Mae Salong An Official OTOP Village
The next phase of OTOP is focusing on the marketing of villages suited for tourism. Lately, Baan Tawai, Wiang Khum Kahm (Goom Gaam) both in Chiang Mai province and Mae Salong in Chiang Rai province have received recognition as tourism villages. Mae Salong is recognized for oolong tea produced by three major plantations, namely, Chokechamrern, 101 Tea plantation and Wang Put Tan Plantation. (NOTE : OTOP = One village, one product).
Mae Salong is a village welcoming visitors with a wide choice of accommodations and restaurants. The day market located near the tessabarn or municipal school is most unusual with the display of preserved items such as fruit, berries and snakes or centipedes in bottles. The vendors are good natured hilltribes offering embroidered bracelets, bright backpacks and decorative items. Restaurants reflect the Chinese culture in such dishes as baked pork leg with steamed Chinese dumplings "kah moo mun toh" and special mention is duck steamed in tea "bped ob char".
The pioneering Chinese KMT forces who at first were stranded in Mae Salong made the most of the very rugged terrain building up a village and later protecting Thailand from the communist forces the KMT had escaped from. Their loyalty and fierceness was rewarded by the Thai government allowing them to settle and develop Mae Salong. The history and photo archive are displayed in a newly opened ancestors museum.
The establishment of Choke- chamrern tea plantation is a reality starting from a dream of a young man with a pioneering spirit. One morning walking through the city during a visit to Taiwan when Khun Chamrern took a year off to find investment opportunities to develop in Mae Salong, he saw a tea shop owner driving a brand new Mercedes Benz. That was something a young man like Chamrern would like to own. Chamrern wondered how a man could drive a Mercedes Benz just from selling tea beverage.
After all the cost of a cup of tea is very modest indeed. He asked around and found that man also had a tea plantation of 20 acres. Only 20 acres? Thinking of the possibility of the large land Chamrern could plant in Mae Salong, he felt confident that tea growing was a viable product. Chamrern continued his research in Taiwan to identify the types of tea that sold at a medium to high price. They are Oo long, Oo long 12, Gaan - Orn, Cheu Yee, and Si Ruedoo (Chamrern markets this last type as "Moragote".
He brought in plants three times however the customs at the Bangkok airport would not allow the plants to be taken out of quarantine. The forth time Chamrern asked the assistance of the Royal Project to bring in Taiwan tea plants. There was already a connection when the Royal Project had previously asked Taiwan to assist in supplying cold weather fruit of Plub, Tor, and Salee.
The natural elements of the Mae Salong mountainous area is ideal for tea growing. The average temperature is 25 Celsius, plentiful water flows from the mountaintop reservoirs, and the hillsides are covered with natural fertile soil.
The Chokechamrern Tea Plantation has been producing tea for over 12 years. When looking for land find the source of water then a nearby work force. Chamrern searched for workers around the land he chose at Doi Naam Cham. At that time the size of hilltribe families were on the average of seven to eight people. They farmed the steep hillsides planting rice and corn. Their annual revenue was Baht 8,000 per family or about Baht 1,000 per person per year. He approached them to work for a steady income. They readily agreed. He has had a loyal work force since that time and each is satisfied with working conditions.
Drinking oolong or black tea is very good and one can read in the newspapers often that this beverage lowers cholesterol and washes out body fat.
At the moment, the tea plantation covers 500 rai. Tea can be harvested after the plants are one year old. The dew should be dried off the plants before picking of the top three yellowish green new growth. Usually the pickers work from 9 am to 3 pm. The plants can be picked six to seven times per year. In Taiwan, tea leaves are harvest only four times per year.
Due to the popularity of aromatheraphy and an increase of herbal products used in spas, older growth of the plants are harvested to produce tea oil used in cosmetics and also taken as a beverge in the treatment of heart disease.
Statistics indicate that 70% of the tea production is consumed locally in Thailand while the other 30% is exported to restaurants abroad. Also tourists visiting Mae Salong, buy the tea and reorder by mail when they return to their homes.
The background of the owner of Chokechamrern tea plantation
Khun Chamrern came to Bangkok at 16 years old to work as a textile machine mechanic in a textile plant owned by a Hong Kong businessman. He liked Chamrern's ambition and soon Chamrern was also in charge of the cotton fiber and personnel departments. Chamrern later left to start his own business growing asparagus. Then he turned his hand to garlic wholesaling. However neither venture was successful.
He came to Mae Salong and established himself as a construction material wholesaler. Through daily contact, he got to know the owner of the Doi Mae Salong Resort who offered Chamrern the position to manage the first resort. After two years he started his own restaurant and built a few bungalows. His brother came to Mae Salong to manage Chamrern's resort when Chamrern headed off to Taiwan for a one year sabbatical to search for new business ideas. Khun Chamrern is now a member of the OBT and devotes his time to improve Mae Salong as a tourism destination as well as creating a good environment for all residents of Mae Salong area.
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