Explore the beauty of Chiang Rai’s nature-related attractions
DOI TUNG: Located just north of Doi Mae Salong, Doi Tung is a 1,389-meter-high mountain where the late Queen Mother set up both a centre for agricultural research, and the impressive and beautifully landscaped Mae Fah Luang Botanical Garden. The decorative flowers in the garden are grown and nurtured by local villagers, hundreds of whom are now earning a sustainable livelihood. Royal Projects initiatives like this have led to radical change in the North of Thailand, and in a few decades this region of the province went from a dangerous opium producing hotspot, to a profitable collection of local farmers raising fruits, vegetables, and cash crops such as coffee. For hungry visitors, the Doi Tung Development Project’s restaurants can be found both on Doi Tung mountain and at the Greater Mekong Lodge, Golden Triangle Park. Their special menus serve traditional Northern dishes, ethnic specialties, and toxin-free fresh vegetables from the Project’s vegetable farm and local farms in the area. Locally recruited cooks constantly create new menus, and the service staff is comprised of people from different ethnic minority villages who take pride in their work and welcome customers as guests to their hometown.
HALL OF INSPIRATION: A popular attraction within the Doi Tung Royal Projects area is the Hall of Inspiration, a well-curated museum that traces the region’s social and agricultural transformation. It’s an interactive exhibition space that shows the characters, philosophies, and working principles of the Mahidol Royal Family, as well as their efforts to find ways to improve the lives and livelihoods of the Thai people in all corners of the Kingdom through simple, practical but effective means. Open daily from 8am to 5pm.
DOI TUNG TREE TOP WALK: Energetic explorers, who aren’t afraid of heights, can journey safely along a 295-meter walkway snaking through the dense foliage of the jungle trees at the Mae Fah Luang Garden—30 meters above the ground—at the Doi Tung Tree Top Walk. It’s open daily from 8:30am till 5pm, and admission is B150 per person.
LOCUS NATIVE FOOD LAB: Located a bit north of Chiang Rai City, somewhat near the airport, Locus Native Food Lab is a private restaurant that showcases chef Kongwuth Chaiwongkachon’s take on familiar Thai dishes, all made with a dedication to using local produce and local wisdom when it comes to cultivation and preparation. Each evening only a single group of diners—up to 20 people—are served. The chef relates the intricate story behind each dish in the 10-course tasting menu, where the spotlight is firmly on Northern Thailand’s abundant produce. Open daily from 6pm till 11pm.
CHOUI FONG TEA PLANTATION: For half a century, Chiang Rai’s Choui Fong Tea has been cultivating high quality traditional teas—Assum, Green, Oolong, and Black Tea—at an altitude of around 1,200 meters above sea level, in a plantation area of over 1,000 rai. In terms of production capacity, Choui Fong is the largest in the province. The plantation is situated in a really beautiful area and the grounds and tea plant terraces are immaculately kept, making it well worth a day-trip visit. There is a really nice shop selling all sorts of tea related products, but the real icing on the cake is the ultra-modern café—designed by IDIN Architects—with a terrace overlooking the beautiful expanse of greenery. Open daily from 8am till 6pm (call 05 377 1563).
PHU CHI FA: Often described as “the most spectacular sunrise spot in all of Thailand”, Phu Chi Fa is a 1,442-metre-high mountain viewpoint overlooking the Laos border, located about 100 km from Chiang Rai City. You can only drive so far up the mountain, after which you need to walk uphill about 20-30 minutes to reach the summit viewpoint. In the cool of the morning, as the first rays of dawn approach, photographers are already busy themselves preparing to get the best shot. Looking out over the expanse, as the mist and clouds give way to pastoral valley greenery, it’s a magical moment indeed. Add to that the sight of hilltribe villagers wearing traditional costumes, and you have an unforgettable slice of Northern Thailand life.
With the mix of clean mountain air, rolling green hillsides, and friendly villagers, it’s amazing more non-Thai tourists don’t venture here, but for those who do there are modest guesthouses as well as camping spots available. However, if you require accommodation with more amenities, Huen Chan Thip (053 712 087) offers clean and modern rooms, breakfast, and even a swimming pool. You can also book a trip to Phu Chi Fa leaving directly from Chiang Rai City, but you’ll have to depart at about 3:30am in order to make it to the summit in time for sunrise.