Home   Blog   Classes   Trips   More   back

Archive for the ‘Thai Culture’ Category

The Royal Park Rajapruek

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion

(Click images to see larger version.)
(There’s a slideshow of images at the bottom.)

I first visited The Royal Park Rajapruek (also transliterated as Ratchaphruek) in December of 2006. It was then popularly knows an The Royal Flora Expo and officially knows as The International Horticultural Exposition at the Royal Agricultural Research Centre, Chiang Mai.

King's emblem

60th anniversary emblem

It was created by the Department of Agriculture to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s accession to the throne and also his 80th birthday (on December 5, 2007). I was one of 3,781,000 visitors that first year.

Later it was retained as a learning centre for botanical agriculture and site for agro-tourism and culture. In 2010 H.M. The King gave it the name “The Royal Park Rajapruek.” Rajapruek is the Thai name of Cassia fistula, commonly known as the Golden Rain Tree. It is the Thai national flower. Its yellow blossoms correspond to Monday, the day H.M. King Rama was born.

Kasma and I revisited the Royal Park this year in its current incarnation.

One of the tourist sites recommends giving “2 to 3 hours.” We spent 6 and didn’t see everything.

Note: The photo above left shows the emblem created for the 60th Anniversary of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s reign. The centerpiece is an abbreviation of the king’s name in golden yellow, the color of Monday, his day of birth. The abbreviation is set on a blue background, which is the color of the monarchy. He was born in the Year of the Rabbit, according to the Chinese Zodiac. Above the centerpiece is the number 9 in Thai script – he was King Rama IX.

The Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion

The Ho Kham Luang Royal Pavilion was and is the architectural highlight of the park, a beautiful pavilion built in the traditional Lanna style. You see it first in the distance as you enter the park located at the end of a wide boulevard-like path lined with statues. The Lanna kingdom was founded 700+ years ago in Northern Thailand and developed its own characteristic style, which is used here.

Walkway to Royal Pavilion

Elegant walkway to the Royal Pavilion

Royal Pavilion details

Royal Pavilion details

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves about the grace and beauty of this magnificent structure. (There are more photos in the slide show.)

Inside the Royal Pavilion

Inside the Royal Pavilion

Front detail

Detail of the inside of the Royal Pavilion

Ceramic sculture

The Progress by Sompetch Manorin (ceramic)


Bas-relief

Goddess of the Earth by Sagon Suthiman


In 2006 the bottom floor of this beautiful structure housed a number of stunning artworks. It now contains exhibitions honoring His Majesty the King under the theme, “The Development King through Six Decades” with information about his life and works and including videos about the beloved monarch. I highly recommend watching the video presentation if you get a chance: I found it inspiring and uplifting.

Park Layout

Royal Villa closer

Walking towards the Royal Pavilion

The park is divided into 9 zones scattered across 200 acres (80 hectares). It consists of numerous outdoor gardens and buildings containing exhibits and indoor gardens. The indoor buildings include The Kingdom of Tropical Dome, Shaded Paradise, Orchid Pavilion, Desert Plants Greenhouse and Bug World. Outdoors you can see the Palm Garden, Sawadee Garden, Flower Garden, Royal Garden, Garden New Theory and Lotus Garden. There are some example hilltribe houses and international gardens as well. The Park Map will give you an idea of the scope of the park.

On this recent visit, we took a leisurely stroll through the entrance area and the lovely initial gardens and then up the broad walkway to the Royal Pavilion. We spent quite a bit of time in and around the upper floor of the Pavilion and then more time with the exhibits and videos about the king on the bottom floor. From there we focused on the Shade Garden, Orchid Pavilion and Bug World. After that, 6 hours later, we were ready for a rest with the remainder, sadly, left unexplored.

Shade Garden

This is a thoroughly enjoyable wander through the pathways of temperate climate plants with many beautiful bromeliads.There are more photos in the slideshow below.

Shade Garden pathway

Meandering path at the Shade Garden

Bromeliads blooming

A row of bromeliads

Orchid Pavilion

This is a fabulous collection of orchids. On the occasion of our visit one the highlights were the many drifts of phalaenopsis orchids – just a stunning display. The exhibit consists of an extensive outdoor area as well as indoor rooms.

Orange orchid

Lovely orange orchid

The author amongst the orchids

There are many more orchids (and shade plants and butterflies) in the slideshow below.

Bug World

I’ve been to many “Butterfly Farms” in the past; Bug World has them all beat. I’ve never seen so many butterflies and so many different kinds of butterflies in one place. We spent over an hour here, either tracking butterflies to photograph or lurking at plants that they seemed to prefer, waiting for a chance to get a photo.

Butterfly feeding

Butterfly feeding

Giant moth

Giant moth

Recommendation

Photo of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulydej

If you are a plant lover visiting Chiang Mai, this is a must-see. It is also an excellent stop for lovers of Thai Culture and an opportunity to learn about the life and works of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

My recommendation would be to go in the winter; if possible in December around the time of the King’s Birthday (which is December 5). It’s the season where the gardens appear to be at their most lush, with the most flowers in bloom. We were there on December 18 of last year (2017).

It opens at 8:00 a.m.: get there as soon thereafter as you can. It can get pretty hot there and there’s not always shade along the walkways, though a shuttle service is available. That’s another good reason to visit in December – it’s in the “cool” season. (Though I’ve also heard it said that there are two seasons in Thailand: hot & hotter.)


Royal Project Rajapruek Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.


