Bangkok Post reviews
Cool factor cultivates cash crop
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: January 17, 2012 at 8:28 am
Beautiful valley thrives after doing away with drugs
Strawberry plantations line the slopes in the valley of Angkhang.
Situated in a remote valley a stone's throw from the Thailand-Myanmar border, Angkhang is surprisingly filled with beauty.
In late afternoon, strong sunlight drives everyone to hide under shade, seeking a mountain breeze to cool down the daytime heat. However, after sunset, the temperature begins to drop sharply. Tourists who find their clothing is not warm enough dart to the nearest market to shop for additional items. Local people wrap themselves in thick coats, resembling fat bears from a distance.
At an elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level and with a deep valley landscape, Doi Angkhang, in Fang district of Chiang Mai, is well known for its extreme weather, particularly the coldness. And that is a magnet that attracts people from other parts of the country to experience the temperate climate.
Colourful flowers planted in the valley.
"It was -2C last night," a member of staff from Angkhang Nature Resort said.
Established since 1969, Angkhang is the first research centre of the Royal Project. In an effort to reduce opium plantation, the research centre focuses on promoting temperate fruit plantations for nine villages of hill-tribers and Kuomingtang Chinese.
A temperate climate enables various colourful flowers to grow happily in Angkhang valley. The research centre itself is made all the more beautiful by a garden rich in temperate-climate flowers such as rhododendron, lavender, camellia, poppy and lady slipper orchid. So, if you plan to visit the centre, spare at least half a day to spend here.
"The temperate weather made Angkhang a haven for opium growers. We tried hard to educate local people to grow new cash crops such as plum, ume and persimmon," said Anat Charoenphong, packing chief at Angkhang Royal Agricultural Station.
"It was quite difficult to change their lifestyle and prove that these new plants could generate more money than opium. However, it is quite successful today. The people around here are wealthier and enjoy a better life."
It is quite impressive to learn that, in a matter of decades, Angkhang gradually transformed from dangerous drug trade area into high-yielding, lush plantation.
Tourists stop to admire cherry blossom on the way to Doi Angkhang.
"One day on the mountain, one of our staff here asked a poor farmer if he wanted to buy his motorcycle. He offered a special price, assuming that the poor farmer definitely could not afford it. But the farmer paid him right away, with cash. The staff member had to walk a long way home that day."
Scoot around and you will find that villages around Angkhang today are nourished by cash crops like flowers, vegetables and fruits. It is also pleasing to hear that they prefer organic farming. Making their own fertiliser can help them save quite a large amount of money.
In winter, strawberries become the seasonal highlight of this mountain, so, a number of visitors can be found roaming around, particularly the village of Nor Lae, for the lovely red fruit.
In some corners, you may come across a huge strawberry plantation that occupies an entire small valley. Walk around, and you may find an abundance of hanging strawberries.
"Do not wash it, the strawberry will lose its sweetness," Anat suggested. "Our chemical-free programme enables farmers to grow very safe strawberries. You can eat it right away."
I sit in a hut, with a panoramic view of a strawberry plantation that lines the slope. The sunlight remains too strong. But I don't leave my jacket and gloves too far. I know I will need them promptly after the sun has set.
Doi Angkhang is around 160km from Chiang Mai, via highway 107 and 1249. The mountain road 1249 is steep and winding.
Angkhang Royal Agricultural Station has a nice restaurant and accommodation.
Call 053-450-107—9. Tourist information 053-450-077.
As a chemical-free product, strawberries from Angkhang Royal Agricultural Station can be usually eaten right away.