Doi Mae Salong is sometimes called the ''Little Switzerland'' of Thailand. Its breathtaking scenery attracts more than 200,000 tourists each year.

As well as spectacular scenery, Doi Mae Salong is home to 4,500 rai (28,125 hectares) of tea plantations. Much of the tea produced here is Taiwanese-style oolong grown by descendants of Chinese soldiers who fled the Chinese revolution in 1949.

History of Doi Mae Salong

When the Communists took over mainland China in 1949, three Nationalist Chinese armies originally from China's Yunnan Province fled to the Thai-Burmese border, vowing to continue fighting against Communist Chinese forces. In 1956 they were driven out of Burma and some settled down on Doi Mae Salong Mountain to form a Yunnanese community. Still others settled in Taiwan and this formed a lasting Thai-Taiwan connection.

The Chinese who settled in Doi Mae Salong grew opium as a cash crop until the Royal Thai Army came in to destroy the opium trade. A road was built into the area in the 1980s and since then the Thai government has attempted to integrate the Yunnanese into mainstream Thai society. Despite 20 years of effort there is still a strong Chinese heritage in the area and Chinese remains the mother tongue of most of the inhabitants.

Doi Mae Salong Tea

Doi Mae Salong is located 45 km north of Mae Chan district in Chiang Rai province at an elevation of about 1,500 meters. It has an average annual temperature of 25 degrees Celsius and the air is crisp, cool and refreshing all year round - ideal conditions for tea.

The growing conditions of Doi Mae Salong are very similar to Taiwan, which produces some of the best oolong tea in the world. Many of the tea bushes that are growing in Doi Mae Salong originate in Taiwan, and most of the tea production is Taiwanese-style oolong tea.

Green tea and black tea is also produced here, and the province of Chiang Rai produces about 200 tonnes of tea a year. About 70% of the tea production is consumed locally in Thailand while the other 30% is exported. Major consumers of Thailand tea include Europe and Dubai.

The Thai government is promoting tourism in the area by designating Doi Mae Salong as a OTOP (One Village One Product) tourism village. There is a wide choice of accommodations and restaurants and anyone who is interested in tea production can tour the area's tea plantations.