Elephonts
royal-park-2
Monoliths
Monolith detail
3 garden elephants
royal-park-6
Fountain
King's emblem
Royal Villa closer
Bird on structure
Walkway to Royal Pavilion
Closer to Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion
Royal Pavilion side view
Front facade
Elegant facade details
Royal Villa details
View backwards
Inside the Royal Villa
Front of Royal Pavilion
Front detail
Lovely detailing
Ganeesha
Ceramic sculture
Bas-relief
Photograph of mourners
Door with statues
Manicured gardens
Royal Pavilion and gardens
Shade Garden pathway
Bromeliads blooming
Bromeliad close-up
Lovely foliage
Shade flower 1
Shade flower 2
Dragon sculpture
Orange orchid
Orchids
Orchid drift
Orchid Pavilion pathway
royal-park-41
Phalaenopsis close-up
Orchid Pavilion room
More orchids
Cattleya orchid
Vanda orchids
More orchids
Two resting butterflies
Butterfly feeding
Butterfly on stone
Another feeding butterfly
Giant moth
Brown butterfly
Butterfly with blue wings
Beautiful butterfly
royal-park-56
royal-park-57

This row of elephants is one of the first things you see after entering the park

One elephant provides a perch for a bird

You see these elegant monoliths soon after entering

A detail on one of the monoliths

These whimsical white elephants are in the garden just after you enter

You can just glimpse the Royal Pavilion way past this elephant

Moving past the first garden is this fountain with the Royal Pavilion seen still far behind

Emblem created for the 60th Anniversary of the King's reign

We've now walked past the fountain toward the Royal Pavilion

Another little bird just hanging out

The elegant walkway to the Royal Pavilion

One of the statues lining the walkway with the Pavilion in the back

The Royal Pavilion at The Royal Park Rajapruek

A side view of the Royal Pavilion

The lovely facade of the Royal Pavilion

Some of the elegant work on the facade of the Royal Pavilion

The Royal Pavilion abounds with lovely details

The view back along the walkway to the Pavlion

The interior of the Royal Pavilion

Approaching the front inside the Royal Pavilion

Detail of the inside of the Royal Pavilion

Such lovely detailing everywhere

Ganeesha by Khumai Detduangta from the original exhibit in 2006

The Progress by Sompetch Manorin (ceramic) from the original exhibit in 2006

Goddess of the Earth by Sagon Suthiman from the original exhibit in 2006

Photo of mourners of the late H.M. King Rama IX - part of the video at the exhibit hall

This is the exit from the lower level of the Royal Pavilion

Some of the gardens surrounding the Royal Pavilion

A distance shot of the gardens with the Royal Pavilion in back

One of the meandering paths at the Shade Garden

So many lovely bromeliads were in bloom

Close up of one of the bromeliads

One of the many lovely shade plants at the Shade Garden

Another lovely flower.

So much lovely color

This dragon was part of the decoration in the Shade Garden

This orchid was one of the first I saw after entering the Orchid Pavilion

The Orchid Pavilion was an explosion of orchids

There were often many blossoms on the same orchid plant

One of the pathways in the Orchid Pavilion

Here I am amongst the drifts of phalaenopsis orchids

A close-up of the phalaenopsis orchids in the previous photo

This was another room in the Orchid Pavilion

There were so many lovely flowers

One of a few cattleya orchids in bloom - it wasn't the season

Some stunning vanda blossoms

Let us say good bye to the orchids with this photo

Two resting butterflies at Bug World

Bug Word was full of plants to attract the butterflies

These orange butterflies abounded at Bug World

This plant was particularly popular here

The giant moth was the largest insect there – the size of a man's hand

We spent an hour tracking the colorful insects

Some of the butterflies had such lovely rich colors

This one was too shy to open its wings

With this green butterfly we bid farewell to Bug World

We'll close our slide show with a photo of Rama IX on one of the buildings at the Park

royal-park-1 thumbnail
royal-park-2 thumbnail
royal-park-3 thumbnail
royal-park-4 thumbnail
royal-park-5 thumbnail
royal-park-6 thumbnail
royal-park-7 thumbnail
royal-park-8 thumbnail
royal-park-9 thumbnail
royal-park-10 thumbnail
royal-park-11 thumbnail
royal-park-12 thumbnail
royal-park-13 thumbnail
royal-park-14 thumbnail
royal-park-15 thumbnail
royal-park-16 thumbnail
royal-park-17 thumbnail
royal-park-18 thumbnail
royal-park-19 thumbnail
royal-park-20 thumbnail
royal-park-21 thumbnail
royal-park-22 thumbnail
royal-park-23 thumbnail
royal-park-24 thumbnail
royal-park-25 thumbnail
royal-park-26 thumbnail
royal-park-27 thumbnail
royal-park-28 thumbnail
royal-park-29 thumbnail
royal-park-30 thumbnail
royal-park-31 thumbnail
royal-park-32 thumbnail
royal-park-33 thumbnail
royal-park-34 thumbnail
royal-park-35 thumbnail
royal-park-36 thumbnail
royal-park-37 thumbnail
royal-park-38 thumbnail
royal-park-39 thumbnail
royal-park-40 thumbnail
royal-park-41 thumbnail
royal-park-42 thumbnail
royal-park-43 thumbnail
royal-park-44 thumbnail
royal-park-45 thumbnail
royal-park-46 thumbnail
royal-park-47 thumbnail
royal-park-48 thumbnail
royal-park-49 thumbnail
royal-park-50 thumbnail
royal-park-51 thumbnail
royal-park-52 thumbnail
royal-park-53 thumbnail
royal-park-54 thumbnail
royal-park-55 thumbnail
royal-park-56 thumbnail
royal-park-57 thumbnail

Websites for Further Information and Visit Planning


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2018

Doi Tung

Michael Babcock, Sunday, September 17th, 2017

(Click images to see larger version.)
(There’s a slideshow of images at the bottom.)

Doi Tung View

View at Doi Tung

One of my favorite places in all of Thailand is Doi Tung, a mountain (doi means mountain) 1,389 meters high located in the Golden Triangle in Chiang Rai province close to the Myanmar border. On Kasma’s Northern Frontiers trip (we have one scheduled for January 2018) we spend a day visiting 3 of the attractions there. I leave each of the three with a peaceful feeling, my heart full.

The area now is a lush, beautiful forested area with prosperous, thriving communities. It has not always been so. Had you gone in the mid-1980s you would have seen a barren, deforested area denuded by slash and burn agriculture. The roughly 11,000 people composed of 6 different ethnic minorities were living in abject poverty without basic infrastructure. People barely survived by cultivating opium, illegal logging and human traffic//www.thai.

The story of how its transformation came about is why there is such a special feeling to Doi Tung.

A Brief History of Doi Tung

The Princess Mother

The Princess Mother

Doi Tung was transformed because of projects initiated by an 87-year old woman, Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the mother of //www.thais Rama VIII and Rama IX and the grandmother of the current //www.thai Rama X – the Princess Mother (as she was called).

In 1987, at the age of 87, she came to Doi Tung for the first time and said “I will reforest Doi Tung.” Ever since she began hi//www.thai in the remote rural areas of northern Thailand in 1964 she had a special interest in the impoverished communities of the north. She encouraged and supported education, promoted traditional crafts as a way of earning a living and had a particular interest in improving medical care. (She had been trained as a nurse and her husband, the late Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, a trained physician, was the father of public health in Thailand.) In 1969 she had established mobile medical units that would bring trained personnel to remote regions, often accompanying them herself and earning the title Mae Fah Luang – “Mother from the Sky.”

