CHIANGRAI TIMES – Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) showcased the province’s award winning attractions during an on-going route survey, earlier this week, that will pitch the far-north destination as a gateway to the Mekong Region.
On the survey route, media were introduced to an attraction in Mae Chan district, Ban Lorcha, the winner of the 7th Thailand Tourism Awards in 2008 in the culture category. It presents the culture and lifestyle of the Akha people.
This well-known Akha village opened for tourism in 2001, supported by the Population and Community Development Association.
The village has 64 families, all from the Akha hill tribe. They manage tours that explain the village’s lifestyle, beliefs and culture.
Population and Community Development Association director, Mongkol Supojchalermkwan, said: “Tourism is a key factor to encourage the preservation of Akha life and explains its significance to outsiders.”
Mr Mongkol hopes the village will become a business model for other villages so they can benefit directly from tourism rather than through travel industry middlemen.
“This kind of living museum is good and I hope it will encourage other projects in Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son.”
An Akanian tour guide, Budsaba Khamdawsan, told TTR Weekly that tourism had improved the economy and quality of life for the village.
The must-see attraction is an Akha house, which is a simple hut with thatched roof and dirt floor. The house has no windows and only one door. The head of the family always sleeps in the front room near the entrance and next to a living room where he can boil tea to welcome guests. There is only one partition to separate men from women in the household.
The village welcomes 600 tourists a month mainly from Germany, France, Switzerland and Netherlands, while about 20% are Thais. Revenue from tourism supplements the villagers’ main income, which comes from farming. They grow rice and corn as well raise chickens and pigs.
The living museum is open daily from 0800 to 1700 and the entrance fee is Bt80 for both Thais and foreigners. The village is located in Mae Chan district is about 70 km from Muang district.
A visit was also made to the award winning attraction (nature category), Chiang Saen Lake, or Nong Bong Kai, a non-hunting area. It was designated a Ramsar site, 5 July 2001 covering 2,711 rais.
The swamp is a large natural reservoir and is home to flocks of migratory waterfowls that can be best seen during November through to February.
Because this area is surrounded by mountains, there are many birds migrating here throughout the year. It was first designated a wildlife preserve 4 April 1985.
Chiang Saen Lake is located 5 km south of Chiang Saen and 62 km from Chiang Rai town. Drive along Highway No 1016 (Chiang Saen-Mae Chan route), then take a left turn to Chiang Saen Lake.
It opens daily. Visitors can pitch tents to stay overnight at the site at no cost, or theycan rooms (40 in the complex). The will need to contact the office in advance at 081 764 4990.
The final winning attractions on the Thailand section of the Mekong survey was the Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park. It was the 6th Thailand Tourism Awards winner 2006 in the category of recreation sites.
Officially opened in 2005, the Bt358-million hall combines a museum on the history of opium and the impact of illegal drugs with a light and sound show. It also has an information centre for research and an education centre on the campaign to eradicate dependence on opium, opiates and other narcotics.
The hall was first visualised by HRH the Princess Mother in 1988, who recommended a project to educate people on the background of opium in the Golden Triangle.
While the Doi Tung Development Project and the Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development projects helped to reduce opium production and supply, HRH the Princess Mother also recognised that the fight against drugs also needed to address drug demand. The Hall of Opium was created to help reduce demand through education.
Covering an area of 5,600 square meters, the exhibition in the Hall of Opium is the result of almost 10 years of research.
Here visitors learn about the 5,000-year history of opium and how it was originally used to treat illnesses and pain management.
Exhibits trace the history of the drug trade and how western imperialists, mainly the British, used opium as part of an economic colonisation of China. It continues to tell the story of opium through the two Indochina wars and eventually the tranfer of cultivation to Afghanistan.
Visitors also learn more about the on-going battle to fight the narcotics trade, worldwide and the educational efforts to teach the young to stay away from drugs.
Most of the visitors to the museum are Thais (80%) and the balance international travellers mainly from China.
The Hall of Opium opens daily except Mondays from 0830 to 1600. Entrance is Bt150 for Thais and Bt200 for foreigners. For more information, contact 053 784 444 to 6.
The museum also has 56 rooms for rent at Bt1,600 for a single room and Bt1,800 for a twin room, per night, including breakfast.
Hall of Opium Golden Triangle Park is located 6 km from Chiang Saen district.
by Wanwisa Ngamsangchaikit