Old Town Culture & History
Are you planning to stay in the Old City? - Or maybe you are planning to spend a day or two visiting the Old City from your guesthouse out in the suburbs. Either way, if you are suffering from "temple-fatigue", why not consider setting aside a few hours to take a short, very pleasant and informative wander through Chiang Mai's innovative "Museum District". It is located in the area of Rachvithi Road and Phrappokklao Road and even long-term residents, as well as tourists, have said how much they learnt about the North's distinctive culture and history during their visits to these three lovely museums. Lanna Folklife Museum We suggest you start with the Lanna Folklife Museum, which is just east of Phrappokklao Road, between Ratavithi Road and Phra Pk Klao Road. This is a brand new museum, which is located in the elegant former provincial courthouse, which was built in a Thai-colonial style in 1935, and was recently given a facelift. Here, not only is the museum thoughtfully laid-out, but there is an abundance of informative signs, translated into 'decent' English, along with knowledgeable English-speaking guides. The local municipality has invested over £1 million in this compact museum, with its 18 exhibition halls spread over two floors. As well as creating a new tourist attraction in the old city, their aim is to revive Lanna heritage and educate the young generation about the North's distinctive culture and history. Everything is done here to make tourists - especially the young - feel welcome. The exhibition rooms are devoted to different aspects of Lanna Folk life, such as religion, culture, ways of life and costumes. The exhibits are presented in a refreshing modern format, and you are allowed to touch some items such as local ingredients and life-size models. You are also permitted to take "selfies" to your heart's content, as well as conventional photo shots for the more discerning photographers. They certainly have gone out of their way to make everyone feel welcome in a place which is traditionally the preserve of middle-aged fuddy-duddies. Three King's Monument Next on your route is the three Kings Monument. Cross over Phrappokklao Road and you will come to a large courtyard which marks the centre of the ancient administrative area of Chiang Mai. This bronze statue commemorates the agreement which was forged between three ancient allies - King Mengrai of Chiang Mai, King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Meuang of Phayao - when the city was founded back in the 13th Century. The monument is also a shrine, and local residents often leave offerings on their way to and from work. In the evenings the large square in front of the monument is a popular area for families with the usual vendors magically appearing to sell their wares. City Arts & Culture Centre Behind the Three Kings Statue is the beautiful old Provincial Hall, built in 1927, which has been converted to house the Chiang Mai's City Arts & Culture Centre. A bit of a misnomer, as it's actually a museum, the exhibitions provide information on Chiang Mai's long history. These include photographs, audio-visual displays, three-dimensional models demonstrating key battles, and the history of the first settlers, right up to the arrival of the railroad. You can even walk through a diorama of battle scenes. Upstairs there is a delightful wooden reconstruction of a Lanna village. There is also a well-stocked gift shop. Historical Centre Your final stop is at the Historical Centre which is another short walk in an easterly direction, towards Jhaban Road. Housed in a new Lanna- style, purpose-built building, this third leg of the 'museum tour' concentrates on the history of the province, dating back to the founding of the city. This includes the Burmese occupation, through to the final unification of the Kingdom with Bangkok, and right up to the modern era. As with the other two museums, the exhibits are set out in attractive and innovative ways, with many interactive displays, waxworks and dioramas. The English language signs, audio and guides are of a high standard. Ironically, during the construction of this new museum building, the remains of an ancient temple were discovered in the foundations. As a result, you can now see an archaeological dig exhibition in the basement of the building. This concludes your mini-cultural tour in old Chiang Mai, and if your joints are feeling a little weary, it might be an idea to pop into the Women's Correctional Institute (just across Jhaban Road), and try one of their excellent massages. Entry: 180B (adults), 80B (children) this cover all three museums. Open: 8:30am - 5:00pm (Tues - Sun) Tel: +66 53217793 Getting Here: At the centre of the old city, on Prapokklao Rd, between Rajdumnern Rd and Rajwithee Rd.