Royal Villa 1

The Royal Villa & Garden

The people in Doi Tung were from 6 different ethnic minorities – Akha, Lahu, Tai Lue, Lawa, ethnic Shan and ethnic Chinese – who were not even accorded citizenship. The Royal family made no distinction – their compassion was for all people living in Thailand, whether citizen or not.

The Princess Mother initiated several projects at Doi Tung with the goal of bringing the people of the region out of poverty. The model came to be known as SALD – Sustainable Alternative Livelihood Development – with its stated goal “to transform poor and vulnerable communities from dependency and basic subsistence living, towards full socio-economic sufficiency and independence.” (From About Doi Tung.) The key word was “sustainable.” The Doi Tung Development Project was set up in 1988 to oversee and coordinate the many initiatives.

Doi Tung Coffee

Doi Tung Coffee

To cement her commitment to the transformation of Doi Tung, she built “a home at Doi Tung” – The Doit Tung Royal Villa. She had always traveled back and forth from Thailand to Switzerland, where she had originally moved with her three children in 1933. As she aged, she had been searching for a location to build a home and the northern climate of Doi Tung was a good substitute for Switzerland.

The project used methods first established by her son, H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), starting in 1969, when he set up the Ang Khang Royal Agricultural Station, which was the first successful attempt world-wide to transform a poverty-stricken area by replacing opium production with crop substitution.

At Doi Tung, the multi-pronged approach included education, medical care, treatment for addiction and job/skills training. Macadamia nut trees were planted with coffee plants underneath in order to create high-quality, shade-grown coffee for sale. The Doi Tung brand was created, a high-quality brand that had 4 branches – food, handicrafts (including woven clothes and accessories as well as ceramics and pottery), horticulture and tourism. By 2001, Doi Tung was self-sustaining.

Since 2003, the Doi Tung Development Project has been recognized by the United Nations as one of the best examples of alternative development in the world. Communities from Thailand, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Columbia have traveled to Doi Tung to learn how they can implement the principles at their locations. (See How it Spreads: Lessons from Doi Tung.)

Café Doi Tung

Café Doi Tung Treats

Café Doi Tung Treats

Our trips to Doi Tung always begin with a visit to Café Doi Tung. Coffee is one of the premier products of Doi Tung and since it is very tasty, it’s a great way to support the people there. I’ve already written about the Café in a previous blog (you’ll need to scroll about half-way down to the relevant section):

The coffee is delicious and the setting amongst the hills is a great place to enjoy your drink.

You can also purchase two of the signature products of Doi Tung: coffee, both as beans as well as individual cup drip-coffee packets; and macadamia nuts in the form of plain or seasoned nuts, macadamia nut butter (yum!) as well as macadamia nut cookies. The macadamia nuts are some of the best I’ve ever eaten – large and sweet. These products are now availalble all over Thailand – we regularly purchase them at several supermarkets in Bangkok.

The Royal Villa

Royal Villa & Garden

Royal Villa & Garden

The Royal Villa – picture a Thai-style Swiss chalet – was built to be the residence of the Princess Mother. It is a symbol of her commitment to transforming Doi Tung into a prosperous, self-sustaining community.

Because of its location, the climate is much more reminiscent of Switzerland than tropical Thailand. The two times I’ve visited Doi Tung it has been refreshingly cool.

The Princess Mother loved to garden. The villa is surrounded by beautiful flowers, many of them temperate climate plants, and also orchids. The walk up to the villa leads through planted flower beds to the house itself.

Wood carving

The Villa is filled with lovely wood carving

Alas, I’m unable to provide any photos of the interior of the villa where photography is forbidden. It’s a shame but perhaps best because photographs might not be able to adequately portray the peacefulness and beauty of the home. There is a lovely attention to detail throughout that includes beautiful wood carvings. As you go in, you are able to get an audio tour that explains what you are seeing. In the main hall, which would have been a reception area, there are beautiful art works as well as exhibits about the Princess Mother’s activities – including embroidery, reading detective novels and pressing flowers.

Much of the house has not been changed from when she was living there. I mostly was struck by the simplicity and serenity of her living areas.

Outside of the main reception hall is a balcony with a stunning view of the surrounding hills. When the Villa was built the view would have been quite barren. Now you see a thriving forest of green, a tribute to the transformation she inspired.

(See Education Attractions – Doi Tung Royal Villa.)

The Mae Fah Luang Garden

Mae Fah Luang Garden 1

A view at Mae Fah Luang Garden

The second main attraction at Doi Tung is the Mae Fah Luang Garden. The Princess Mother was an avid gardener and this lovely garden is a tribute to her love of plants.

Because of the elevation of Doi Tung (1,389 meters), many of the plants here reflect the Princess Mother’s desire to give the Thai people a chance to enjoy a temperate flower garden without having to travel out of Thailand. It also includes the lovely Lady’s Slipper Garden, containing a large variety of orchids of the genus Paphiopedilum (Lady Slipper). These orchids are also propagated commercially here – another of the projects providing self-sufficiency for the area. (See Doi Tung Development Project – Plants & Orchid.)

Located on 10 acres of land, it was originally an Akha village given to opium cultivation. The villagers were resettled and now local villagers earn a living nurturing and propagating the plants.

Lady Slipper 3

One of the Lady Slipper orchids

There is a fairly steep walk down through a lovely forest setting. On the way you pass by some colorful, whimsical stuffed animal figures that bring a smile to your face.

There are many paths for your wandering enjoyment. Other features include a lake with water birds, some example hill-tribe structures and a grassy area with the statue called “Continuity.”

For garden lovers, it’s worth a couple of hours just for wandering and enjoyment.

Note: This Mae Fah Luang Garden is different from the Mae Fah Luang Arboretum, which is situated in the Chang Moob Area. The arboretum is worth a visit of it its own with its combination of native flora, native orchids and rhododendrons from many countries set in the middle of a pine tree forest

For more information on the garden see Education Attractions – The Mae Fah Luang Garden.

The Hall of Inspiration

Hall of Inspiration

Hall of Inspiration

Is this the most compelling of the things to see at Doi Tung?

