Foreigners and the newer generations often wonder about the deep affection and loyalty Thai people demonstrate towards their monarchy. One such tale of devotion starts in Doi Pha Mee, a locale in the Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai Province. Stories abound about the visits of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, marking the initial stages of an inspiring journey during his reign. He visited Doi Pha Mee thrice in 1970, 1971, and 1974. Along with the Queen, His Majesty also visited Doi Tung.
During these visits, they engaged with the hill tribe and initiated transformational changes. These led to the area’s metamorphosis, once a deforested mountain notorious for opium-poppy cultivation on the Myanmar border, into a lush green forest and a popular natural tourist attraction.
Doi Tung and Khun Naang Nong Mountain became the first areas in Thailand to cultivate Arabica coffee, thereby creating jobs and substituting opium farming and shifting cultivation with forest plantations. This change, especially during the rainy season, lured tourists in large numbers, eager to witness the breathtaking beauty of Khun Naang Non.
Doi Pha Mee primarily hosts the Akha hill tribe with their unique language and culture. Many legendary tales circulate among the elders and younger generations about the traditions and burgeoning tourism in Doi Pha Mee. The region has evolved to include homestays and coffee shops, all designed with photographic spots, viewpoints, and places to enjoy tea and coffee.
Workshops on community wisdom, coffee processing innovations, and the creation of bamboo coffee drippers are available, a testament to the Akha people’s ingenuity in replacing unsustainable online purchases and coffee grinding machines.
In addition to being the first coffee plantation area, Doi Pha Mee is renowned for its superior coffee quality, thanks to the limestone terrain and high mineral content that produces a mellow flavour. The site also grows macadamia nuts, an initiative of the royal family who provided seedlings for cultivation. This initiative has significantly improved the locals’ livelihoods and economic stability, as their produce supports royal projects.
This story encapsulates the enduring bond that began with King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s sustainable vision. Once secluded from development, his first journey into this remote area has since bettered the hill tribe people’s lives. They and their families remain deeply grateful for the royal benevolence, forming a solid bond between the monarchy and the hill tribe people.
Written By: Prakaidown Baengsuntia