Thailand’s Chiang Rai province falls behind as a tourist destination when compared to other better known parts of the country.
But the gateway to Myanmar, Laos and Southern China, is planning to change that as it aims to become one of Thailand’s top ten tourist destinations.
The stretch of Uttarakit road in Chiang Rai province is a popular location where the hill tribe minority groups like the Mhong and the Arkha bring their farm produce either purchased from the wholesalers, or what they’ve grown themselves on the hillside for sale here.
It’s also a popular transportation hub where the locals take the song taew (converted pick-up trucks) to get around in the province.
Already a big draw among the locals, the colours and smells also make this a key stopover for tourists with their farm fresh vegetables and livestock that are largely home grown.
But the route 3 highway has also made it convenient for Chinese farm products to enter the market.
At the neighbouring Sirikorn fruit and flower market, Thai fruits remain popular despite an influx of cheap food imports from China.
“The strawberry is a Thai product coming from Mae Sai. It’s in the Royal project called Mae Fah Luang. And these products, their breed is originally from Taiwan but now it can be grown in Mae Suai, Chiang Rai province. Its taste is great – sweet and crispy,” explained Mrs Bualin Klaimala who owns a stall in the market and has been in this business for 15 years.
The authorities are hoping that the local produce can stand out from the strong Chinese presence.
Viroon Kumpilo, President of The Chiang Rai Chamber of Commerce said, “Even though we have just started the organic agriculture a few years ago, with the farmers’ expertise and the nature of the plants, we can make the organic products.”
The fertile land conditions and cool weather in Chiang Rai help farmers to grow high quality homegrown produce like pineapples, longans, lychees and ginger from sustainable rural development projects.
That’s the aim of the authorities as they develop Chiang Rai’s agro tourism sector to put the province on the international map