As a westerner, I found this exhibit moving and inspiring. I already knew of the dedication and service of Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX), how his foundations had initiated thousands of projects for the betterment of the Thai people. I loved this exhibit because it placed his service and philosophy in context.

The Hall of Inspiration is a record of the life and works of //www.thai Rama IX’s royal family, starting with his father, Prince Mahidol Adulyadej, the husband of the Princess Mother.

Photograph 2

The Royal Family in Switzerland

With historical photographs, videos and quotes I got such a lovely sense of how the family grew and evolved. Prince Mahidol himself inspired the selfless service that became the hallmark characteristic of the Princess Mother as well as //www.thai Bhumibol. Prince Mahidol is considered the father of modern medicine in Thailand for the efforts he made from 1920 (when he returned from his studies abroad) until his early death in September 1929.

The Hall documents how his wife, Princess Srinagarindra, carried on his legacy – she was offering scholarships to students as soon as they were back in the country in 1920. After her husband’s death, for the next two decades she raised three children as a single parent and instilled in them the parents’ ideals of selfless services.

Rippling water

Drops rippling in water

Then when her sons became //www.thais, she worked to improve the lives of both ethnic Thais and hilltribe people, through education, improved medical care and by training (including crafts) to develop economic independence and sufficiency. Even at the age of 87, a time when most people are slowing down to enjoy the fruits of their life, she initiated the Doi Tung Development Project and oversaw it until her death at the age of 91.

The Hall also highlights the history of Doi Tung, including photos and words from the villagers tal//www.thai about how the project affected and transformed their lives. Quotes from the Royal Family show the compassion and philosophy that drove their service.

Doi Tung itself is the living example of their philosophy:

Great things come from small beginnings
A gentle ripple starts from but a single drop;
That wave ever expanding, with no end in sight
Begins from one small point, our own self . . .

(See Hall of Inspiration.)


Doi Tung Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clic//www.thai on a slide will take you to the next image.


Princess Mother 2
Princess Mother 2
Doi Tung Signs
Café Doi Tung Sign
Café Doi Tung Treats
Café Doi Tung Sitting Area
Royal Villa 1
Royal Villa 2
Royal Villa 3
Royal Villa 4
Royal Villa 5
Wood carving
Doi Tung View
Royal Villa 6
Whimsical creature 1
Whimsical creature 2
Mae Fah Luang plant 1
Temperate climate foliage
Temperate plant
Rhododendron]
Temperate climate flower
Mae Fah Luang Garden 1
Mae Fah Luang Garden 2
Mae Fah Luang Garden 3
Mae Fah Luang Garden 4
Mae Fah Luang Garden 5
Dahlia bed
A dahlia
Glimmering foliage
Lady Slipper 1
Lady Slipper 2
Lady Slippers 3
Lady Slippers 4
Temperate foliage
Pond with ducks
Drying corn
Leaves and straw
Hall of Inspiration 1
Hall of Inspiration 2
Hall of Inspiration 3
Hall of Inspiration 4
Hall of Inspiration 5
Hall of Inspiration 6
Hall of Inspiration 7
Hall of Inspiration 8
Hall of Inspiration 9
Hall of Inspiration 10
Hall of Inspiration 11
Hall of Inspiration 12
Hall of Inspiration 13
Hall of Inspiration 14
Princess Srinagarindra

Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra

Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra exiting a helicopter at Doi Tung

Signs to the attractions at Doi Tung

The sign for Café Doi Tung

Some of the goodies available at Café Doi Tung

The sitting area at Café Doi Tung

A view of the Royal Villa, home of the Princess Mother

The Royal Villa viewed through one of its garden beds

The Royal Villa seen behind one of its gardens

The Royal Villa at Doi Tung

A view of the Royal Villa

An example of the lovely wood carving found at the Royal Villa

Doi Tung is nestled into the lovely mountains of northern Thailand

One of the orchids found in the gardens surrounding the Royal Villa

Whimsical creatures such as this decorate the trees at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another whimsical creature at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Foliage at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Temperate climate plants at the Mae Fah Lung Garden

Temperate climate flowers at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

An azalea at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another temperate climate plant at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

A view of part of the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another view of the lovely Mae Fah Luang Garden

Mae Fah Luang Garden view

Flower beds at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

More flower beds at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Dahlias at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Close-up of a dahlia at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Sun-lit foliage at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Lovely Paphiopedilums (Lady Slippers) at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

More Lady Slippers (Paphiopedilums) at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Close up of one of the lovely Lady Slipper orchids at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

Another close up of one of a lovely Lady Slipper orchids at the Mae Fah Luang Garden

A garden bed with temperate climate foliage and a statue

A pond with many ducks found in the Mae Fah Luang Garden

The Mae Fah Luang Garden has sample hilltribe buildings

A lovely still life found on one of the buildings

This sign greets you as you enter the Hall of Inspiration

Viewing the exhibits at the Hall of Inspiration

A sign at the Hall of Inspiration about Prince Mahidol

Photo of Prince Mahidol and Princess Srinagarindra

Sign with the words of Princess Srinagarindra

A photograph of the Royal Family in Switzerland

More words by Princess Srinagarindra on how she raised 2 kings

How change occurs from small beginnings

A pond at the Hall of Inspiration with ever-changing patterns

Drops of water expanding

The Hall of Inspiration covers the history of the Doi Tung Development

The guiding principle of Doi Tung

Some words of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Great things come from small beginnings

Princess Srinagarindra

The Princess Mother thumbnail
doi-tung-2 thumbnail
doi-tung-3 thumbnail
doi-tung-4 thumbnail
Café Doi Tung Treats thumbnail
doi-tung-6 thumbnail
doi-tung-7 thumbnail
doi-tung-8 thumbnail
Royal Villa & Garden thumbnail
doi-tung-10 thumbnail
doi-tung-11 thumbnail
doi-tung-12 thumbnail
doi-tung-13 thumbnail
doi-tung-14 thumbnail
doi-tung-15 thumbnail
doi-tung-16 thumbnail
doi-tung-17 thumbnail
doi-tung-18 thumbnail
doi-tung-19 thumbnail
doi-tung-20 thumbnail
doi-tung-21 thumbnail
doi-tung-22 thumbnail
doi-tung-23 thumbnail
doi-tung-24 thumbnail
doi-tung-25 thumbnail
doi-tung-26 thumbnail
doi-tung-27 thumbnail
doi-tung-28 thumbnail
doi-tung-29 thumbnail
doi-tung-30 thumbnail
doi-tung-31 thumbnail
doi-tung-32 thumbnail
doi-tung-33 thumbnail
doi-tung-34 thumbnail
doi-tung-35 thumbnail
doi-tung-36 thumbnail
doi-tung-37 thumbnail
Hall of Inspiration thumbnail
doi-tung-39 thumbnail
doi-tung-40 thumbnail
doi-tung-41 thumbnail
doi-tung-42 thumbnail
doi-tung-43 thumbnail
doi-tung-44 thumbnail
doi-tung-45 thumbnail
doi-tung-46 thumbnail
doi-tung-47 thumbnail
doi-tung-48 thumbnail
doi-tung-49 thumbnail
doi-tung-50 thumbnail
doi-tung-51 thumbnail
doi-tung-52 thumbnail

