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.
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…….
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.
For us the main point of interest were the greenhouses located about halfway through the circuit.
Each greenhouse has a different theme based on the type of plants being grown.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
And if you are caught unexpectedly short outside the garden facilities then:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
Thanks for reading.