”

The King purchased land to set up the first argocultural research station for temperate fruit, vegetables, trees and flowers. According to Prince Bhisadej, “His Majesty asked us to find temperate fruit to grow on Angkhang, because he thought that income from the fruit would be higher than from poppies.” It was.

Today, the Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang is the flagship for the Royal Projects, and the premier research station in Thailand for temperate fruits, testing new strains and cultivating fruit saplings for extension throughout the Royal Projects.

Other goals set by King Bhumibol are also evident. The hillsides are now recovered in new forests and agricultural plots that have helped eliminate poppy cultivation; four schools provide education for children; a small medical centre for the villagers; and there are now good roads to the outside world.



Attractions

Flower Gardens
Tourists love to visit Doi Angkhang to experience the cold weather (it can dip below zero in December and January), and to enjoy the scenery and temperate plant life. The Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang is actually a research station for temperate climate fruit. During the winter, temperate fruit trees shed their leaves and plants do not bloom. “Visitors used to complain that the trees were dying and there was nothing to see,” says Prince Bhisadej, who decided to introduce something for tourists “to see.”

The result is a number of beautiful flower and plant gardens at the Royal Station that are cultivated to provide blooms throughout the year:

Garden 80 — named for Prince Bhisadej’s age (which is now 86) is decorated with short lived plants

Scented Garden — aromatic plants and herbs

Rhododendron and Azalea Garden — beautiful temperate plants

English Roses — half-bred roses from England, best seen in March-April

Temperate Flower House — a beautifully decorated greenhouse rich in plants with a coffee corner for visitors

Bonsai Garden — award-winning, long-lived bonsai plants and rock garden

Plus many demonstration plots for flowers and vegetables, as well as a small tea house where visitors can taste the oolong and green teas grown on Doi Angkhang

Military Base
A small army base right on the border with Burma next to Nor Lae village provides security for Doi Angkhang, and is also a popular scenic spot. The soldiers are friendly, welcoming visitors and providing insights into the tough life of being a Thai soldier on border patrol.

Education
Following King Bhumibol’s wish to provide education, there are now four schools on Doi Angkhang teaching Muser, Palong and Yunnanese children from kindergarten to secondary level. A senior teacher at Khob Dong primary school, Kru Riem, epitomizes the educational commitment required. The first time she met King Bhumibol, he told her that he was too far away and asked her to teach the children on his behalf. Originally from Bangkok, she has been at the school for 24 years, refusing to leave since receiving the royal request.

Reforestation

Restoring forestation is an important goal of the Royal Project. Doi Angkhang’s reforestation programme began in 1982, in a cooperative effort between Thailand’s agricultural university, Kasetsart, and the Taiwan government, with technical support from National Taiwan University. Various temperate tree types were tried until five fast-growing species were found to respond well to the Angkhang climate — Taiwan acacia, Griffith’s ash, Camphor tree, Fragrant maple, and Paulonia.

To date, 681 rai (about 200 acres) of land is under new forest cover, with a further 118 rai extended as community forest to be looked after by the villagers, who can cut down and utilize the wood, provided they replant the trees. Visitors can discover the beauty of the forested slopes with treks along ten well marked nature trails, all just over a kilometer long.

Water Buffaloes Everywhere
Smiling buffaloes seem to be everywhere. Initially King Bhumibol donated two pairs of buffaloes to the Musers to help in their rice cultivation. However, they earned so much money from temperate climate produce, they stopped growing rice and buy it instead. Now the buffaloes having nothing to do but eat and multiply. The Musers refuse to sell or even eat them “because they are a gift from the King,” as one Muser farmer explained.

What is produced at Doi Angkhang
A variety of temperate produce is currently grown on Doi Angkhang:

Fruit — strawberries, kiwi, peaches, apricots, raspberries, pears, plums and persimmons

Vegetables — butterhead, red coral lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, artichokes, kale and chayote

Herbs — chamomile, lavender, lemon thyme, oregano, parsley

Beverages — oolong and green tea, arabica coffee

Flora — roses, chrysanthemums

Selling the products
The agricultural development of Doi Angkhang succeeds because the Royal Project guarantees to purchase all fruit, vegetables and flowers at fair prices, provided they meet set standards of quality. Agricultural areas, especially the organic farms, are inspected by Royal Project staff prior to harvest. Then the produce is taken to the pre-cooling factory in the Royal Station, where it is checked, graded, packed, and stored in a cooler ready to transport to the Royal Project production plant in Chiang Mai.

Web site: www.angkhang.com (Thai only)

Accommodation on Doi Angkhang

The Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang offers accommodation in hillside bungalows — 12 bungalows for two persons, six bungalows for six persons, and a large bungalow for 47. Two restaurants serve food grown within the Royal Project.

Accommodation enquiries:
Tel: +66 (0) 53 450 107-9 ext. 113/114
Angkhang Nature Resort, operated by Amari Hotels & Resorts, provides three-star accommodation, with 72 rooms in bungalows affording either garden views or mountain views. Located next to Angkhang Station, the resort was voted Best Eco Resort in Asia in 2000 by Travel Asia magazine. With the cool climate, the rooms have no need of air-conditioning, instead offering electric blankets to keep guests warm.
Accommodation enquiries:
Tel: +66 (0) 53 450 110
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Photos By Brian McMorrow


Getting There

Doi Angkhang is located on the Thai-Burma border, 160 kms north of Chiang Mai city in Fang District. This involves a three-hour drive with very steep roads up the mountain that cannot accommodate large tour buses.

* On request, Angkhang Nature Resort offers a pick-up service by van from Amari Rincome Hotel or Chiang Mai airport,

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