Websites for Further Study

Examining the Life of H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej – Rama IX

Kasma Loha-unchit, Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Introduction

Introduction by Michael Babcock

As the late King Bhumibol Adulydej’s funeral approaches, Kasma and I have been revisiting his life and feeling anew deep sorrow at the passing of this incredible man. I would have expected time (it’s 11 months since his death) to dull the grief somewhat: that has not been the case.

A friend of Kasma’s recently wondered what the fuss was about, why virtually an entire nation could revere one person so much. She wanted to better understand why Kasma is going to Thailand this year to take part in the ceremonies honoring the King.

Waiting to pay respects

Waiting to pay respects

As of September 4, over 10,000,000 people have come from across the country to pay respects before the Royal Urn at the Grand Palace’s Dusit Maha Prasart Throne Hall – that’s an average of 33,146 per day. On Sunday September 3 – 305 days after his death – a total of 45,125 arrived to pay their respects. The day Kasma and I went together in January we were just 2 out of nearly 60,000 people and waited 9 hours to get into the throne hall. Many people have gone multiple times. Donations from the people have amounted to 754,646,253 baht – around $23,000,000. (Figures from this September 4, 2017 Thai PBS article.)

Kasma put together this list for her friend. We invite you to follow some of the links and learn about this extraordinary being.

– Michael


Resources for the Life of King Rama IX

By Kasma Loha-unchit

King Rama IX

King Rama IX

“While I was in Bangkok I became how very aware people felt about your late King. Even then he was not well and there was a palpable feeling of worry and concern for him. That’s wonderful that you are going over early and can truly participate in honouring your finest monarch. Where can we read about his great works Kasma?”

              – Kasma’s friend’s question

Written Word Online

There are tons of books written about the King and his great works and words of wisdom, though the most precious are the books written in the Thai language and published within Thailand. In fact, anything about the King becomes best sellers these days. I recall how sad it was when I arrived in Thailand last November and all magazines on the news racks, local and international, had the King’s picture splashed on the cover in black and white and this continued for three months until the end of the year. The Bangkok Post published a tribute about the King’s life and the Thai Embassy has a page with a few articles about him, if you wish a quick and easy read about him:

Videos

King at Work

The King at Work

There are also a great number of YouTube videos with very touching images and stories. I particularly love the one put together by a couple of Thailand’s well-known documentary film makers in tribute to him; it’s a composite of flashbacks, images of sorrow, and the preparation and execution of the incredible mass singing of the Royal Anthem in his honor by hundreds of thousands gathered outside the Grand Palace a few weeks following his death. I’m reduced to a puddle of tears every time I see it and hear the King’s voice in an address he gave in 1976:

Here are a few more Youtube videos in English which will tell you the story why Thais love him so much:

And if you have time, the BBC filmed an excellent 2–1/2 hour documentary on the royal family in 1979, which you can also watch on YouTube:

Books

Rama IX with his people

Rama IX with his people

The above probably are enough to satisfy your interest, but should you be curious and wish to read more about the life of one of the greatest men to walk on this earth in the 20th century, here are my favorite books in the English language about him (although you may have a hard time finding most of them online):

  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life’s Work by Nicholas Grossman (Editor-in-Chief); first published 2011; ISBN 978-981-4260-56-5
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej: Thailand’s Guiding Light (1996 The Post Publishing Public Co.. Ltd.); ISBN: 974-202-040-X
  • The Mahidol Family by Parichat Khumraksa (Translator: M.R. Usnisa Sukhsvasti), 2014; ISBN 978-616-374-073-1
  • King Bhumibol Adulyadej: The New Kingship (A Three-Volume Series: Vol. I : From Prince to King; Vol. II: Strength of the Land; Vol. III: By the Light of Your Wisdom) by Danai Chanchaochai; ISBN:978-974-9977-57-6 (an easy-read set)
  • The Revolutionary King: The True-Life Sequel to ‘The King and I’ by William Stevenson (first published in 1999); ISBN: 1-84119-451-4
  • The King of Thailand in World Focus (Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand, articles from the international press 1946-2006, first published 2007); Editor-in-Chief: Denis D. Gray; ISBN: 978-974-7348-54-5

Songs

There have also been dozens of songs penned and recorded by popular musicians in tribute to the King over his reign and following his death. Of course, they’re all in Thai except for two tributes by the international expat community in Bangkok. Here’s a nice one that I thought you might like (recorded a couple of years before his death):

Postscript

I think I’ve more than overwhelmed you with information about my beloved King. See what a short nine-word question can get you? The King has been the focus of my life this year and it’s been very hard to accept that the hero of my life has left.

King Rama IX

King Rama IX

 


Written by Kasma Loha-unchit, September 2017

Doi Suthep – A Personal View

Michael Babcock, Friday, February 20th, 2015

Doi Suthep Scene

Monks at Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai is the most important temple in northern Thailand. This blog is a slideshow of images I took when visiting in January 2015. Temples in Thailand can consist of many buildings inside a compound (the wat). There is nearly always a stupa (called chedi in Thai) and a building with the main Buddha image.

The main feature of Doi Suthep is a large chedi in an inner courtyard; a sala around the courtyard contains temple murals and many Buddha statues. In-between the chedi and the sala is an area with many “chapels.” One of the customs at Doi Suthep (indeed, at many temples) is to walk around the main chedi 3 times in a clockwise direction. Outside the chedi area are many more statues and various buildings.

