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Make a real connection to Thailand through Royal Projects

You don’t have to be very long in Thailand to discover the huge reverence in which His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is held by the Thai people. After all, he has dedicated his life to improving the lot of his subjects, to fighting poverty and to helping preserve the kingdom’s national resources for future generations. And nowhere is his dedication more evident than in the various Royal Projects, which His Majesty the late King has initiated in rural areas up and down the country.

As the most travelled monarch in Thailand’s history, His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej knew firsthand the problems that rural people face when working the land to provide for their communities. So he initiated the Royal Projects back in 1969 as a way of seeking solutions to problems; such as, poverty and opium production in the Golden Triangle region of the North.

By promoting alternative crops and encouraging reforestation, His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej was able to give farmers a new source of income and a sense of pride in their products and community.

All of the Royal Projects are started only after close cooperation with the local people and experts to ensure the very best results. There are also six Royal Development Study Centres around the country where research takes place and regional strategies are developed. Farmers can visit these centres to improve their knowledge and learn about environmental conservation.

Royal Projects have now been initiated all over the kingdom and as well as boosting local economies, helping promote water conservation, swamp drainage, self-sufficiency and the preservation of Thailand’s forests. These projects are not just aimed at helping people with their immediate needs, but also to help future generations enjoy the nation’s rich natural heritage. The projects also offer tourists a new way of experiencing Thailand and of making a real grassroots connection with the kingdom’s diverse people.

For all the Royal Projects welcome visitors, be it for a few hours or several days, and there is a diverse range of things to do. You could find yourself learning how to make a unique local dish, releasing fish into the Thai seas, feeding cattle or teaching the village children before spending a night under the roof of a local family and joining their meals and laughter.

Already the Royal Projects are offering businesses and organisations new ways to offer incentives or to boost teamwork while contributing to grassroots communities. But to casual tourists, they can make a great way of making memories. So let’s take a look at the main and most accessible of the Royal Projects.

Royal Agricultural Station Angkhang, Chiang Mai
Angkhang is still home to one of the most important Royal Projects and is a centre for research in cold climate crops thanks to an annual mean temperature of only 16.9 Celsius and fertile soils. It is home to various ethnic groups who live in the surrounding villages, and visitors are welcome to explore the local culture or rent accommodation when trekking. Do keep an eye out for the local wildlife as some of the bird species here are very rare. 

Royal Agricultural Station Inthanon, Chiang Mai
This is one of the oldest of the Royal Projects, being founded back in 1979. Here hill-tribe people grow sustainable crops with regular harvests to prevent slash and burn techniques and to ensure they never again have to rely on opium as a cash crop. Inthanon is a beautiful place to visit, as it is a research centre for flowers, ferns and decorative plants as well as vegetables and fruits. It is also in the hills and only a few kilometres from Thailand’s highest peak of Doi Inthanon, and the cool climate makes it the perfect place to go hiking. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Siribhume Waterfall or walk among the orchards and vegetable gardens, see the rose gardens and take cultural tours around the Mong Khun Klang village. 

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Center, Chiang Mai

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development CentreAnother northern Royal Project, Nong Hoi, was also set up in 1974 with the aim of helping Hmong hill-tribe people diversify their crops. Now it is a popular venue for eco and agro tourism. So if you’re interested in learning about different types of agriculture and farming, or want to visit farms and see how the local people work this is a great place to come. It is also home to Yao, Lisu, and Haw (Chinese) hill-tribes. So you can see some unique handicrafts being made and some traditional ceremonies if you’re lucky. Don’t miss the chance to explore the local nature trails or head up the Doi Mon Chaem path that takes you to a lookout with an amazing view.

Royal Project in Phetchaburi
One of the most important Royal Projects can be found not far from Bangkok in Phetchaburi. This is the Laem Phak Bia Environmental Research and Development Project (LERD), which is aimed at improving methods of water conservation and mangrove restoration. Mangroves and wetlands are vital for Thailand’s ecology, so the work of LERD is ever more important as human activity creates more waste and waste water. You can visit this model of environmental improvement and stroll down the picturesque pathways through the mangroves. Among the twisted roots and vines you may get a glimpse of birds, mudskippers and a wide range of crabs. At the end of the walkway is Sai Met Raek Viewpoint that offers a lovely view of the Thai Gulf.

