Doi TungJanuary 23 in Myanmar ⋅ 🌙 18 °C
*Long story today! Go grab a cup of tea or coffee first 😁*
From Tha Ton, we drove up to the small mountain town of Doi Tung with pretty low expectations. Nestled in the heart of the Golden Triangle we had heard there was a good Royal Palace and some flower gardens that were worth a visit. We planned a two hour stop before heading off to Chiang Sean, the border town of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.
On our drive up to the Royal Palace the road was closed and we were waved off to a side road by the local police, luckily there was an alternative route that passed by a viewpoint. Another splendid view and we got chatting to a local Monk who was on his way home, he had walked, barefoot from Bangkok, over 800kms away, his feet looked knackered. He gave us a blessing of good luck sealed with his own lucky bracelets.
Feeling blessed we jumped back in the car and carried on round the back road up to the royal palace. As we got closer we noticed a lot of cars parked alongside the road, thoroughly confused but as it was getting busier as we got closer we deiced to park some 500m away and see what was going on. We had inadvertently stumbled upon the 'Doi Tung in Colour' annual festival. They close the streets around the 3 major attractions and fill them instead with locals crafts merchants, food stalls and flower shops, it was quite a site to behold in what we thought was a small little mountain town.
Through the 'Hall of Inspiration' museum and Royal Palace we established that in the 80s Doi Tung was a major opium farming region, the naturals forest had decayed due to years of deforestation and land mismanagement. The region was very poverty stricken with children sold to the sex markets when the opium yeilds were low, causing an aids outbreak in the area along with rampant addiction.
In 1987 King Rama IX mother, Princess Srinagarindra, at the ripe old age of 87, took it upon herself to help the people break the cycle. She set up royal projects to regrow the forest and create foresters jobs for the locals as well as encouraging economic forest management, mixing high value crops with native trees to create a sustainable habitat. She also created a huge Garden open to the public and taught the local opium grows to cultivate beautiful flowers which could be sold to the gardens and the public. This, alongside public health initiatives brought new life to the area, and Doi Tung now has a thriving community of botanists and have eradicated the Poppy industry entirely.
The Gardens and Palace were both fantastic, we ended up spending all morning and most of the afternoon wandering around and trying the local delicacies.
We unfortunately ran out of time to visit Chiang Sean but did manage to drive along the Myanmar Border road, which winds its way North past a few old defunct out posts and does actually sneak across the border in a few places as well so James can officially say he has been to Myanmar and Armelle has returned after 25 years.
This road led us to a little Akha village called Pha hi, village that is built so much in the mountains that no one who lives there must be scare of hights!
An absolutely wonderful day, the Monks lucky blessing really came through for us. Thanks random Monk!Read more