ARTIKEL BANGKOK POST: Chiang Mai en omgeving

Amazing Grace

Royally-initiated projects meant for remote hill tribes in northern mountains have something for tourists as well

By: Story and photos PANADDA MEKLOY
Published: 18/06/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Horizons

A lot of people like to visit Chiang Mai. Too bad they do so only during the cool season or the popular Songkran Festival. But this northern province is still a good holiday destination any other time of year, even in a wet period like now.

Visit Huai Hong Khrai Royal Development Study Centre in Doi Saket and you’ll probably feel persuaded to see rain in a new light.

Who knows…you may no longer view drops or sheets of water pelting down the sky as a cause of inconvenience but the source of life, a natural resource that should be wisely used and managed. There is a good reason why rain often triggers smile on the faces of many people, highlanders and lowlanders alike.

Other than Huai Hong Khrai, Chiang Mai also has several other royal project sites worth visiting. Doi Ang Khang in the rainy season is pretty different from the cool season but no less beautiful.

And have you heard of that museum not far from Doi Ang Khang, the one at the First Royal Food Processing Factory and Ban Yang, the Chinese community where people of three religious faiths live side by side in harmony?

These are just a few of the royal projects scattered around Chiang Mai and other northern provinces.

Well, there is no need to wait until the cool season to hit the road.


The Royal Project
**Tel. 02-579-5142, 053-281-238 to 41; **

Royal Agricultural Research Station Angkhang
**Tel. 053-450-107 to 9; **

First Royal Factory at Fang
**Tel. 053-293-630; **

HuaiHongKhrai Royal Development Study Centre
**Tel. 053-389-228 to 9; **

This old photo displayed on the side of the nature study trail at Huai Hong Khrai
Royal Development Study Centre shows HM the King and HRH Princess Sirindhorn
during one of their visits to the area decades ago. It is hard to believe how such
denuded land, as seen in the photo, could today become a healthy forest.
This 1.5 kilometre trail takes visitors through a part of this reforested area, offering
them a chance to study the ecosystem and understand how it works.

Reservoirs and check dams built along small streams are part of a successful
water management scheme used to aid reforestation in the area around Huai Hong Khrai.

Amid the dead leaves that cover the forest floor at Huai Hong Khrai, this beautiful
flower blossoms. If this little plant could speak a few words, perhaps, they would
be ‘I’m content with what I have!’

Cheerful blooms of cold climate plants introduced by the royal project have
replaced opium which decades ago used to be ubiquitous in the mountains of
northern Thailand.

Strawberry is one of the many examples of how experiments conducted at labs
of royal projects have brought positive change to people’s lives. These days
almost everybody can afford to buy this succulent fruit which in the old days
had to be imported.

Several farming techniques have been experimented using different varieties of
vegetables at Doi Ang Khang Agricultural Research Station. The aim is to improve
the quality of life of farmers and at the same time maintain balance between nature
and environment.

A variety of fruits are grown at royal project sites and agricultural research stations
and they take turns to bear fruit. At this time of year, for example, plum, pear and
raspberry are in season. Strawberry lovers will have to wait until October, after
which the fruit is available until mid-April. Japanese apricot are obtainable mid- February
to mid-April while peach trees bear fruit from March to June.

Many of the visitors to Doi Ang Khang are those who have a liking for botany.
These exotic plants, sourced from many parts of the world, are one of the
research station’s highlights.

Hot mocha at the cafeteria of Doi Ang Khang is
served in a glass cup to show the separate layers
of coffee, cocoa and milk. The drink looks so
nice you feel sorry you have to stir it and ruin the show.
The taste? Of course, it’s terrific!

Looking for a place to spend the night on Doi Ang Khang? There are a variety
of choices available, from camping ground in a pine grove and homestay in
hilltribe villages to more upscale accommodation like these at Angkhang Nature Resort.

To make sure surplus farm produce did not pose a problem to hill tribes joining
royallyinitiated agricultural schemes, the first Royal Food Processing Factory was
established in November 1972 in Ban Yang, a Yunnan Chinese community near
the foothill of Doi Ang Khang.

A few years after the first factory opened in Chiang Mai, three more were built in
Chiang Rai, Sakon Nakhon and Buri Ram provinces, all producing a variety of
agricultural products under the now well-known brandname ‘Doi Kham’.

In 2006 there was a major flood which caused severe damage to the first factory.
Part of the site was then turned into a museum with the broken machinery part
of the display.

The Chinese village of Ban Yang itself has become an interesting attraction for
tourists eager to learn about Yunnan culture.

At the first royal food processing factory in Fang, there is a store where all kinds
of products marketed under the Doi Kham brand are on sale, from fruit juice
(both ready-to-drink and concentrate), fruit jam, canned, dehydrated and frozen
fruits to honey, Champignon mushroom and soya flour.

These products are said to be free of chemical additives. Perhaps that’s why the
fruit juices tasted very sweet.

In hilltribe villages pigs and chicken are raised for food but they are allowed to
roam and forage freely. One problem about this practice is that the animals have
a good chance of getting infected by parasites. Eating their meat should be okay
though, provided it is well cooked.

Eight years ago, Manoon Thesnam of Doi Saket, Chiang Mai, decided to follow
HM the King’s philosophy of self-sufficiency and tried his hand at integrated
organic farming.

Nowadays, Manoon and his family can get almost everything they need from
their 15-rai plot, growing rice, fruits and vegetables to pork, fish and frog, among
other things. Actually, the yield is more than what they need, while the surplus is
sold, yielding enough income to support his family.

Before that, he practised conventional mono-crop farming, relying heavily on
fertiliser and pesticide, and running up a huge debt—in six digits— that he is only
now close to settling. Look at the broad smiles!

*Bron: Bangkok Post / *