Chang Hua Man Royal Project
Discover the grassroots of Thainess at Chang Hua ManThis is one of the newest Royal Projects having only being initiated by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2009. It is aimed at showing how crops can be grown to a commercial level without the need for damaging chemical fertilisers. Now, the Project boasts a dairy farm and has become a learning centre for farmers who want to improve milk yields. Tourists can learn about the lives of Thai farmers and get the chance to plant rice in the paddies. There are regular guided tours and bicycles can be rented to tour the region and enjoy the orchards and meadows of wild flowers.

Discover the grassroots of Thainess at Chang Hua Man

The Royal Projects, initiated by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are famous in Thailand for helping grassroot communities to thrive and for preserving ecosystems for future generations. Now the Projects have become attractions in themselves, visited by thousands of tourists, local and international, seeking to learn a little about Thailand’s rural communities and to experience a different side of the kingdom.

Many of the better-known Royal Projects; such as, the royal agricultural stations in Angkhang and Inthanon in Chiang Mai, are in the northern region of Thailand. So tourists who are short of time may miss out on experiencing some of Thailand’s most unique attractions.

Luckily, one of the most recently initiated Royal Projects isn’t too far from Bangkok, near enough for a day or weekend trip. The Chang Hua Man Royal Project is in Phetchaburi, a short drive from the seaside resort of Cha-Am and encapsulates everything the Royal Projects are all about.

Discover the grassroots of Thainess at Chang Hua ManInitiated in 2009 on 250 rai (99 acres) of land, the Chang Hua Man Royal Project is an experimental farm where a range of experimental crops are being tested, not only to help the local people of the Phetchaburi area, but farmers around the nation.

Getting to the Project is a pleasure in itself. The road from Cha-Am winds its way into the green hills past picturesque paddies. If you really want to get into the eco-friendly spirit of the Royal Project, get on your bike and take the newly-constructed cycle path, alongside the road, that goes nearly all the way to Chang Hua Man.

There are many different crops grown here with fruits including bananas, papaya, limes and pineapples; over 40 species of vegetables as well as rice and rubber. And all these crops are grown organically without chemicals – sustainability and environmental protection are a large part of all the Royal Projects.

Discover the grassroots of Thainess at Chang Hua ManThe Chang Hua Man Royal Project takes full advantage of its position in the hills with a small wind farm to produce clean electric power. The impressive windmills can be seen from miles away and produce enough energy to power the Project with the excess being fed back into the local grid.

Also a dairy farm has been added that uses free range techniques, so the Holstein Friesian cows have lots of space to wander. There are nearly 40 cows and the milk they produce can be brought in the Chang Hua Man shop and local markets.

On arrival at Chang Hua Man, take one of the informative bus tours. These show the most important parts of the Project and the open-sided buses allow you to enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the area. The buses don’t stop though, so for a closer look at any of the crops and orchards, you should grab one of the free bikes for a more leisurely cycle around. Don’t miss seeing the King’s car and the wooden villa where he used to stay when visiting.

Discover the grassroots of Thainess at Chang Hua ManOne of the main exhibitions is about Thai soil types. Most of us give soil very little thought and presume it is much the same wherever you are in the world. But actually soil changes not just from country to country but from region to region, and farmers need to know the exact makeup of the soil and its minerals so that can plant suitable crops. It’s an exacting science of one of the reasons why the work being done at Chang Hua Man is so important.

But all the Royal Projects give us a vital insight into where food comes from and the effort that goes into growing crops. And as our climate changes and we face an uncertain future, the Royal Projects are becoming more important than ever.

The Chang Hua Man Royal Project also offers a fun and informative day out to families where they can spend time in the fresh air, get their hands dirty and be more in touch with rural Thailand.

And before you leave, stock up on fresh fruits, milk or vegetables at the Golden Place shop. You can taste the hard work of Thailand’s farmers and appreciate the countryside in a whole new way.

Information

  • Location: The Project is around an hour’s drive from Cha-Am Beach and clearly signposted.
  • Address: 1 Ban Nong Kho Kai, Khao Puk Sub-district, Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi 76130; Tel: + 66 (0) 3247 2700
  • Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 08:30 – 19:00 Hrs. Entry is 20 Baht per person.
  • Tours: Buses tour the Project throughout the day. Be warned though that bus tours are conducted in Thai – if you don’t speak the language, talk to one of the guides who can explain some of the crops and exhibitions.

