I spent a beautiful and enjoyable day recently at the Royal Flora Ratchaphreuk horticultural exposition in Chiang Mai. It's a mix of pavilions, gardens, events and activities all nestled into a small valley off the irrigation road around 15km south of the city.

Royal Flora Ferris Wheel 610x407

Arrival at Royal Flora

Arriving at these sorts of places I am immediately on the defensive in case they charge me more than other Thai tax payers because of the colour of my skin and length of my nose. Fortunately, for my wife at least, there wasn't a tantrum from a farang at the ticket office. Entrance is a reasonable 200 baht for adults with flat or long noses. The entrance fee gives you access to the whole exposition; however, there is an extra charge of 120 baht for the big wheel and 40 baht for a jump-on-and-off electric tram which circumnavigates, without missing anything, the whole site. Children receive big discounts, so the whole day including lunch with my brood of wife and two toddlers in tow cost under 1,000 baht. This is around the cost to my dad of taking my brother, sister, mum and me to Windsor Safari Park way back in 1974.

Royal Flora Exhibition Objectives

You can read the objectives of the exposition from the official website As this is a Thai event, the focus is on commemorating important milestones in the lives of members of the Thai royal family. Horticultural knowledge and technologies and other stuff, such as global warming, are also mentioned.

Royal Pavilion at Royal Flora

The centre piece of the site is the Royal Pavilion. It's a stunning building and the layout of the site allows a range of breath-taking views of this building. Although it looks exactly like a Buddhist temple viharn, the interior contains no Buddha images. I guess it hasn't been consecrated as a religious building. Instead, where a Buddha image is normally placed is a piece of modern sculpture called the Tree of Boromaphothisom. From a brass-plate inscription just inside the entrance, it seems that the art is representative of key dates and times in the King's life. Adding to the theme, the walls are covered in beautiful hand-painted aspects of the King's life.

Royal Flora Grand Pavillion 610x407

There is a range of national and corporate gardens to view. I liked the national gardens as they were showcases of those countries. They are situated around the big wheel and Green Tower Lake. Countries which have good international relations with Thailand such as Japan, China and Bhutan had prominent positions. The USA was, unfortunately, only represented by the high-calorie soda drinks sold at the food concessions. The UK fared even worse. Surely, we could have printed some more money to pay for national gardens to promote our pursuit of peace and democracy across the oil producing nations of the world. I was so disappointed I needed a cold beer - Chang of course.

The corporate gardens were just that - corporate. CP's had a nice restaurant area where you could indulge in plastic sausages and fetid cold meats. I am embarrassed to admit though that it all went down well with the cold Chang.

I have added a photo album to the ajarn Facebook page as I'm sure they are far more interesting than my ramblings and give a far better picture of the place. If anyone is up this way, Royal Flora is well worth a visit. You need to hurry though, as it closes for this year on the 14th of March.

Live as a teacher in Chiang Mai.

First published February 21st, 2012 on ajarn.com.