Royal Flora Ratchaphruek is a huge outdoor park on the western outskirts of Chiang Mai. Originally built for a flower festival and exposition to celebrate the King’s 60th accession to the throne and 80th birthday back in 2006, it’s open all year round and now hosts an annual flower festival from December until February. We hired a scooter and got there reasonably early, but even with a full day of leisurely walking around (and taking plenty of pictures..) we think we saw about two-thirds of it. Did I mention it was huge?
We started off with the Corporate Gardens, not quite sure what to expect but we were pleasantly surprised by their diversity and the effort that had gone into making them informative and interactive. We especially liked the groundwater department garden..
And of the other corporate gardens, we also liked the palm tree loop – as much for the palm trees as the water assault course it turned out to be – the sprinklers were on and we both got a little bit wet!
The ‘New Theory Agriculture’ area was fun because it had a pig pen, chickens and a wormery, but as all of the information was in Thai we didn’t really understand the ‘New Theory’ part – it just looked like rural Thailand to us: rice fields, animal pens and vegetable gardens!
Next up was the Orchid Park. Wow.
There were so many orchids, and they were all so beautiful that we spent a lot of time looking and taking photographs..
As well as the outside Orchid Park, there is a building which was housing a special exhibit of tulips grown in Thailand, and included a variety named in honour of the King.
There was also another room full of orchids, and an exhibition upstairs on Dr Rapee Sacrick, who is known as the “Founder and Father of orchids” in Thailand. Behind the exhibition halls we found yet another outdoor area of orchids, this time the specimens on display were entrants in an orchid competition.
The contestant plants were lined up by sub-species, and the prize-winning plants had rosettes hanging from them. What struck me most was the sheer variety – style, colour and size – I hadn’t fully appreciated the heterogeneity. We took a lot more photographs..
The park’s central promenade leads to the focal point of the entire park and its main attraction, the Royal Pavillion. Built like a ‘wihan’ (meeting hall) of a Thai Wat, the pavilion is exquisitely decorated. Inside are murals of King Bhumibol travelling through northern Thailand, typically pointing at a map with a camera around his neck!
After a little more wandering, we found the Shaded Paradise – a covered tropical garden with an elevated walkway that puts you up in the tree tops. I really like tropical gardens because the humidity carries the smell of earth and breathing that air feels clean to me, it feels purifying. Tropical gardens also tend to contain carnivorous plants such as Tropical Pitchers or Venus Flytraps, and I love that plants eat animals..
As we worked our way back towards the exit, we found a series of country-sponsored gardens – The Netherlands, Canada, India, and Singapore to name a few. Sadly, we didn’t see one for the UK..
We really enjoyed our day at the Royal Flora Ratchaphruek park, and for all we took our time, we still think there’s easily a days worth of things to see and do.