*Pictures of the Chang Hua Man Royal Project 

Take a walk in the hills and discover the uniquely Thai Royal Project at Nong Hoi

If you’ve ever trekked in the forests of Northern Thailand and occasionally looked out over a vista of tree-covered slopes, stretching to the horizon, you may have presumed that this region has been relatively untouched until modern times – the primeval realm of Mother Nature. But the truth is that these hills have long been home to a wide array of tribal people – half a million in number, living off the land, cultivating crops in small holdings and doggedly preserving their unique customs and cultures.

These hill-tribes are thought to have migrated from China and the Tibetan Plateau over the last few centuries to settle in Myanmar, Lao PDR and Thailand. Now they make up six major groups – the Akha, Lahu, Karen, Hmong or Miao, Mien or Yao, and Lisu; each with a distinct language and culture of their own. Until recent years, these hill-tribes led a pastoral life raising animals and growing crops, including small amounts of medicinal opium. But as the modern world intruded, and the Vietnam War gathered pace in the 1960s, modern communications exposed the hill-tribe communities to a more unscrupulous outside world and opium became a cash crop with all the misery that entails.

So the Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre, Chiang Mai in Mae Rim sub-district was set up in 1984 by His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej to help the tribal people in the region to move on from the production of opium while improving their lives and the reputation of the country. The Project has been a resounding success – new farming methods, training and equipment, brought in by experts, have meant sustainable and saleable crops are now grown on slopes once reserved for opium poppies.

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre
Entrance to the Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre, Chiang Mai

Much of this success is due to the fact that the region in which the tribal people live, lies between 850 and 1,460 metres above sea level and has a mean temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, perfect for growing a range of crops that can’t be cultivated on the hotter plains of Central Thailand. These fruits and vegetables include artichokes, lemon thyme, mint, camomile, rosemary, plums, seedless grapes, strawberries, red olives, herbal teas and tomatoes – many of these fresh ingredients are sent directly to Chiang Mai’s restaurants and hotels, which seek out sustainable and high-quality food sources.

Because this is such a lovely area, coupled with the unique local lifestyles, Nong Hoi has become a tourist attraction in itself. In the fresh clean air of the hills, there are amazing walks to enjoy, stunning views and the chance to learn about sustainable development. Book a visit in advance, and a specially-assigned staff will give your group a briefing on the Project’s background, and you’ll get to taste some of the fresh goods and herbal teas which grow all around.

Perhaps the most important building at Nong Hoi is the Royal Project Crops Development Centre, where experiments are carried out in an effort to increase the types of temperate climate fruit and vegetables that can be grown by local hill-tribe farmers. Government scientists and students often come here to conduct research, but visitors can also stop by to have a look, and there are some fascinating demonstrations of organic and hydroponic growing techniques for herbs and vegetables.

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre
Vegetable plantations and the greenhouses at Nong Hoi’s Royal Project Crops Development Centre

But the Royal Projects are about much more than food production. There’s a drive to ensure that hill- tribe communities thrive and remain self-sufficient. This should ensure that fewer young people feel pressure to leave the hills and seek work in the cities instead staying to preserve the local culture. People now have real pride in their origins – folk activities regularly take place in the villages around the Royal Project and visitors are welcome to join.

You can tour the plantations and see the terraces where crops are grown. But if you are in the mood for a hike (and this really is the region for it) then head into the hills. There are spectacular viewpoints and occasionally you’ll come across the hill-tribe people themselves, some in colourful native costume and always wearing a smile.

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre
Doi Mon Chaem

It’s all very tranquil, but if you’re seeking more adrenalin fuelled fun, then you can’t miss out on the local Formula One races – Hmong style. These wooden go-karts are how local people get their kicks and you can join them, hurtling 400 metres down the hill with only a crude break to control your speed. Okay, these vehicles may not reach the speeds of Formula One cars, but when you’re heading downhill, around tight bends, just a few inches from the surface of a bumpy, unsealed road on a rickety hand-made kart, it’s a white knuckle ride all the way.

Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre
The wooden go-karts on Doi Mon Chaem

Whether you’re seeking crazy thrills or chilled out walks, there’s plenty to do in and around the Nong Hoi Royal Project. Remember, this is just one of many such Royal Projects in Thailand’s North, each one giving a different insight into the cultures of the local hill-tribes, all of which deserve recognition and protection. So, if you’re around Chiang Mai, take time to support these projects, learn the stories of the people and enjoy a new perspective on the cultural tapestry of Thainess.

Getting there

  • The Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre is situated 40 km from Chiang Mai city. It takes about 45 minutes by car via the Chiang Mai-Fang Highway (107). Many tour operators in Chiang Mai can easily arrange visits.
  • It’s worth taking your time getting to the Project; there are lots of viewpoints en route and if you have time the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden and nearby waterfalls are worth a visit.

