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Chiang Rai is the peaceful neighbouring town of Chiang Mai, about 180 km further north. Chiang Rai is a land of outstanding natural beauty, where visitors can visit remote hill tribes, trek in the jungle, and check out the golden triangle, the former center of the world's opium trade. Doi Tung Royal Villa and Mae Fah Luang Garden are among the most famous tourist attractions of Chiang Rai province.
These two places are located on the slopes of Doi Tung Mountain. With an elevation of 1,630 metres above sea level, the mountain is located in Mae Fa Luang District, about 60 km. from Chiang Rai town. To get there, take Highway No.110 for about 48 kilometers and turn left onto Highway No. 1149 and go on for 15 kilometres. The route winds through beautiful scenery with many interesting sites including Doi Tung Royal Villa, Mae Fah Luang Garden, Phra That Doi Tung, and Akha and Musoe tribal villages.

Doi Tung Royal Villa

Doi Tung Royal Villa, built in the Lanna and Swiss architectural styles, was the residence of Her late Royal Highness Princess Srinakarindra, the Princess Mother. Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother and her daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, gave the architects a concept of simplicity and multi-functionality for the Royal Villa construction. The construction started on December 26, 1987 with a traditional northern Thai ceremony (called "Pok Sao Huen") of planting the main house pillar. The Princess Mother first took up residence at the Doi Tung Royal Villa on November 23, 1988.

The Royal Villa was originally built on the theory that the local hill tribes would be honored by the royal presence and thereby cease their opiumcultivation. It was built with Princess Mother's private funds. And she considered it her first real home in Thailand. The Princess Mother also made it known that without the Doi Tung Development Project, she would not have built a house in the area. She only stayed because she could reforest the land and help to improve the lives of the local people.

Initially, the Royal Forest Department planned to present the land for the construction of the Royal Villa to the Princess Mother. However, she refused their offer, on the grounds that she was not more privileged than any Thai who had no right to own land in a forest preserve. Therefore, the Royal Villa was leased out to the Foundation for 30 years, the same period as the project's time frame.

The exterior of Doi Tung Royal Villa was built of concrete and decorated with wood slabs cut from discarded teak trees, which came from forest thinning work by the Forest Industry Organization. The interior of the Royal Villa is paneled with recycled pine wood, which came from crates used for imported tools and equipment. The gold teakwood used for flooring was presented to the Princess Mother by the Forest Industry Organization. The simple interior design exudes elegance and functionality, which reflects the nature of the owner of the residence.
The upper floor of the building accommodates four sections. These include the late Princess Mother's private area, a reception hall and kitchen, and the private quarters for the Princess Mother's daughter, Her Royal Highness the late Princess Galyani Vadhana and Thanpuying Tasanavalaya Sornsonggram, Princess Galyani Vadhana's only daughter. The highlight of the Royal Villa is on the ceiling of the main hall. It has hand-crafted wood inlay of the Princess Mother's favourite constellations. Designed by the Astronomy Society of Thailand, light bulbs representing the stars were installed in the centre of the ceiling showing the position of the constellations on October 21, 1900, the day the Princess Mother was born.
The Royal Villa is open every day, from 07.00-17.00 hrs. The entrance fee is 80 baht.

The Mae Fah Luang Garden

The Mae Fah Luang Garden is the most beautiful landscaped garden in Thailand filled with hundreds of different kinds of plants and flowers. The garden is located in front of the Doi Tung Royal Villa, on an expanse of hillside that was originally the Akha village of Pa Kluay. This village used to be an important route for opium caravans and those involved in heroin and firearm trafficking. Situated in a deep gorge where the Akha lived in a dense settlement without the possibility of expansion, there was little space for hygiene, trash or wastewater management. At the request of the Doi Tung Development Project, the villagers agreed to be relocated to a new site 500 meters away. This site sits on a hill with expansive land. It has running water, electricity, and a paved road into the village.

A garden of mostly temperate flowers was built over 10 acres of land in accordance with the Princess Mother's wishes to give Thai people who have never travelled overseas an opportunity to enjoy a temperate flower garden. In the middle of this garden stands "Continuity", a magnificent sculpture created by the late artist Misiem Yip-In-Soi. The Princess Mother gave this name to the sculpture to draw attention to the fact that continuity ensures the success of any endeavour.
The colourful garden, enjoying a cool climate virtually all year round, consists of several lawns with various types of annual and perennial flowering plants. Some of them are dahlia, magnolia, petunia, azalea, salvia, rhododendron, gladiolus, aster, geranium, pansy, phlox, morning glory, lady's slipper orchid, etc. Besides the flower gardens, there are also an ornamental garden, a rock garden, a water garden, and a palm garden.

To add more interest, there are trellises with various kinds of climbing flowers and plants scattered throughout the garden. An outstanding large trellis of purple wreath stands in the middle of the garden with wooden benches underneath. It is just a perfect place to sit and admire the scenery of the large main circular garden. There is also a lovely small coffee shop, Cafe Doi Tung, where visitors can relax and sip the refreshing iced coffee amidst the beautiful lush gardens.
Due to its beauty and well maintenance, in 1993 the Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA) named the Mae Fah Luang Garden winner of PATA Award for Tourist Site Development.
The garden is open every day, from 07.00-18.00 hrs. The entrance fee is 80 baht. For more information about Doi Tung Royal Villa and Mae Fah Luang Garden, please visit www.doitung.org, E-mail: contact@doitung.org.

Phra That Doi Tung Temple

Located on the top of Doi Tung Mountain, less than 10 kilometres from Doi Tung Royal Villa, Phra That Doi Tung Temple probably has the most spectacular view of all temples in Thailand. It is about 50 kilometers south of Mae Sai town on the Myanmar border.
Wat Phra That Doi Tung was constructed in the 10th century and was renovated first by Chiang Rai's most famous ruler King Mengrai during the 13th century and then by the famous Chiang Mai monk, Khru Ba Siwichai, at the turn of the 20th century. The temple complex is comprised of twin Lanna-style chedis, one of which is said to contain the left collarbone of the Lord Buddha. This temple is especially regarded as the pilgrimage site for people born in the Year of the Pig. Anyway, throughout the year, the holy relic attracts devout Buddhists from all over Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.

Left: The photograph of the late Princess Mother decorates the wall of the throne hall.
Below: The beautiful garden in front of the Royal Villa

1 The late Princess Mother always visits people in the rural and remote areas.

2 The living room area in front of the Princess Mother’s private area.

3 The ceiling of the main hall features the hand-crafted wood inlay of the Princess Mother’s favourite constellations.

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