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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back to the park theme……………
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.
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.