The blossoms of the Bua Tong sunflowers, the diversity of
the tribal way of life on Doi Mae U-Kor, the hilly roads with thousands of
curves - these all add to the charm of Khun Yuam district in Mae Hong Son.
When we imagine the wide fields of the Bua Tong
sunflowers dancing joyfully in the sunshine, Doi Mae U-Kor will certainly
pop up in your mind. Most people only hear the name of this place. Those who
have a chance to visit this heavenly place extol its charm and beauty.
ascend a hill to make viewing easier.
All the inhabitants of Doi Mae U-Kor are Karen and Hmong
hill tribe folk. Their main industries are planting rice and raising
elephants, horses, buffaloes and goats.
During World War 2, Japanese soldiers trying to escape
passed through Thailand, especially Mae Hong Son province, camping in nearby
areas. They hired local people who owned elephants to carry ammunition and
50,000 tourists have visited the Bua Tong Flower Field making the place
crowded with visitors during this wintertime.
After the war, Burma (as Myanmar was then called) became
a British colony. In this country full of natural resources, the British
mostly wanted diamonds, rubies and jade. Apart from these precious stones,
they desired teakwood. Since the colonists did not have any means to
transport the huge teakwood logs, they traveled around the area and finally
found a village called Baan Su Rint, a Karen village with many elephants.
Here they stopped and made a deal with the elephant owners, hiring them to
transport the logs.
has been designated for visitors’ tents and to prevent garbage from the
crowds of tourists from becoming a problem.
The mahouts accordingly moved to Burma and returned to
Thailand after two years. During his stay in Burma, one mahout received
seeds of a kind of flower from a foreigner. He realized that the land on Doi
Mae U-Kor had no big trees, only weeds. In the hot season, the weeds
withered. He therefore scattered the sunflower seeds around this area.
scenery of Khun Yuam district’s mountain can be seen at the observation
area at the Bua Tong Flower Field.
Two years later, the sunflowers had spread over a wide
area. Locals passing by admired the beauty of this exotic flower which they
had never seen before. When the flowers withered, the tribal men collected
the seeds and planted them around their houses. Before long, the flowers
blossomed marvelously all over Khun Yuam district in Mae Hong Son.
However, the mahout who brought the first seeds to the
village had not asked what its name was, so they named it after the European
who gave him the seeds. They called it Pho Meung Neud, which in Karen
language means the western flower.
In 1983, when the flowers flourished beautifully over a
wide landscape, officials declared the site a tourist attraction and named
the Mexican sunflower the Bua Tong Flower. The sunflower blossoms in winter,
from November till the end of December.
Between 1997-2000, there was a disagreement between
forestry officials and the locals in Khun Yuam district. As the officials
declared the flowers area a national park, people who walked across this
land had to pay five baht. This aroused discontentment among the locals. On
November 15, 2000, 500 locals gathered and marched to the Mae Hong Son
governor to protest against the protection under the forestry department and
against the declaration of the national park. They reasoned that they were
the first people who planted the flowers. The protest led to the Tambon
Administration Organization (TAO) taking care of the land instead of the
forestry officials. This satisfied the locals.
Mae U-Kor TAO, Khun Yuam district, Mae Hong Son province
is today in charge of around 500 rai of Mexican sunflower fields, and the
Karen and Hmong continue to lead their traditional lifestyle.
Two modes of transport, plane and car, are provided for
traveling to Bua Tong Flower Fields. The plane departs from Chiang Mai
airport and arrives at Mae Hong Son airport. The flight costs about 800 baht
and takes 45 minutes. The Dok Bua Tong fields are only 70 kilometers from
Mae Hong Son airport. There are three routes leading to the splendid fields:
(1) the Chiang Mai-Hot-Mae Sariang route. The bus ticket is 200 baht and the
journey takes eight hours because the road has many curves and the terrain
is hilly. (2) Chiang Mai-Mae Taeng-Pai route to Mae Hong Son province. The
bus ticket is 180 baht. (3) Chiang Mai-Chom Thong-Doi Inthanon to Mae
Chom-Khun Yuam route which leads straight to the flower fields.
It is recommended that those who plan to travel as a
group use private cars so that they can stop at other sites along the way,
such as Mae Surin Waterfall, the highest waterfall in Thailand; or view the
Paphiopedilum or Lady’s Slipper orchid, a rare and preserved species of
The World War 2 Museum in Khun Yuam has displays of old-fashioned
automobiles, Samurai swords, Japanese soldiers’ coats of mail and arms.