I love photographing temples in Thailand. Everywhere you look there are arresting visual images and details that are easy to overlook if you focus on seeing just the main attractions. Doi Suthep is particularly rich in photogenic features. I’ve been there many times and each time it is varied and different. This photo essay represents this year only.

Since one picture is allegedly worth 1,000 words, here is my “29,000 word” blog, each picture accompanied by a minimum of words to provide context.

You may want to walk through the photos by clicking on each image so that you can have time to read the accompanying text. Give time for the slides to load. Please enjoy.

Doi Suthep Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

doi-suthep-01
doi-suthep-02
doi-suthep-03
doi-suthep-04
doi-suthep-05
doi-suthep-06
doi-suthep-07
doi-suthep-08
doi-suthep-09
doi-suthep-10
doi-suthep-11
doi-suthep-12
doi-suthep-13
doi-suthep-14
doi-suthep-15
doi-suthep-16
Doi Suthep Scene
doi-suthep-18
doi-suthep-19
doi-suthep-20
doi-suthep-21
doi-suthep-22
doi-suthep-23
doi-suthep-24
doi-suthep-25
doi-suthep-26
doi-suthep-27
doi-suthep-28
doi-suthep-29
doi-suthep-30

Doi Suthep is on a hill; this is the first Buddha image you see as you arrive at the base of the hill.

Passing shops, you come to the base of the stairs, where these Lisu girls wait to be photographed (for a fee). The Naga (mythical dragon) protects the stairs.

Being photographed can be boring work.

The lower staircase has some interesting details, such as this crocodile.

Another detail at the bottom of the stairs.

The stairs to the temple, with over 300 steps; a tram is available.

One of two giants who guard the top of the staircase.

The main chedi against a cloudy sky.

A Buddha in the inner courtyard surrounding the chedi, with murals on the wall in back.

Another Buddha statue: the inner courtyard is lined with different Buddhas and murals.

One of the temple murals.

A mural of the Buddha's Enlightenment as witnessed by the Earth Mother Goddess.

Close-up of the Earth Mother Goddess.

The roofs of one of the buildings on the compound.

The main chedi is surrounded by many chapels, such as this one.

Monks with the "9th pre-requisite" - a digital camera.

Many people, including monks, walk around the main chedi 3 times (once for the Buddha, once for the Dhamma and once for the Sangha).

The author of this blog. Photo by his wife, Kasma.

This statue is found in the area outside the main chedi area.

A statue of the Earth Mother Goddess in the area outside the main chedi area.

A view from outside the main chedi.

Two young Thai dancers in the area leading to the main chedi - there are usually entertainers there.

Close-up of one of the Thai dancers.

A guardian statue at a staircase outside the main chedi.

Solicitation for tips at a coffee shop at the top of the stairs.

Fried food for sale at the bottom of the staircase on the way out; that area is lined with shops.

Fried quail eggs at the bottom of the stairs. Delicious!

A photograph of Chao Dararasmi, Princess Consort of the Fifth Reign, one of many old photographs at the bottom of the stairs off the road.

Chao Dararasmi and her niece, a photo at the bottom of the stairs off the road.

We'll end with the first image.

doi-suthep-01 thumbnail
doi-suthep-02 thumbnail
doi-suthep-03 thumbnail
doi-suthep-04 thumbnail
doi-suthep-05 thumbnail
doi-suthep-06 thumbnail
doi-suthep-07 thumbnail
doi-suthep-08 thumbnail
doi-suthep-09 thumbnail
doi-suthep-10 thumbnail
doi-suthep-11 thumbnail
doi-suthep-12 thumbnail
doi-suthep-13 thumbnail
doi-suthep-14 thumbnail
doi-suthep-15 thumbnail
doi-suthep-16 thumbnail
doi-suthep-17 thumbnail
doi-suthep-18 thumbnail
doi-suthep-19 thumbnail
doi-suthep-20 thumbnail
doi-suthep-21 thumbnail
doi-suthep-22 thumbnail
doi-suthep-23 thumbnail
doi-suthep-24 thumbnail
doi-suthep-25 thumbnail
doi-suthep-26 thumbnail
doi-suthep-27 thumbnail
doi-suthep-28 thumbnail
doi-suthep-29 thumbnail
doi-suthep-30 thumbnail

 


Written & Photographed by Michael Babcock, February 2015

 

Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park in Chiang Rai

Michael Babcock, Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

One of the highlights when we visited Northen Thailand earlier this year (January 2014) was the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park in Chiang Rai, Thailand. Hosting the region’s largest collection of folk art and teak artifacts from the Lanna Kingdom, the adjective I would use to describe it is gracious. The highlights, aside from the art, are a beautiful golden pavilion, an elegant peaceful garden and a museum of Lanna art, contemporary and old.

This is a rather long blog with 6 sections:

(Click images to see larger version.)

Haw Kham – The Golden Pavilion

Outside the Cultural Park

Approaching the Cultural Park

Golden Pavilion

The Golden Pavilion

When we came here, I knew nothing about the place at all. As we walked in on foot towards the Cultural Park, we came upon a wooden walkway over a lovely pond, surrounded by natural beauty and peacefulness. In the back we saw the Golden Pavilion: a beautiful teakwood building in the Lanna style of architecture that was presented as a gift to the Princess Mother to celebrate her 84th birthday in 1984. It was constructed by 32 wooden houses given by various people in Chiang Rai out of love for the Princess Mother. The Golden Pavilion reflects the deep love and gratitude towards the Princess Mother and all that she had done for the Northern people.

Covered Walkway

Covered walkway

Pavilion detail

Detail of the Golden Pavilion

The walkway itself is a work of art, with it’s wooden beams and supports. There are lovely details on the sides of the pavilion as well (see upper right).

Elephant Carvings

Elephant carvings on the staircase

Doorway Detail

Detail above the doorway

The stairway and door of the pavilion are rich in detail and beauty, as these two pictures show: a row of elephants walks you up the stairs and on the lintels above the door, celestial beings great you.

At the bottom of the stairs we were met by a young woman in a lovely Thai dress who was our guide into the pavilion.

The Pavilion is not a museum. The idea was to include notable religious and secular objects, many used in Lanna ritual and displayed within context; there are ritual items such as candelabras, wooden standards and containers for floral offerings. The interior is candlelit and there is a feeling of sanctity. One of the more prominent images is a wooden Buddha statue named Pra Pratoh, which, according to inscriptions, was created in 1693.

