Introduction to Doi Angkhang
Visiting Doi Angkhang
A comfortable 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai, through some of Thailand’s most spectacular scenery, Angkhang is the perfect place to unwind. The mountain location, cool climate and scenic beauty of the surrounding countryside make it an ideal escape. Doi Angkhang offers a unique destination for tourists with both the beauty of the natural environment and the intriguing and unique lifestyles of the local hill tribes, which have remained unchanged for centuries.
The Angkhang Nature Resort
The Facilities Offered by the Resort
Developed as part of the Royal Angkhang Research Station, the Angkhang Nature Resort offers 72 superior rooms and 2 suites. Each room is furnished in teakwood, decorated with local Thai fabrics and has a spacious private balcony from which to enjoy the view of the surrounding countryside. The resort recently won the Best Eco Resort award from Travel Asia magazine.
The rooms offer modern facilities including a mini bar, television and IDD telephone. A full laundry service is available and each of the rooms has an en suite bathroom.
The Camellia Restaurant in the resort serves delicious and nutritious Thai, Northern Thai and Western specialities using fresh vegetables, fruit and herbs from the Royal Project.The hotel also has a lobby bar and in the winter guests can sit and enjoy the warmth from an open wood fire.
The Royal Angkhang Research Station has a conference hall, which can be used as part of the hotel facilities. This accommodates up to 115 people and is ideal for small meetings, staff parties and school outings.
A Low Impact on the Natural Environment
Angkhang Nature Resort aims to have as little effect as possible on the ecology of the surrounding environment, through strict control of pollution. Waste created by the resort is separated into "wet" and "dry" garbage. The wet garbage is processed into fertilizers by the Royal Project and used to assist in the agriculture of the region. The majority of the dry garbage can be sold to local companies and recycled. Waste water from the resort is piped through to the Royal Project for treatment and then use on the land.
The resort is also careful to conserve energy.Electricity is saved, by switching off the exterior lighting at night. Also, the lobby is heated by two wood fires, rather than using electricity. Some of the rooms have heaters in the bathrooms and these are controlled by timers, that automatically switch off after ten minutes. The cool climate means that no air-conditioning is required in the resort.
Employment of the Local Hilltribes
Approximately 50% of the staff who are employed by the Angkhang Nature Resort come from hilltribes in the surrounding villages. The resort hopes to have a positive impact on the local community by providing employment opportunities and job training.
Things to Do in Doi Angkhang
Visiting the Royal Angkhang Station Project
A visit to the Royal Angkhang Station Project is a must while in the Doi Angkhang area. This research project provides agricultural support to neighbouring hilltribes and develops non-indigenous crops for them to grow. Beautiful flower and bonsai gardens are tended alongside fruit, vegetables and herb gardens. The healthful produce of the Royal Angkhang Agricultural Station Project is available to purchase, depending on the season.
The mule trek begins in the Baan Khum Village, which is 5 minutes from the Angkhang Nature Resort. The mules are used to carry agricultural produce between villages. The mule trek takes approximately one and a half hours and goes through the jungle and up to a point on the mountain where you can see across to Myanmar. On the return journey, the route goes past the Royal Angkhang Station Project.
Those who enjoy trekking will find much to see in the Doi Angkhang area. From spectacular viewpoints, some standing at over 1,900 metres above sea level, the natural beauty of the area is obvious.The Rhododendron (’one thousand year rose’) grows in profusion. This tree, which grows only on high mountains and in cool climates, blooms in both red and white, though only the red variety is seen on Doi Angkhang. Various treks, ranging from one hour to all day can be arranged. For whole day treks, it is necessary to take along sufficient food and water. Guides can accompany the trekkers with mules to carry heavy provisions. Mountain biking
A popular way to explore the environment around Angkhang Nature Resort is by mountain bike. The resort keeps a few on the premises, which can be booked by guests. The route from the resort to Nor-Lae is relatively easy while from Baan Luang to Pa-Daeng is a little more challenging. Bird Watching
More than 1,000 species of birds frequent Doi Angkhang, many of which are now rare or endangered. A good spot to watch for them is at Mae Phur Forest Station and on the way to Angkhang Nature Resort itself. Within the resort a wide variety of birds can also be seen.
A bird watcher’s diary
Cultural Performances Cultural performances by the different ethnic groups can be arranged, highlighting the traditions of their cultures.
Discovering the Natural Environment There are many viewpoints in the Doi Angkhang area. One popular spot, Kiew Lom, found between Angkhang Nature Resort and Khob Dong Village, gives a view of Fang and a haunting cloud of fog through which the sun rises and sets.
Also, the area has many natural sights, such as waterfalls and caves. The Forest Authority and Fang District Council are presently developing plans to highlight Doi Angkhang’s various attractions.
Experiencing the Hill tribe Culture
There are four different hill tribes located in the area near Doi Angkhang, which can be visited, the Musur, the Palong, the Thai Yai and the Jean Hor.
It is believed that the Musur or Lahu originally came from the highlands of Tibet and that they, together with the Lisor and the Igor, have a close connection with the Lolo tribe in the south of China. Musur people have constantly migrated within the areas of China, Burma, Laos and Thailand. In Thailand, Musur people are found in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Maehong Son, Tak, Khumpaengpetch, and Nakornsawan province. There are several groups of Musurs in Thailand, such as the Red Musur, the Yellow Musur, the Black Musur, and the Musur Le.
