If you are “into” gardens, flowers and the vibrant colours of tropical vegetation then you’re going to enjoy this blog entry and the Chiang Mai region if you visit here. Love flowers and thinking of visiting? Then make sure you are here in early February for the Chiang Mai flower festival. I have included a link at the bottom of this page, which will give you more information thanks to Wikipedia. Looks fantastic.

Gardening doesn’t seem to be a natural inclination of Thais in a home environment either through choice, financial limitations or cultural conditioning. However on a community and national level there is a much stronger display of green thumbs happening. The Royal family are keen supporters of gardens, either as separate entities or as an extension to the royal palaces dotted around the country.  Palaces don’t seem to be locked away here. If the family isn’t in residence then they are often open to the public, not the residences but the grounds, which is great as they are often well worth visiting.

A local intersection with all its ugliness. But notice the lovely flower arrangements. Hand watered and rigorously maintained.

A local intersection with all its ugliness. But notice the lovely flower arrangements. Hand watered and rigorously maintained.

On a personal level my Thai partner Gaun LOVES gardens, and flowers in particular, and a trip to somewhere new with heaps of plants is always a winner with her.

This entry covers three different places we’ve visited during the past few weeks in our pursuit of flowers. Because of the subject it will be mainly photos although I can’t help myself so I’ll throw in some text too.

Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens

Named after the current Queen of Thailand these gardens were opened in 1992, so they are well established. They are located in the Mae Rim area of Chiang Mai, which is on the outskirts of the city to the North West of the city. It’s a 25 minute drive from our place, so was first on our list of gardens to visit. Unfortunately it ended up being an overcast day so some of the photos look a little drab as a result.

On the way we passed this photo opportunity, which has nothing to do with gardens but it’s my blog so…….

A wooden elephant outside one of the elephant camps in the hills of Chiang Mai.

A wooden elephant outside one of the elephant camps in the hills of Chiang Mai.

Entrance

The entrance to the gardens from the main road.

The gardens spread over 1,000 hectares of hilly country, and cars are allowed inside as a result. The road is a circuit with places to stop along the way. There are lots of trails marked on the map you’re given when you pay the small entry fee, but we were on the hunt for flowers so didn’t head out into the “bush”.

Although the gardens are popular as a tourist destination the main purpose of them is as centre for education and learning based on the estimated 22,000 plant species native to Thailand. A bus service runs through the park and in this case it was full of children on a school outing.

School kids on a day out.

Better than the classroom.

For us the main point of interest were the greenhouses located about halfway through the circuit.

Entrance to the greenhouse displays.

You walk past this water and flower display on the way to the greenhouse complex.

The greenhouses at Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens.

The greenhouses at Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens. The big one straight ahead is for tropical plants. No surprises there.

Each greenhouse has a different theme based on the type of plants being grown.

Desert environment.

Desert environment.

Look but don't touch!

Look but don’t touch!

One in a series of greenhouses.

One in a series of greenhouses.

More photo opportunities.

More photo opportunities. A mix of greens.

Those greens again.

Those greens again.

Another contrast display.

Nature’s paint brush splatter.

Great contrast between the cool green and the vibrant red.

Great contrast between the cool green and the vibrant pink.

Tropical creation with a man-made waterfall inside the greenhouse.

Super rich tropical red creation with the background of a man-made waterfall. This is inside the tropical greenhouse.

A carnivorous plant.

A carnivorous plant. The insects fall inside and get trapped.

The Queen Sirikit gardens are a pleasant way to spend a half day, if just seeing the greenhouses, or a full day if doing a bit of trekking.

Bhubing Palace Gardens

If using your GPS this can also be spelt Phuping Palace or Bhubhing Palace, which will confuse it no end. The official website has Bhubing so that’s what I’ve gone with although the road signs are spelt differently.

