You’ve had a cup of coffee from a Doi Tung coffee shop before, right? Ever wondered why the name Doi Tung? Why the coffee is a little bit more expensive? Why do they sell key chains, t-shirts, and sustainable cloth bags? Well, if you happen to find yourself visiting Chiang Rai or the Golden Triangle, you can find out first hand. Rent a car and driver and spend a morning on Doi Tung (“flag peak”) Mountain, visiting H.R.H the Princess Mother’s Doi Tung Royal Villa and the adjacent and stunning Mae Fah Luang Garden. The Princess Mother (mother of Thailand’s current reigning King) built the Doi Tung Royal Villa as her summer palace, and it is now open to the public as a museum. She dedicated herself to the Doi Tung Development Project, which focused on reforestation and creating sustainable livelihoods for the local population (read: once prevalent opium crops have been replaced by crops such as coffee, teak, and various fruits).
Enough with the history lesson because even I’m now falling asleep. Go to Doi Tung because the villa is a cool Thai-style replica of a chalet you would see in the Swiss Alps. From the outdoor balcony, there are excellent views of Burma. And the Mae Fah Luang Garden is to-die-for beautiful. It is a great place for kids to expel some energy by running free amidst gorgeous and colorful flowers, fountains, and statues.
- It is a windy, steep road to the top of Doi Tung, so if you get car sick . . . be prepared.
- Doi Tung is about a 30 minute drive from the town of Chiang Rai.
- If it’s the hot season, bring hats and sunscreen, as the gardens are in the direct sun.
- There are lots of Doi Tung coffee shops and a few places to eat atop the mountain.
- Dress modestly (long sleeves, long pants) to enter the Royal Villa, or you will have to don an oversized 1980s jean jacket, like the one you see me in below (even Kate knows this jacket is not fashion-forward).