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Neighbourhood Properties

The well-kept gardens also act as a refuge for those eager to escape the stifling heat of central Chiang Rai. The troubled and complicated backstory of the region involves numerous geopolitical struggles, weapons smuggling and a once-thriving opium trade. The Akha people are one of many indigenous groups native to northern Thailand, in addition to parts of both Myanmar and Laos. The Akha and other hilltribes traditionally used opium for minor aches and ailments, such as tooth and stomachaches. But as cultivation soared, so did addiction epidemics in the local communities.

Doi Tung & Royal Villa Half-Day Tour - 13.30pm

The Akha people were displaced from the sight to make way for these serene and tranquil botanical gardens, but they now have plenty of more options when it comes to earning a living. Furthermore, another major goal is reforestation, as unsustainable agricultural techniques and improper waste management were starting to take their toll on the once-fertile mountain range.

But the reasons why Doi Tung became such a hotspot for opium cultivation in the first place has to do with a much larger and complex geopolitical situation. Just as newly independent Burma was trying to figure out a way forward after years of British colonial rule, the Communists came to power in neighboring China. Their goal was to use Burma as a base from which to invade and retake China, starting with the southern Yunnan province. The KMT helped sustain themselves with the lucrative opium trade. They controlled the region with an iron fist, forcing local villagers and hilltribes to meet strict quotas for poppy cultivation.

To make matters more complicated, they also were directly supported by both Taiwan and the USA, regularly being airdropped weapons and supplies. And they were also given logistical and material support from pro-US Thailand. In contrast to their military shortcomings, their drug business was flourishing.

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Tung Shan Villa

Most of their opium was exported to Thailand in exchange for goods and weapons. After relentless lobbying to the United Nations to get the KMT to leave, the Burmese government finally got the Nationalist military to dissolve in Work to develop the Doi Tung area began in But has the project fully enabled the Akha people of northern Thailand to become self-sustainable? There are claims that some villagers remain reliant on government handouts, while opium production may also still be taking place in certain pockets of the region.

But compared to what used to be going on at Doi Tung, the Royal Agricultural Project has overall been a resounding success. The area is not easy or cheap to get to see below , but once you finally make it, the relaxing environment will help you forget the long journey there.

The Royal Villa - Picture of Doi Tung Royal Villa, Mae Fa Luang - TripAdvisor

In addition to the wide array of plants, you can also encounter things like a fountain and a little bamboo labyrinth, giving the gardens a playful atmosphere. Comprised of young boys forming a tall pyramid, the work is said to symbolize the continuity of Akha culture and of the development project itself.


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Just next door to the gardens is the Doi Tung Royal Villa, which combines the styles of both Lanna northern Thai and Swiss architecture. Inside you can see the area where the Princess Mother lived and slept, while the veranda provides even more views of the nearby Burmese mountains. Members of the Royal Family do still occasionally come to visit and they even have their own special entrance. Upon entering the villa, an audio guide is available in different languages, but some of the explanations tend to drag on for a bit too long.

In addition to the gardens and villa, the mountain is also home to Wat Phra That Doi Tung Temple which dates back to the 10th century. The ride is around 3 and a half hours and buses are operated by a company called Greenbus.

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