Nestled in the hills of Doi Tung in Chiang Rai Province, is a little slice of Switzerland. It can be found at Doi Tung Royal Villa which was the home of the late HRH Princess Mother whenever she visited Chiang Rai. The King’s mother lived in Switzerland while her children were completing their education. It was said to be a very happy period in her life. When she came to build a home on Doi Tung, she insisted on it being built in a style that combined the things that she liked about mountain homes in both Europe and Northern Thailand.
The Royal Villa was opened officially in November 1988. Today both the grounds and the villa are open to the public. You can join guided tours but make sure that you are not wearing shorts and that your shoulders are covered. You can borrow clothes at the front gate. You are allowed to take pictures in the garden, where there are some spectacular views, but you are not allowed to do so inside the villa. HRH private quarters have been left exactly as it was when she was last here.
HRH The Princess Mother used the villa as a base whenever she came to oversee the work on the Doi Tung Development Project. In the past, hill tribes in this area grew rice and opium here. They used slash and burn cultivation techniques and also cut down the forests. Sixteen years later, following the advice of HRH, poppy has been eradicated and replaced by coffee and macadamia nuts. Reforestation has also been very successful which has greatly improved the environment.
The first place we visited on our arrival on Doi Tung was the Hall of Inspiration. This tells the story of the Mahidol family. The fascinating exhibition covers three generations. On the slopes near here are the Mae Fah Luang Gardens which are very popular with Thai tourists. Numerous flowers and plants grow around the gardens. There is also a Rock Garden, Water Garden, Palm Garden and an Ornamental Plant Garden covering an area of 4 hectares. On another part of the mountain there is also Mae Fah Luang Arboretum which you can visit.
Like other Royal Projects, the price of admission for foreign tourists and Thai people is the same. The Royal Villa is 70 Baht, Mae Fah Luang Garden is 80 Baht, Hall of Inspiration is 50 Baht and the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum is 50 Baht. A combined ticket for the first three places is 160 Baht. For all four places it is 190 Baht. While you are there, it is also worth visiting the nearby Wat Phra That Doi Tung Temple. This is an important Lanna style temple dating back to 911 A.D. It is believed to contain a collarbone of the Buddha.