Mae-hia, Muang, Chiang Mai 50200, 66 (0) 53 114110-5
Royal Park Rajapruek in Chiang Mai needs to thank its homonymous festival (the Royal Flora Rajapruek, that was held between 1 November 2006 and 31 January 2007) for its existence. This international horticultural festival was one of the grand celebrations hosted by the Royal Thai Government through the Thai Department of Agriculture and under Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives in honor of King Bhumibol of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch, and of his 60th anniversary of accession to the throne. The exhibition was extremely successful and it drew nearly 4 million visitors.
Thanks to the success of the exhibition, The Thai government then proposed transforming its site, 80 hectares of land at the Royal Agricultural Research Center in Mae Hia, into a park and a permanent training center, arguing that Royal Flora Rajapruek achieved its goals of promoting tourism and developing Thai horticultural industries.
The park was open to the public in 2008 with many of the past highlights still very much in evidence, including the international exhibits. Royal Park Rajapruek is managed by the Highland Research and Development Institute and is a learning centre for botanical agriculture and the site for agro-tourism and culture at an international level.
Royal Park Rajapruek is bound to remain open indefinitely, and it is now an addition to things to do in Chiang Mai, I would say a must-see, receiving 500-1000 visitors per day on average. My visit was a pleasure, well worth the trip. I immediately felt happy as the place does not look like a tourist trap. Bikes for rent can be found near the main entrance, and electric buses are available to take you around for 20 thb – you can hop on and off where you wish, visit the garden of your choice, and wait for next bus to come around. There are also golf carts available for private rental at 600thb per hour. The park is huge and there’s lots to see; I managed to walk around and do a few stops from the bus. A good hat or an umbrella and plenty of water are advisable for the hot sunny days.
There was a lot of people at the entrance, yet once everyone spread out on foot, bus or bicycle, it did not feel busy at all. I bought the 20thb ticket, boarded the bus and was on the way to discover the park. The grounds are superbly laid out and the selection of flowers in the expansive gardens is incredibly picturesque. The gardens are small and well maintained, and each garden has a theme. The international gardens offer other countries a chance to join in, and altogether there are 21 countries from 3 continents (Asia, Europe and Africa) that participate in the project, exhibiting amazing theme gardens.
Other areas include Word of Insect, Rare Plants and Corporate Gardens. 19 organizations participate in the Corporate Gardens to pay homage to His Majesty the King, and these include some of the big players in the banking and telecommunication sectors, as well as provinces administrations.
But the two highlights have to be the orchid garden – the best display amongst various orchid gardens I have seen so far – and the Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion, perched at the park center and built in Lanna architecture, the architectural style of northern Thailand, inside which you can marvel at a painting exhibition about the life and works of King Bhumibol.
If you are a nature enthusiast, this is the place to go. You need to allow a few hours to visit the whole place properly and leisurely, or you can visit it over two days. Bear in mind there is not a lot of shade around so try to avoid the peak sun hours. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times of course, and the good light and lack of crowd will allow for lots of great pictures. There are some food stalls scattered around the park, though they are a bit on the fast food type.
The admission is a reasonable 100thb per adult, 50thb for kids, and Thais pay only 20/10thb respectively. If you plan to stay in Chiang Mai for a while and wish to visit Royal Park Rajapruek often, then purchase the annual visitors card for 400thb.
And if you were wondering what Ratchaphruek means, it is the Thai name of the national flower, the Cassia fistula, or Golden Shower Tree (it is also named Khun or Chaiyaphruek in Thai); its yellow blossoms correspond to Monday, the birth day of King Bhumibol.
I loved my extensive visit to Royal Park Rajapruek, and so will you!
Accommodation was kindly provided by nearby Prat Rajapruek Resort: