Mae Fa Luang, Chiang Rai: Cool Sights All In A Day For A Good Cause

Mae Fa Luang, Chiang Rai: Cool Sights All In A Day For A Good Cause
Rachel
Rachel
Updated

As the northernmost province in Thailand bordering Laos and Myanmar in the east, Chiang Rai is a captivating province steep in culture and nature. The former capital of the great Lanna Kingdom stayed off the tourist radar for many years, but today, it is appealing to travellers who enjoy being immersed in fascinating nature, unique hill tribe culture and a laid-back lifestyle.

One of the top places to visit in Chiang Rai is the Mae Fa Luang district (แม่ฟ้าหลวง), also spelt as Mae Fah Luang, located in the northern part of the province. Populated mostly by the Akha and Lahu ethnic tribes, who used to make a living through opium production, the district has since transformed into a popular attraction for local and foreign tourists, thanks to the late Princess Mother Srinagarindra. Read on to discover how you can enjoy cool sights all in a day for a good cause at Mae Fa Luang!

The Doi Tung Development Project

Doi Tung

Mention Mae Fa Luang and most people will immediately associate it with the Doi Tung Development Project. Launched by the late Princess Mother, who is grandmother to the current Thailand King, Rama X, its main objective was to create alternative job opportunities for the poor community in the mountain called Doi Tung. In the past, the people of Doi Tung made a living through opium production and trade, but this led to endless social and environmental problems. And so in 1988, the Princess Mother initiated the project, following inspiration from her son, the late King Rama IX, who had started efforts to end opium cultivation in the region since 1968.

The 150-square-kilometre (15,000-hectare) area transformed into a magnificent piece of fertile land, for which the villagers could cultivate vegetables and food as a stable source of income, as well as for their own consumption. In addition, coffee, macadamia and a variety of flowers, previously not grown in Thailand, were also brought in from overseas to be cultivated in Doi Tung. In December 2003, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) recognised the project as an outstanding contributor to eradicate drugs for sustainable alternative development. The highland district has also attracted numerous visitors who flock there for its lush green forests, beautifully landscaped garden, tranquil atmosphere and fresh air. Given the project was launched with a good cause for sustainable development, why not explore the region for a day to soak in its beauty while enjoying the cool highland weather?

Things to do in Mae Fa Luang in a day:

The Mae Fa Luang district is a town in the province of Chiang Rai, comprising of four tambon (subdistricts); Thoet Thai, Mae Salong Nai, Mae Salong Nok and Mae Fa Luang. Check out the following must-dos for an enjoyable tour in the town!

1. Smell the temperate flowers at Mae Fah Luang Garden

Start your day with a visit to the most famous attraction of the region - the Mae Fah Luang Garden, about 60 kilometres (37.3 miles) from Chiang Rai city. It is so-named because this was a nickname given to the Princess Mother by the ethnic minorities, which means “royal mother from the sky”. The 10-acre (4 hectare) garden is part of the Doi Tung Development Project located on the slope of Doi Tung where the former Akha Pa Kluay village was. The garden is home to a variety of temperate flowers such as petunia, aster and geranium, imported at the request of the Princess Mother.

Having lived in Switzerland for many years, she enjoyed the flowers in the temperate country and hence imported them to allow locals who have never travelled overseas a chance to enjoy a temperate flower garden. The beautiful flowers are grown and nurtured by local villagers, bringing sustainable income to the area, in terms of direct job opportunities as well as the indirect tourist dollar.

Mae Fah Luang Garden

Address: Doi Tung Development Project, Mae Fa Luang 57240

Opening Hours: 6.30 am - 6 pm daily.

Price: 90 THB (2.72 USD) per adult, half price for students and senior citizens.

Website: Mae Fah Luang Garden

2. Walk through the lush green forest with the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk

The Doi Tung Tree Top Walk is the latest addition to the Doi Tung Development Project launched August 2016. Walk through the dense forest of the Mae Fah Luang Garden on a 295-metre (967.8-foot) long walkway at 30 metres (98.4 feet) above ground. The elevated trails are hung between large century-old trees and offer you a unique opportunity to view the lush tropical forest of Doi Tung from a bird’s eye view. Before embarking on the walk, the instructor will guide you how to hook the cable on the safety harness secured around your legs and hip to the suspension bridges. Furthermore, you will be accompanied by professional staff throughout the walk. The maximum number of people allowed on the walkway is 13, so go with a small group if possible. With so many safety precautions in place, there is no reason not to get on the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk for an exhilarating experience, even if you have a fear for heights!

Doi Tung Tree Top Walk

Address: Doi Tung Development Project, Mae Fa Luang 57240 (located inside Mae Fah Luang Garden)

Opening Hours: 7.30 am - 5.30 pm daily.

Price: 150 THB (4.53 USD) per person.

3. Visit the Princess Mother’s first real home in Thailand, Royal Villa

After an exciting experience at the Tree Top Walk, walk up the slope of Doi Tung to the Royal Villa, the former residence of the Princess Mother. Built with her private funds, the Princess Mother considered the Royal Villa as her first real home in Thailand. She stayed in the villa so that she could work on the Doi Tung Development Project to help improve the lives of the local people. Constructed in a Lanna-Swiss style, the villa has a simple interior design, panelled with recycled pinewood, which reflects the modest nature of the Princess Mother. The highlight of the villa is the main hall’s ceiling where hand-crafted wood ornaments can be found, representing the Princess Mother’s favourite constellations.

Doi Tung Royal Villa

Address: Doi Tung Development Project, Mae Fa Luang 57240 (located on top of Mae Fah Luang Garden)

Opening Hours: 6.30 am - 6 pm daily.

Price: 90 THB (2.72 USD) per adult, half price for students and senior citizens.

Website: Doi Tung Royal Villa

4. Wander through the fields of Chiang Rai’s largest tea producer, Choui Fong Tea Plantation

Established in 1977, Choui Fong Tea Plantation is Chiang Rai’s largest tea estate renowned for its high quality tea. Situated on highland some 1,200 metres (3937 ft) above sea level, the tea estate spans over a 400-acre (161.9-hectare) terrain with neatly trimmed tea shrubs. Head to the stylish Choui Fong Tea cafe where you can soak in panoramic views of the expansive tea fields, while relaxing with great tea and pastries. There is also a shop in the building selling an assortment of high quality tea products for you to bring back as souvenirs. The rectangular concrete buildings blend perfectly with the picturesque natural surroundings, and the simple pine wood interiors evoke a serene feel that goes well with the scents and tastes of the estate.

Choui Fong Tea Plantation

Address: 97 Moo 8 Pasang, Maechan, Chiang Rai 57110

Opening Hours: 8.30 am - 5.30 pm daily.

Website: Choui Fong Tea Plantation

5. Shop for unique souvenirs at Doi Mae Salong tourist market

Last but not least, make your way to Doi Mae Salong tourist market before you call it a day. As your vehicle meanders up the hills to the market, you will see widespread tea plantations together with shops and guest houses bearing Chinese text. Over 50 years ago, thousands of anti-Kuomintang soldiers escaped from Yunnan, China to Myanmar and eventually settled in Doi Mae Salong following the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. The quaint little village evokes a special Thai ambience with lingering Chinese influence, and is a great place to check out unique souvenirs hand-crafted by the local hill tribes and authentic local produce such as oolong tea. Enjoy the cool and refreshing mountain air as you wander around in this rustic Thai-Yunnanese village at an elevation of 1,130 metres (3,707.3 feet).

Doi Mae Salong tourist market

Address: Santa Kiri village, Mae Salong Nork sub district, Mae Fah Luang district, Chiang Rai

An idyllic day trip not to be missed

Chiang Rai is a charming destination that certainly deserves more attention on the global tourist radar. The Doi Tung Development Project in Mae Fa Luang district is not just a benevolent act by the late Princess Mother to improve the livelihoods of the local people, but also one that has reaped the fruits of labour in attracting visitors to the town. If admiring idyllic scenery and gaining insights to the Lanna culture appeal to you, then Mae Fa Luang is a must-do on your itinerary. Plan a day to Mae Fa Luang soon for a relaxing experience!

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Rachel has forgotten when and exactly how she caught the travel bug. What she does remember is the triumphant feeling she enjoys when she sees the fascinating world out there with her own eyes. She...Read more

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