Bhubing Palace is the winter residence of the Royal family and is located towards the top of Doi Suthep, which is a mountain/big hill overlooking Chiang Mai to the West. Doi Suthep is best known for Wat Phra That, a temple that’s a very popular tourist destination and subject to a separate blog post by me here http://tonyinthailand.com/chiang-mai-doi-suthep/.

The palace is on the same road as the Wat but about another ten minutes drive further on. It is less touristy perhaps because most visitors don’t have their own transport and distance is money. Also I guess gardens aren’t everyone’s cup of green tea and it is only rated 69 on the things to do in Chiang Mai by Trip Advisor – thank goodness.

The road up Doi Suthep is a great drive. There are lots of things to see along the way, which we mostly haven’t done yet, sweeping views over Chiang Mai and lush greenery.

Chiang Mai city from the road up Doi Suthep on the way to Phuping Palace.

Chiang Mai city from the Doi Suthep road on the way to Bhubing Palace.

The entrance to Phuping Palace.

The  commoners entrance to Bhubing Palace.

The palace buildings are very modest by “royal” standards and are scattered throughout the site, so it’s hard to know what’s what. However it is the gardens which are the main attraction and these are just lovely and well worth a visit. Entry is 50 THB – $1.70 – for a non-resident and 20 THB for a resident. You can hire headphones that will provide commentary at marked spots along the way for 100 THB – $3.50 – or hire a guide and golf cart for 300 THB if you are lazy.

Lush even in winter.

Lush even in winter.

Dappled paths through the gardens.

Paths take one on a journey through the gardens.

An extensive use of roses here to give flowering in winter. January is the best time to visit evidently.

An extensive use of roses here to give flowering in winter. January is the best time to visit evidently.

The roses are laid out in separate rows each with their name displayed at the beginning of the row, which is a great idea for choosing varieties that might fit into one’s own garden.

Make sure you don’t miss the greenhouse display, which is well stocked with colour. Being a Royal estate everything is meticulously maintained. Staff everywhere working on the gardens.

Inside the greenhouse.

Inside the greenhouse.

Can't get enough of these displays.

Can’t get enough of these displays.

And more colours.

And more colours.

Outside the gardens are split into different sections. There are the rose gardens, a fern/forest path, walled terraces, lawns and a lake. Something for everyone except coffee drinkers. Give the cafe a miss as it is very ordinary.

Tropical orange.

Tropical orange.

Beautiful against the sky.

Beautiful against the sky.

Brilliant colours.

Brilliant colours.

Nice detail in the lamp posts. Unfortunately the gardens close at 3.00 pm.

Nice detail in the lamp posts. Unfortunately the gardens close at 3.00 pm so the night-time effect is for royalty only.

Hmmm.

Hmmm – no comment comes to mind ATM.

A sort of artistic photos. Pots can be bought for next to nothing here.

A sort of artistic photo. Pots can be bought for next to nothing in Thailand. This is in the fern area of the gardens as you can tell.

Nature fighting back. This creeper will overwhelm the telecommunication tower given the chance.

Nature fighting back. This creeper will overwhelm the telecommunication tower given the chance.

The water feature. The fountains are timed to work in coordination with music that is piped around the edge.

The water feature. The fountains are timed to work in coordination with music that is piped around the edge. A guest house on the hill at the back. Book me in.

Examining the iPad result of a photo I took for this Thai group.

Examining the iPad result of a photo I took for this Thai group. Spreading Aussie friendliness.

With my long-time friends  Andy and Gina.

With my long-time friends Andy and Gina.

The path leading to the small cafe area of Bhubing Palace. The lake on the right.

The path leading to the small cafe area of Bhubing Palace. The lake is on the right.

Great carving into this piece of timber.

Great hand carving on this piece of timber.

This large group was trying to make a circle around the tree. They didn't meet up!

This large group was trying to make a circle around the tree. They didn’t meet up!

A guest house called Eucalyptus One. Built using hardwood to test it's application in houses here.

