I recently read an enthusiastic review of this park on Trip Advisor so it has been on my list of things to do in Chiang Rai.

As this morning was sunny, unusual here in the North, and the park is only 15 minutes from the house we decided to give it a go. I am so pleased we did. It is one of the most beautiful places I have seen in Thailand. Once again I have borrowed introductory words from the net. I hope my photos will give you some idea of the lush beauty of the park.

For those of you thinking of popping over to visit the park you will be charged 200 THB ($6.50) entry while Thais are charged 100TBH. I wonder how we would go charging tourists double to visit our attractions in Australia. Nothing to get hung up on though. The lady at the ticket booth was almost embarrassed to ask for the two rates. I told Gaun to go in without me and show me the photos later!

Looking across the main lake to some of the exhibition buildings

Looking across the main lake to some of the exhibition buildings

Originally known as the Rai Mae Fah Luang, the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park started first as the office of the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation. Through purchasing and marketing handicrafts, the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation helped preserve the traditional skills and support the livelihoods of ethnic minorities.

The King's mother who established the park

The Princess mother still oversees the park

In the 1970’s the Princess Mother then established the Youth Leadership Project and the Rai Mae Fah Luang become a ‘home’ to hundreds of youths from remote areas with limited access to schooling. The area had lodgings for the ethnic minority youths who came to attend schools and also learn about living in urban areas, among other aspects of modern life in Thailand.

In addition to textbooks or classroom lessons, the late Princess Mother believed in acquiring skills from actual experiences. Students learnt how to live as a community, developing their social skills. Having shared responsibilities, they cared for the younger, learnt about time management, worked in shifts to clean their lodgings, farmed, gardened, and tended vegetable plots. The goal was that this training would help students grow into dedicated, hard-working, ethical leaders of their communities.

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Following the establishment of the Doi Tung Development Project, students had access to schools located closer to their village homes, and the role of the Rai Mae Fah Luang as an educational institution for ethnic minority youths came to an end.

A pavillion housing a wonderful elephant which I am arranging to ship back to my brother

A pavillion housing a wonderful elephant which I am arranging to ship back to my brother. I’m sure they won’t miss it.

Today, the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park is the region’s largest collection of art items from the Lanna culture or Tai culture (the minorities in northern Thailand, China’s southwestern region or Yunnan, eastern Myanmar or the Shan States, northwestern Vietnam and western Lao).

The Park features not only artifacts but beautiful Lanna architecture such as the “Haw Kham” (Golden Pavillion), a building the people of Chiang Rai built and presented as a gift to the Princess Mother to celebrate her 84th birthday. Other attractions include Haw Kaew where permanent exhibition on teakwood is featured alongside year-round revolving exhibitions and a botanical collection of indigenous plants from the northern region.

The elephant and Gaun shortly before its removal

Gaun and the elephant shortly before its removal after closing tonight

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Still looking relaxed

Still looking relaxed (pre-dentist tomorrow)

Time to mow the roof

Time to mow the roof

And this one while you've got the Victa out (for Aussie readers only)

And mow this one while you’ve got the Victa out (meaningful for Aussie readers only)

Spirit houses

Spirit houses

My words….You will see spirit houses all over Thailand. Many homes will have them in a corner of the front garden. They might also appear on the side of the road in areas where the land is being farmed or some other disruption to the natural state of things has occurred.  Driving around Thailand you will see roadside shops that do nothing but sell spirit houses. They are usually made out of concrete, painted white on a tall stands. I must say that the examples above are much more attractive than the norm.

The idea is that when you build a house you might disturb and upset the spirits who are used to living on that piece of land. In order to get them on side and not have them become permanent residents in your new home a spirit house is purchased and installed with an accompanying ceremony. The invitation is for the spirits to inhabit this rather than your house. Offerings are then made of flowers, food and drinks etc on a regular basis all designed to keep the spirits happy and “next door”.

Sorry for the quality on the photo below as it was taken from the moving car but these are some “working” spirit houses on the hill leading into Patong, Phuket. Maybe established as part of building the road or who knows why. You can see the collection of drinks (spirits don’t mind the odd beer) and other contributions to their wellbeing.

