Once upon a time, when there was a revolution going in China, a couple of brigades of Nationalist Chinese troops escaped over the border to Burma, and then on to a mountain area called Mae Salong. For nearly a generation, these Chinese soldiers were used by Thai authorities to fight insurgent communists, from 1953 to 1972 -- during the hey-day of our own Vietnam war nearby. When the fighting tapered, the Chinese had to figure out a way to earn a living -- there were several thousand families on the Mae Salong range. With the help of Chinese from Taiwon and some goodwill from Thai authorities, the Chinese settled the area and developed agriculture and a major tea plantation. Now its a Chinese village in Thailand, with a museum that reminds everyone that this peaceful land wasn't always that way.
It takes about 90 minutes to drive from downtown Chiang Rai. Once you turn off the main highway, it is quite a steep climb into the mountains. THe road is good: barriers have been set up along the ridge, reflectors are installed in the (faded) yellow line dividing the two lanes. Lots of places to sample Oolong tea and other wares. But it's the history of the place that matters.
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