Pavilion interior

Inside the Golden Pavilion

Central Pillar

Central pillar

Photography is forbidden inside the pavilion. The ritual objects are around a hallway or balcony surrounding the interior of the building overlooking a central courtyard with a white sand floor. A red and gold pillar rises from the center of the floor. It’s a lovely, quiet space.

You can see the inside of the pavilion in this picture (above left) from down below, looking up from the white sand floor. If you click on the (left) picture (to enlarge) you can see part of the walkway with the objects displayed in the back of the photo.

Candelabra #1

One candelabra

Candelabra #2

Another candelabra

Many of the ritual objects displayed in the Pavilion were candelabras that hold 7 candles. The two photos shown above were taken from outside the pavilion where a number of these candelabras were displayed around the building’s base.


Background of the Cultural Park

Princess Mother

The Princess Mother

Mae Fah Luang is one of the titles of Her Royal Highness Princess Srinagarindra, the Princess Mother, who was the mother of the current King of Thailand. It means “Royal Mother from the Sky,” in part a reference to the Princess Mother’s work in bringing medicine to the rural areas of the north by helicopter, often accompanying the medical teams herself. The Foundation grew out of all of her work on behalf of the Thai people. It began life as the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation that the Princess Mother founded in 1972 to offer market access for craft-making villages in Northern Thailand; it was renamed in 1985 to reflect the increasing emphasis on social issues, including education and sustainable development, that were being developed based on the Princess Mother’s philosophy and ideas.

Water Basin

Lanna water container

The Cultural Park was established at what was called the Rai Mae Fah Luang, a center for education and skills training for hill tribe youth in Northern Thailand. It was established to house the Royal Collection of Lanna Art in order to make the art available to the northern people in order to educate them about their cultural heritage. It is the largest collection of Lanna art in the region.

The word Lanna means “a million rice fields” and the Lanna Kingdom was founded in the 13th century AD by King Mengrai. It was basically a federation of smaller princialities in the north, including areas in Burma, Laos, Thailand and southern China. Conquered in the mid-16th century by the Burmese, it became a vassal state of Siam in the late 18th century, remaining a loose federation with up to 57 city states or principalities. In 1892, Siam officially annexed Lanna and it became part of Thailand.

The Garden

From the Golden Pavilion, we spent time wandering around the second main feature of the Park: the garden, a botanical collection with indigenous and rare plants from the northern region.

Air Plants

Giant air plants

Tropical Leaf

Tropical leaf

The garden has some beautiful specimens, such as these giant air plants (above left). Many plants have interesting leaf structures.

Pond

Pond and urns

3 statues

3 garden statues

There are graceful details throughout, such as these urns at the edge of a pond. Statues are nestled in amongst the plants.

Stones #1

Stone garden

Stones #2

Stone garden

There’s a lovely use of rocks and stones to add accents and interest, such as the two photos above.

Carving #1

Garden carving

Spirit House

Spirit house close-up

Carving #2

Carved pillar

These three photos show some of the other features in the garden.

Wall

Wall with carvings

Carving Detail

Carving detail

Even the walls of the building are interesting, with wooden carvings part of the structure.


Haw Kaew – The Museum

The other main part of the Cultural Park is the Haw Kaew. According to the brochure handed out at the Park, “Haw Kaew presents a permanent exhibition based on artifacts and religious items made from teak, as teak was used in people’s everyday lives. In addition there are revolving exhibitions featuring “topics related to the diverse ethic cultures of Lanna.”

Painting

Portrait of the Princess Mother

Museum Entry

Museum entry

One of the first things that you see when you come into the museum is a portrait of the Princess Mother. It is hard to convey the devotion that most northern people feel for this extraordinary woman. She was instrumental in bringing education, skills training, medicine and dental care to the rural northerners. In the west we seem to have a somewhat jaundiced view of royalty. It’s different in Thailand because of the dedication of the current royal family, which began with the Princess Mother. (See the Wikipedia entry on Srinagarindra (the Princess Mother).)

Painting

By Dr. Kamol Tassanaanchalee

Bas Relief

Creation by Jarron Chaijajit

Banner

Modern banner

The museum includes a collection of contemporary art by northern Thai artists. Above left is a painting by Dr. Kamol Tassananchalee based on what the sign calls “Thailand’s most popular love song” – Lovelorn Song, the lyrics by Chalie Intravichit. In the center is a wood carving – “Creation,” by Jarron Chaijajit. To the right is a banner, attributed only to “a Chiangrai artist.”

Modern Sculpture

Modern sculpture

Sculpture Close-up

Close-up of the sculpture

Sculpture Detail

Sculpture detail

I loved this wooden sculpture with all of it’s textures and folds.

Naga Carvings

Lanna temple naga carvings

Enshrined Buddha #1

Enshrined Buddha

Wooden carving

Wooden carving

Still, the bulk of the collection consists of older Lanna art. Above left is a row of nagas (the naga is a mythical dragon) taken from various Lanna temples. The museum includes a number of enshrined Buddhas, such as the one in the center above. There are numerous wooden carvings, such as the one above right, presumably of a celestial being or princess.

Manuscript Chest

Manuscript chest

Enshrined Buddha #2

Another enshrined Buddha

The picture above left shows a manuscript chest that would have been used to store Buddhist scriptures. To the right is a teak carving of the Buddha enclosed by 2 protective nagas; the sign for this piece says “Enshrining an image of the Lord Buddha Shan.

The Slideshow below has further images from the museum.


Note: There’s also a smaller buiding on the grounds called the Haw Kham Noi . It houses mural paintings originally done in tempera painted directly on teak panels in a temple in Phrae province; they were saved from sale as antique by the villagers and sent here for safekeeping. We did not see the murals when we were there.