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Back to the park theme……………

Works for me. Our obsession with "architecture" that is nothing but cubes and sharp edges

Works for me. Our obsession with “architecture” that is nothing but cubes and sharp edges does nothing to honour the wonderful shape of women! See below.

And this is the roof shape the sign is referring to.

And this is the roof shape the sign is referring to.

Grafting gone wrong?

Grafting gone wrong?

One of the exhibition buildings

One of the exhibition buildings in Lanna style

Workers houses on site. Beautiful colours and shapes

Workers houses on site. Beautiful colours and textures. Fitting into the surroundings in a way most Thai buildings don’t!

Had to photo this. An old wooden worker's shack but air conditioning included!

Had to photo this. An old wooden worker’s shack but air conditioning included!

Looking back to the main buildings from the lake

Looking back to the main buildings from the lake

A massive wooden boat. Look closely and you can just see Gaun, which will give you an idea of the size of this structure

A massive wooden boat. Look closely and you can just see Gaun, which will give you an idea of the size of this structure

One of the worker obviously has a side interest and as all Thai lakes are well stocked with fish, I suspect many a dinner is provided for from the park resources

We found this inside the boat. One of the worker obviously has a side interest and, as all Thai lakes are well stocked with fish, I suspect many a dinner has been provided for from the park resources.

Stark contrast to the lush vegetation

Stark contrast to the lush vegetation

Anti-social

Anti-social

The main Buddha and exhibition hall is entirely made of timber, mostly tree trunks, and this sign recognises that in a rather respectful way

The Haw Kham (Golden Pavillion) is entirely made of timber, mostly tree trunks, and this sign recognises that in a rather respectful way. Gunns in Tasmania had a similar sign in their corporate HQ I believe before they went bust.

One of the highlights of the park is the Haw Kham based on traditional Lanna architectural forms. The pavilion houses a display of ceremonial and sacred teakwood artifacts as well as the Phra Pra Toh wooden buddha image which was carved in the 17th century. A further pavilion, Haw Kham Noi houses a set of Lanna temple mural paintings.

The entranceway to the Golden Hall

The entranceway to the Golden Hall

You can't take photos inside the Golden Pavillion. This taken through a hole in the wall (!) gives you a taste of how it was built. An awesome building.

You can’t take photos inside the Golden Pavillion. This taken through a hole in the wall (!) and gives you a taste of how it was built. An awesome building.

A glimpse of the Buddha within the Golden who had a very content friendly feel about him.

A glimpse of the Buddha (Phra Pra Toh) within the Golden Pavillion who had a very content and friendly feel about him.

Peaceful

Peaceful

Wonderful shape

What a wonderful shape

Standing guard

Standing guard

Have my eye on these for the garden

Have my eye on these for the garden

Lawns give a parkland feel to some of the area

Lawns give a parkland feel to some of the area. Cricket and G & T anyone?

Interesting winding paths with something to look at round most corners. Lovely dappled light and shade on a sunny day like today

Interesting winding paths with something to look at round most corners. Lovely dappled light and shade on a sunny day like today

Not a lot of flowers blooming but a few examples around

Not a lot of flowers blooming but a few examples around with wonderful tropical colours

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Gaun unkindly called this the condom flower. I suspect not its botanical name

Gaun unkindly called this the condom flower. Not I suspect its true botanical name

Stumped Gaun this one. She knows most things edible as Thais always have a close eye on where the next meal is coming from

This one stumped Gaun. She knows most things edible as Thais always have a close eye on where the next meal is coming from but this was a mystery. It was left unpicked.

Good spot to sink a beer and throw out a line

Good spot to sink a beer and throw out a line

Chiang Rai is proving to have a number of interesting and visually pleasing places to visit. I hope to cover a number of them for you over the next few weeks.

My next blog will be a miscellaneous mixture of bits and pieces (do all those words mean the same thing?) unless something else grabs me for a topic in the meantime.

Thanks for reading.