Colors of the mountain

By Chung Joo-won
  • Published : Dec 2, 2014 - 21:06
  • Updated : Dec 2, 2014 - 21:06

Doi Tung in Chiang Rai province will be ablaze with color next weekend and for once it won’t just be the flowers in Mae Fah Luang Garden providing the stunning hues.

Visitors will also be able to enjoy a colorful bazaar as the six ethnic groups living in the mountains demonstrate their sustainable lifestyles and explain how they were weaned from their traditional opium poppy cultivation to become the proud farmers of coffee, fruits and vegetables.

Scheduled for two periods ― Friday through next Sunday and again over the New Year holiday from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4 ― the bazaar will involve some 80 ethnic people from 29 villages in the Doi Tung Development Project run by the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under royal patronage.

The “Colors of Doi Tung” festival offers a rare opportunity to see the Shan, Akha, Lahu, Tai Lue, Lua and Chinese clad in their traditional attire and a chance to buy their authentic foods, agricultural produce, textiles and handicrafts as well as tea and coffee from the plantations.

Traditional performances and games will be also presented, with Akha men demonstrating how to throw tops, children walking on bamboo stilts and musicians playing bamboo organs.
The New Year’s Eve dinner at Mae Fah Luang Garden will feature some Northern-style specialties, such as Nam Prik Ong, Miang Pla and Gaeng Hang Lay. (The Nation)
“These people are proud to present their ways of life, culture and art and demonstrate how poverty, illiteracy and drug trafficking can be alleviated through a sustainable lifestyle,” says the project’s chief operating officer Thanawat Srikhirin.

The 80 Akha people residing in Baan Phahee village today earn a good living from coffee. They currently produce about 200 tons of “parchment coffee” ― dried but unhulled coffee beans ― a year, which sells for about 20 million baht ($609,200) a year, ensuring a sustainable income. Giant coffee brand Moccona and Doi Tung Coffee are among their patrons.

“Doi Tung is at an altitude of about 1,200 meters and we produce 100-percent Arabica coffee under the shade of lychee trees. We converted from the opium poppy to coffee in 1981 under a government-initiated project and have been self-supporting ever since. The project has been a great success,” says villager Sorapong Pornjaratchot.

In 2002, the villagers set up their own community enterprise to ensure better quality control and a stronger brand and also set up the Phahee coffeeshop in Huay Krai sub-district of Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district. The roasted beans sell for 250 baht for a 500-gram bag.

The area that makes up the Doi Tung Development Project was once all bare hills, unfertile soil and parched streams.

By Khetsirin Pholdhampalit

(The Nation)