Muser communities are normally situated on highlands of about 1,000 meter above sea level. They cultivate rice, corn and opium in mobile plantations. Regarding their religions and beliefs, most of the Red Musur and the Black Musur believe in ghost spirits while the Yellow Musur are mostly Christian. Muser celebrate New Year in January and March of each year. Musur people are monogamous. After marriage, the husband usually moves in to the family home of his new wife. This is to show gratitude and respect to the parents of the bride. A census completed in 1995 showed that there are approximately 82,000 Muser people living in Thailand.
The Muser people live in the Khob Dong Village, where there are both Black Muser and Red Muser hilltribes, who both live together. They have their own language and culture and an easy-going nature. At present they receive support from the Royal Project for Agriculture and Handicrafts and make traditional crafts such as weaving dried grass bracelets. Khob Dong Village has a spectacular viewpoint and a walkway to the top of the hill from where one can see the sunrise and a beautiful view of the sea of mist that carpets the valley below each morning.
Originally from the Chan State in Burma, approximately 2,000 people of the Palong, or Da-ang tribe migrated from Burma to Thailand around 1984. The Palong people have their own language and culture which, like that of the Muser hilltribe, follows the ancient traditions of their ancestors. Their arrival in the Doi Angkhang, Fang Amphur area of Chiang Mai province initially caused some problems, as their migration was considered illegal. Eventually, they were categorised as a minority people and given the right to stay in 1986. The Palong hilltribe make their living agriculturally, growing vegetables for which they receive the support of the Royal Project
A survey conducted in 1995 showed that at that time, a total of 1,937 Palong people lived in four villages in Fang Amphur, Chiang Mai province. One of these villages is the Nor Lae Village, about 4 kilometres from Khob Dong Village. The village is situated on the Thai and Burmese border and soldiers from both countries can be seen in the area. Nor-Lae is popular with tourists in part for the spectacular view one gets from the peak.
The Thai Yai can be found in the south of China, Burma, Laos and Thailand. They usually call themselves "Tai". They have lived in Maehong Son province for a long time; in fact it is said that they are the indigenous people of that area. At present, the influence of the Tai culture can still be seen in the way people dress and the many cultural ceremonies held in the province.
In 1995, The Highland Community Roster categorised the Thai Yai people as a minority group. According to a survey conducted at that time, there are a total of 13,810 Thai Yai people in 57 villages and 13 Amphurs, spread through four provinces of Thailand.
The Jean Hor originated in mainland China. During the Cultural Revolution, they migrated to the border between Thailand and Burma in Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai to escape the onset of the communism. Once settled in the area, they protected Thailand’s border from the encroachment of the communist movement, which was expanding quickly through South East Asia at that time. The Thai government considered the Jean Hor political refugees and set up a community area in which they could stay.
The Highland community Roster categorised the Jean Hor people as a minority group in 1995. A survey set their population as approximately 20,000 spread through 65 villages, and 17 Amphurs in 5 provinces in Thailand.
These different Hill Tribes live in four villages in the near by area which can be visited by tourists.
Getting Involved With the Local Community
The Effect of the Royal Project in Doi Angkhang
For many decades, the hill tribes in this region were dependent on illegal logging and growing opium to make a living. The Royal Angkhang Station Project has focused on developing a variety of marketable produce, which can be grown in the high altitude area of Doi Angkhang.
Through giving farmers the opportunity to gain access to modern agricultural techniques and new crops, which can be grown in this area, the quality of the farmers’ lives will improve in the long term.
Growing cash crops has provided the hilltribes with a legal source of income and enables the farmers to be self-reliant. The organic methods employed for growing crops have been a great success both economically and in reducing the impact on the natural environment. The non-indigenous crops currently grown include strawberries, persimmon, apricots, peaches, plums, kiwi fruit and many different types of flowers.
Educational Development of the Hill Tribes
There are four villages in the area surrounding Doi Angkhang, which are home to communities from a number of different hilltribes. Amari Hotels and Resorts supports a primary school in Baan Khob Dong which provides education for the children of the Black and Red Muser tribes.
The Baht for a Better Life Foundation was started by Amari Hotels and Resorts in 1995. Guests to the hotels give small change and this is collected, along with donations from the staff, to go towards furthering the education of children in Thailand. This has enabled Amari to construct a kindergarten in the nearby Nor Lae Village.
Providing education to the hilltribes gives them the opportunity to engage in alternate forms of employment to farming. This is increasingly important as the possibilities to be involved in the tourist industry increase. Education also brings with it awareness about preserving the natural environment and how a long-term vision must be employed to ensure that the eco-system of the area is not destroyed.
The Junior Guide Programme
Together with the local education authorities, Angkhang Nature Resort has implemented a "Junior Guide Programme", where children from the Baan Khob Dong school are trained to show around guests who visit their village. The Junior Guide Programme has become part of the school curriculum and has had educational benefit for the children of the local school, who act as the guides.
The guides are encouraged to take pride in their heritage and the surrounding natural environment and communicate this to the visitors. It also gives an opportunity to take a position of responsibility in the community. Guides who complete the programme are awarded a certificate and a guide badge.
The Junior Guide Programme enables tourists to have interaction with the local community and receive correct information about the hill tribes and the surrounding area. It also ensures which any donations which are given to the villages by visitors are put into projects to benefit the community. Visitors are also taken to a co-operative shop, which sells handicrafts produced in the local villages. In addition, a "show house" has been built so that guests can get an impression of the hilltribe way of life.
The programme has already been in placeand 60 guides have been trained. Feedback from visitors has been very positive and further training programmes will be undertaken to increase the number of guides.