After the Communists took over the mainland of China in 1949, a large division of the Nationalist Chinese army KMT 93 rd Division fled to the Thai-Burmese border areas through Burma. To where the village of Santikhiri is now situated on a border mountain called Mae Salong in 1961. They were allowed to stay in exchange they fought for Thailand, helping to counter the communist insurgency at the Thai frontier until 1982. Then the Thai government granted citizenship to most of the KMT soldiers and their families. To this day they are very tied to the Thai army unofficially.
The area of course became famous for the cultivation of Opium which at that time was not illegal, Since then it has been mostly eradicated, and the locals do Tea, vegetable, flower and coffee production. Now Santikhiri is well known for its High Mountain Oolong tea, a high grade traditional Chinese tea, which makes up about 80% of all tea production in Chiang Rai. The province produces about 200 tonnes (200 L/T; 220 S/T) of tea a year. The combination of Altitude, climate and soil conditions at Santikhiri is ideal for growing great Oolong tea ("black dragon" in Chinese). As such type teas are normally cultivated at elevations ranging from 1,200 to 1,400 metres (3,960–4,620 ft).
The road up the mountain has enchanting scenery and plenty of hairpin bends, penetrating the mountains for some 35 kilometres to end at Santi Kiri, the mountain top settlement. While worth the ride.
A resort complex allows an overnight stay. The village, a sort of 'high-altitude Chinatown' contains several spice shops, teahouses and restaurants. there are also guesthouses in the area.
Phra Boromathat Chedi is a Stupa built on a hill near the village with wonderful views, in honour of the late Princess Mother, Srinagarindra.
You will still find elders there that only speakMandrin and no Thai but most all younger people speak great Thai and some English.