*Pictures of the Nong Hoi Royal Project Development Centre and nearby Don Mon Chaem

Anantara Siam Bangkok unveils new Thai inspired guestrooms

Bangkok, 20 October, 2017 – Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel has unveiled its newly-refurbished Deluxe and Premier guestrooms, as part of its 470-million Baht renovation project that also saw the upgrade of its suites and public spaces.

The new interiors of the Deluxe and Premier guestrooms inject a fresh sense of luxury by infusing a more contemporary aesthetic, greeting guests with a subtle Thai character remaining true to the ethos of the Anantara brand.

Using elegant regional undertones, typical Asian details were eschewed with the design instead paying homage to Thai palaces that have been constructed with European influences.  Thai silk has been used as wall panels to give a simple and elegant finish, a refined reflection of Thailand, and an antique map of Bangkok in the Deluxe rooms provides an interesting conversation piece.

Anantara Siam Bangkok unveils new Thai inspired guestrooms

The 307 new 42 square metre Deluxe and Premier guestrooms in one king size bed or two double beds configurations can accommodate up to three adults or two adults and a child, and feature an en-suite marble bathroom with a deep soaking tub and separate glass enclosed shower.

Four room categories are available: Deluxe Room; Deluxe View Room; Premier Room; and Premier View Room.  The View category rooms’ expansive windows reveal the hotel’s magnificent tropical gardens; swimming pool; or the immaculate private golf course of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club in the heart of one of the world’s most enigmatic capital cities.

Ideal for business travellers, some of the Deluxe and Premier guestrooms are located on the hotel’s exclusive Kasara Floor where, at a daily fee, guests are afforded access to the Kasara Executive Lounge with all-day dining; dedicated Concierge and business services; and private meeting facilities.

The addition of a complimentary Handy smartphone in every room allows guests to keep in touch with family and friends with unlimited international calls and texts to 25 countries, and 4G and preloaded popular apps to explore Bangkok with ease.

Chiang Mai expands international direct flights to meet ATF 2018 demand

BANGKOK, 20 October, 2017 –Chiang Mai continues to expand international direct flights to Thailand’s Northern gateway city as it prepares to meet the demand leading up to the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2018 (ATF 2018) in January next year.

Chiang Mai expands international direct flights to meet ATF 2018 demand

Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said,”The increase in international direct flights will support the ATF 2018 theme of ‘ASEAN – Sustainable Connectivity, Boundless Prosperity’. Chiang Mai is a gateway to the north of Thailand. Delegates or tourists can enjoy their time in this northern city, and then continue their journey to other parts of Thailand or within ASEAN via the many intra-regional and international connecting flights available.

“While flights are currently keeping up with demand there is also available capacity to handle future growth as we expect hosting ATF 2018 will also result in more travellers wanting to visit Chiang Mai.”

Mr. Yuthasak also noted that TAT has recently hosted several multi-country ASEAN fam trips, linking Thailand with key commercial capitals around ASEAN, to support intra-regional tourism growth.

In 2017, Chiang Mai is on track to welcome a total of 7,614 direct international flights and 567 indirect flights (via major destinations), with almost half coming from China (3,436 flights). The top four cities of origin in China include Beijing and Shanghai (1,022 flights each), Guangzhou (664 flights), Kunming (450 flights), Hangzhou (365 flights) with the remainder originating from Wuhan, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Haikou, Nanjing, Nanning, Qingdao, Xi’an and Chengdu.

Other international flights and the country and/or city of origin include: Hong Kong – 1,088 flights, Myanmar – 880 flights, Kuala Lumpur – 837 flights, Singapore – 489 flights, Macau – 365 flights, and from Seoul with 242 flights. *Flight data from OAG.

Furthermore, the Bangkok to Chiang Mai domestic trunk route continues to expand to meet the growing demand from Thai and international tourists. Daily flight services from both airports are served by THAI, Thai Smile Airways, Bangkok Airways, Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, Thai Lion Air and other Thailand-based carriers in addition to international direct flights.

Chiang Mai is also linked domestically with other major Thai cities including Phuket, Ko Samui, Krabi, Chiang Rai, Pattaya, Surat Thani, Hat Yai and Prachuap Khiri Khan (Hua Hin). Domestic flight services are also available between Chiang Mai and other secondary Thai cities, including Phitsanulok, Tak (Mae Sot), Ubon Ratchathani, Mae Hong Son, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani.