A surprise in Mae Salong

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During our excursion to the hill tribal areas in Northern Thailand we drove up to Mae Salong, now renamed Santikhiri.

Without having planned this we ended up hitting the exact date when the Miracle Tea, Sakura and Tribal Food Festival of Doi Mae Salong takes place. We went to Mae Salong on Dec, 29th 2010. The date of the festival changes slightly every year.

This festival happens once a year around the ned of December and it’s a chance for the hill tribes of the Chiang Rai area to gather in a single spot to celebrate their culture, sample tea from nearby plantations, admire cherry tree blossoms, taste local foods.

The festival is set around a big plaza which functions also as an open market.

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Adults and kids are playing on the giant Akha swing and walking on stilts.

Around the market there are dozens of food and tea stalls.

Most of the women are wearing their best traditional clothing.

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Literally a few hundred yards away from the main square  it’s possible to visit of the most famous tea plantation in the area, 101 Tea.
The company was founded in Taiwan in 1901 by the Tsai family. The name 101 reads as Yi Ling Yi in Chinese, which means “the best” in the local Minan dialect of Taiwan.
The Tsai family is responsible for bringing premier High Mountain Oolong, Green Tea and Eastern Beauty Teas, Organic and Bio-diverse Ancient Forest Teas and Pu-erh Tea to the American markets
In Thailand 101 is part of the King’s royal movement to repurpose areas where the opium poppy used to grow. We are in fact in the golden triangle, infamous over the centuries for the opium production and trade.
The plantation is beautiful and a crisp fragrance of tea leaves permeates the fresh mountain air all year round.

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