The front of that guest house on the hill overlooking the lake. It’s called Eucalyptus One. Built using hardwood to test it’s application in houses here. A golf cart doing the tourist circuit.

Now that's one good looking gazebo. Love the glass roof and the ability to close it up in winter, which is cool here.

Now that’s one good looking gazebo. Love the glass roof and the ability to close it up in winter, which is a useful feature as it is cool here at night and early morning.

This bamboo is 7 years old. You can see from the size of Andy standing at the bottom that this is some serious growth.

This bamboo is 97 years old. You can see from the size of my friend Andy standing at the bottom that this is some serious growth.

A happy couple photo.

A happy couple photo, well I’m happy anyway.

Wonderful headgear available to help Thais cope with the extreme cool. Down to the low 20's during the day.

Wonderful headgear available to help Thais cope with the low temperatures. Can get down to the low 20’s during the day although it seems to average around 28. The bloke at the back is obviously feeling the cold. What was he thinking dressing like that!

When leaving Bhubing Palace make sure you visit the small group of shops just outside the entrance. There are some good buys here and excellent small gifts to take back home. Some of you may experience the truth of my words when I visit in March 2014!

Local markets either side of the road leading out of the Palace. Tight fit with the car.

Local markets either side of the road leading out of the Palace. Tight fit with the car.

Catering to winter needs.

Catering to winter needs.

And if you are caught unexpectedly short outside the garden facilities then:

You may be required to pay for public toilets here. It usually means they are cleaned regularly so that's a plus. Most are Western design you'll be pleased to hear. $0.18 to enter!

A picture can say it all. You may be required to pay for public toilets here. It usually means they are cleaned regularly so that’s a plus. Most are Western design you’ll be pleased to hear. $0.18 to use – box on the right.

An Unexpected Rosy Moment

We were driving home one afternoon when I saw a sign for the Chiang Mai Rose Growers annual exhibition. As we were passing JJ Markets, where it was being held we stopped off for a look.

The Chiang Mai Rose exhibition at JJ Markets.

The Chiang Mai Rose exhibition at JJ Markets.

One of the wonderful benefits of being retired and living here that there is plenty of time to stop and explore anything you see that might be of interest and there’s plenty of that. So different from passing through somewhere on a tight holiday schedule where you usually select from the top ten on Trip Advisor and miss out on the rest.

Those are real roses.

Yes, those are real roses.

This exhibition wasn’t anything extensive but it provided some photo opportunities and also introduced us to a small nicely laid out shopping centre that is worth visiting in its own right.

A thorn among the roses.

A thorn among the roses.

Glorious colour.

Glorious colour.

Not bad. The roses are nice too.

Not bad. The roses are nice too.

Christmas in surprising places.

Christmas in surprising places.

Outside the formal exhibition and across the road was a good variety of roses on sale for not much. It’s a little frustrating to be only renting here and not be able to fully dive into the rich variety of plants available. I can’t wait to have a garden again once I build in Isaan.

Available for purchase from $1.30 a plant.

Available for purchase from $1.30 a plant.

Just to finish the story on a related subject. JJ Markets is adjacent to what must be the main plant nursery district of Chiang Mai. This area covers several blocks behind Tesco Lotus on the super highway just after the Ping River bridge to the North of Chiang Mai city (am only showing off my local knowledge and probably impressing no one).

One of many roads lined with plant stalls many specialising in specific varieties.

One of many roads lined with plant stalls many specialising in specific varieties

We bought some of these for our garden. A bit over $4.00 each.

We bought some of these for our garden. A bit over $4.00 each.

Selecting some more plants for the garden. These are $0.35 each.

Selecting some more plants for the garden. These are all mostly $0.35 each.

So there you have our experience of gardens in Chiang Mai so far. We already have another great looking place to wander around next week complete with a small zoo, paddle boats, bicycles, topiary and restaurant so I will report back on that soon.

That Chiang Mai Flower Festival link is below:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiang_Mai_Flower_Festival

Thanks for reading.