Covered in detail or mentioned in this post:
Doi Chedi Liam, Royal Flora Ratchaphruek gardens, Amazon cafes, toilets!, the wai and orchids.
This is a catch-up blog and covers a couple of places we visited just before our trip to Isaan in July/August.
Wat Chedi Liam is often included on the list of important temples in Chiang Mai so we thought we would drop in as it was on the way to the Royal Park Rajapruek or spelt Ratchaphruek, a lovely garden complex we have visited previously but wanted to check out again.
Back in January we had an afternoon out following the River Ping towards Lamphun, not on the 106 I wrote about HERE, but the smaller road on the Western side of the river. We stopped off for a coffee at a Doi Chaang cafe (run down and terrible coffee – very unusual for Doi Chaang) overlooking the Ping, which had a view across the water to Wat Chedi Liam, and it looked worth a look at a future time. The cafe next to the Wat could be a bonus.
Access to the Wat is off the 1141 as shown below. Google Maps has scored a direct hit this time although spelling it Wat Chediliem, which could be correct or not. Thai to English is a phonetic thing so I am not sure there is a wrong. Plays hell with the GPS search function though.
I am once again relying on this website http://www.renown-travel.com, one of my best web finds, for the historical background:
The Wat Chedi Liam is a Buddhist temple in Wiang Kum Kam, an ancient fortified town built by King Mengrai of the Lanna empire. The town was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom for 10 years until 1296, when Chiang Mai (“new city”) was founded a few kilometers North.
Founded in 1288, the Wat Chedi Liam is an active temple with resident monks. Its name translates to “temple of the square chedi”.
The temple, also known as Wat Ku Kham Luang comprises of an ancient chedi and a more recent viharn and ubosot. The only structure remaining from the 13th century temple is its well preserved Mon Dvaravati style chedi. You can read more about the Mon HERE.
The chedi was constructed by King Mengrai in 1288, eight years before the founding of Chiang Mai. It is a copy of the Mon Haripunchai style Mahabol chedi of the Wat Ku Kut in Lamphun, the old capital of the Haripunchai Kingdom, which Mengrai had just conquered.
Standing on a square base is a stepped pyramid comprising of five square tiers of diminishing size. In each side of each tier are three niches that enshrine a total of 60 standing images of the Buddha dressed in a yellow robe.
Whereas the standing images of the Wat Ku Kut are all the same, the right hand raised in the Abhaya mudra (dispelling fear), those of the Wat Chedi Liam display a few variations. The arches over the niches in the second and third tier are decorated with the intertwined bodies of mythological Naga serpents, while the arches of the other tiers are adorned with flower motifs, often seen in Lanna style temples.
The Wat Chedi Liam’s viharn, a large structure with a two tiered roof, is much more recent; it was built during the early 20th century. Its ornate front gable is decorated in typical Lanna gold and ochre colors. Naga snakes guard the stairways to the building. The viharn enshrines the temple’s principal Buddha image. The walls above the windows are decorated with murals.
And finally just what every Wat has hidden away somewhere.
You can explore the entire ancient capital of Wiang Kum Kam by horse and cart. It is a biggish area and interesting if you are into archeological type ruins. Heaps more information HERE.
What the photos don’t show is that this is a rather run-down temple that has seen better days. It all had a slightly tired feel to it and either the monks or the money weren’t up to the task of keeping the place looking its best. A shame because it is in a good location and the Wat is important to the history of Chiang Mai. Just for the record that cafe I mentioned previously next to the Wat overlooking the Ping was closed, whether permanently or not I couldn’t tell.
Leaving Wat Chedi Liam behind and rejoining the 1141 heading West we crossed the River Ping and soon after drove off Highway 121 and up the wide formal entrance to Ratchaphruek Park, which Google has again correctly located on the map – a good day for them.
The history for this park is more recent than Wat Chedi Liam! The basis of its name, ” Ratchaphruek” or Golden Shower Tree, is the de facto national flower of Thailand. Its yellow blossoms are the flower of Monday, the birth day of the current King. Chiang Mai and maybe other places too, are covered in these beautiful flowers in season.
In 2007 a huge a flower festival was held in Chiang Mai in honour of the Thai King, the world’s longest reigning monarch. According to Wikipedia the expo featured 30 international gardens reflecting nations such as Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, and Canada; more than 2.5 million trees of 2,200 species of tropical plants and flowers are presented to the world in this exhibition.
Entry fees apply, more for non-residents than Thais but that sometimes happens in Thailand. If you have a Thai driving licence, as I do, then you get in at local prices. It isn’t discrimination against farang, just non-residents.
In the original design of the exhibition the right hand side of the complex included the gardens contributed either by the 30 countries participating or by corporate sponsors, both Thai commercial and government and international companies.
Today the national gardens are still mostly in good shape however the corporates seem to be in mothball mode. I guess it is easier to have an ongoing garden that attempts to reflect the culture of your country rather than a more nebulous company image. A good example is this one for the Department of Groundwater Resources:
Not to say that things are in total disrepair. This is a Royal garden and the overall maintenance is of a very high standard. I also have to say that generally if you pay for admission the standard is far higher than normal. It just is that whatever the original purpose for some of these displays have been lost once the expo finished.
As we are on the subject of toilets and off the subject of gardens 🙂 those little hand held bidet alternatives you can see above are part of just about every toilet arrangement in Thailand. Some public facilities don’t have them maybe to stop people washing their feet. The Thais have taken a more European approach to personal cleanliness.
OK let’s get out of the bathroom and back to the gardens.
I have only included this photo because both of these young girls gave a lovely wai when walking past me. The wai, pronounced “why” is where Thais put their hands together in front of the body and make a little bow. It is a sign of respect from younger to older, in this case, or lower to higher social class and always catches me by surprise when done in passing situations like this one.
For the record you don’t return a wai from a child or anyone providing you a service – shop keeper, taxi driver etc and there are three different levels of wai. You can read more about the wai HERE. It is useful to have an understanding of the wai if visiting here although Thais realise that many farang don’t understand this aspect of their culture. A slight bow and smile covers off most situations.
Orchids – always easy to photograph. Thank goodness for digital.
Keeping to the right past the orchid garden you come across the national gardens and many of these have had some serious investment originally put into them. I have included a few examples below but you could spend a morning exploring them all:
Time for lunch and if you look on the map I put at the top of the Ratchaphruek section of the post you will see marked No. 6 – Royal Project Foundation, which is a cafe/restaurant serving dishes based on local produce. The menu is pretty limited but the setting is very restful and it is a good place to take the weight off and have a break.
There must be a huge workforce to keep the gardens in the great condition you see them.
We didn’t visit the Royal Pavillion (No. 7 on the map) at the back of the site this time but walked around the back to re-visit a couple of places on the left hand side of the gardens.
I have included a few photos we took on our last visit here just to give you a feel for this building:
The gardens on the left hand side of the map I gave you cover a huge area too but are less populated by visitors. Wandering through this section of the park you will come across many of these figures in the costumes of different countries or different occupations.
A must see, especially on a hot day, is this Shaded Paradise pavillion.
Walking to complete the loop back to the main entrance you will pass formal gardens, grapes, rabbits and more figures.
The Royal Flora Ratchaphruek gardens are a wonderful way to spend a little or a lot of time. Try to pick a cooler day because with 80 hectares to explore it is a hot walk. Otherwise grab the tram or a golf cart.
Thanks for reading
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