Location

อุทยานศิลปะวัฒนธรรมแม่ฟ้าหลวง
313 หมู่ 7 บ้านป่างิ้ว ต.รอบเวียง อ.เมือง จ.เชียงราย 57000
โทร. 053 716 605-7, 053 601 013 โทรสาร 053 712 429
อีเมล : rmfl@doitung.org

Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park
313 Moo 7, Baan Pa Ngiew
Tambon Robwiang, Amphoe Muang Chiang Rai,
Chiang Rai 57000 Thailand
Phone: 053 716-605 (to 607), 053-601-013
Fax: 053-712-429
Email: rmfl@doitung.org

Hours 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., closed Monday
Entrance fee: 100 to 200 baht.
Mae Fah Luang Map of Chiang Rai (with center)
Website (in Thai only)

Explore Further

Information from this blog comes, in part, from the following websites:

See Also


Slideshow

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Outside the Cultural Park
Golden Pavilion
Pavilion detail
Covered Walkway
Elephant Carvings
Doorway Detail
Pavilion interior
Central Pillar
Candelabra #1
Candelabra #2
Air Plants
Tropical Leaf
Pond
3 statues
Carving #1
Carving #2
Stones #1
Stones #2
Spirit Houses
Spirit House
Wall
Carving Detail
Princess Mother
Water Basin
Painting
Museum Entry
Paintingn
Bas Relief
Banner
Modern Sculpture
Sculpture Close-up
Sculpture Detail
Naga Carvings
Enshrined Buddha #1
Wooden carving
Wooden Carving #2
Manuscript Chest
Enshrined Buddha #2
Headboard
Naga
Enshrined Buddha #3
Buddha Statue

The pond and walkways approaching the Cultural Park

The Golden Pavilion - Haw Kahm - at Mae Fah Luang Cultural Park

Details on the side of the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Covered walkway approaching the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Elephant carvings on the staircase to the Golden Pavilion

Detail above the doorway to the Golden Pavilion

The white sand floor and the Golden Pavilion from below

Central pillar at the Golden Pavilion (Haw Kahm)

Candelabra at the base of the Golden Pavilion

Another candelabra at the base of the Golden Pavilion

Some air plants in tho Cultural Park's garden

Tropical leaf at the Cultural Park's garden

Pond with urns at the Cultural Park's garden

3 statues at the Cultural Park's garden

Carving found in the Cultural Park's garden

Carved pillar in the Cultural Park's garden

Stone feature in the Cultural Park's garden

Another set of stones in the Cultural Park's garden

Spirit houses in the Cultural Park's garden

Close up of a spirit house in the Cultural Park's garden

Wall with carvings in the Cultural Park's garden

Detail of the carving on the building wall

This relief of the Princess Mother is found outside the museum

A common Lanna feature outside homes - water for washing your hands

Portrait of the Princess Mother in the Museum's entry

In the entry room of the Museum

Modern painting By Dr. Kamol Tassananchalee based on the love song "Lovelorn Song"

A modern wood-carving titled "Creation," by Jarron Chaijajit

Banner by a (modern) Chiang Rai Artist

Modern wood sculpture

A close-up of the modern wood sculpture

Detail of the modern wood sculpture

Naga carvings from Lanna temples

Lanna depiction of an enshrined Buddha

Wooden carving

Decorated panel below one of the ceilings

Manuscript chest for Buddhist scriptures

Sign says "Enshrining an image of the Lord Buddha Shan (Teak)"

Carved demon on the headboard for a bed

Sign says "Naga, temple roof decoration"

Buddha enshrined in a painted, wooden cabinet

Buddha statue. So peaceful.

Outside the Cultural Park thumbnail
Golden Pavilion thumbnail
Pavilion Detail thumbnail
Covered Walkway thumbnail
Elephant Carvings thumbnail
Doorway Detail thumbnail
Pavilion Interior thumbnail
Central Pillar thumbnail
Candelabra #1 thumbnail
Candelabra #2 thumbnail
Air Plants thumbnail
Tropical Leaf thumbnail
Pond thumbnail
3 Statues thumbnail
Carving #1 thumbnail
Carving #2 thumbnail
Stones #1 thumbnail
Stones #2 thumbnail
Spirit Houses thumbnail
Spirit House thumbnail
Wall thumbnail
Carving Detail thumbnail
Princess Mother thumbnail
Water Basin thumbnail
Painting thumbnail
Museum Entry thumbnail
Painting thumbnail
Bas Relief thumbnail
Banner thumbnail
Modern Sculpture thumbnail
Sculpture Close-up thumbnail
Sculpture Detail thumbnail
Naga Carvings thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #1 thumbnail
Wooden Carving thumbnail
Wooden Carving #2 thumbnail
Manuscript Chest thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #2 thumbnail
Headboard thumbnail
Naga thumbnail
Enshrined Buddha #3 thumbnail
Buddha Statue thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, October 2015

Wat Phumin in Nan – The Murals

Michael Babcock, Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Perhaps the most famous temple murals in Thailand are at Wat Phumin in Nan in the North. This is a quick look at the history and at some of the enticing scenes that can be found there, taken on our visit to Nan in January of 2014.

The temple murals were one of the features of Northern Thailand temples that most intrigued me when we visited there this past January. Most temples had murals and some of them were quite fascinating (as were the murals at Wat Phumin).

(Click images to see larger version.)

Mural #1

The artist & his lady

Much of the information in this blog comes from the book Reading Thai Murals by David K. Wyatt; copyright 2004 and published by Silkworm Books in Chiang Mai. (Reading Thai Murals, Amazon) Rather than being comprehensive (you can read Wyatt for that), I’m going to quickly go over some of the history and then include a slideshow of images that caught my eye as I wandered around the interior of the temple (for quite some time).

Seen here, to the left, is, perhaps, the most famous of all the images from Wat Phumin. Anyone who has visited Nan has seen it on any number of souvenirs, t-shirts and posters. Local tradition has it that this image shows the artist, Thit Buaphan, himself with a female companion.

Wat Phumin #1

Wat Phumin exterior

Wat Phumin #2

Wat Phumin exterior

The main building at Wat Phumin is both the “ubosot” (ordination hall) and the “viharn” (meeting hall). (At some temples these will be two separate buildings.) It’s in the shape of a cross (cruciform) built on the back of two giant nagas (the naga is a mythical serpent, much like a water dragon). The main entrance is guarded by two “singh” (mythical lions).

Buddha Image

Main Buddha image

In the center of the building there is a 4-sided Buddha statue, with a Buddha facing in each of the 4 directions (towards the doors). The statue is in a posture known as “Subduing Mara” or “Calling Earth to Witness” and represents the Buddha at the moment of his enlightenment. At that moment, Mara mocks Buddha and asks how he can claim to be enlightened, who is there to witness his enlightenment? The Buddha takes one hand and points to the earth, indicating that the Earth Mother Goddess will bear witness.

Murals

A wall of murals

Really, though, the main attraction in this temple is provided by the murals. The picture to the right shows how entire walls are completely covered with murals. These murals were painted beginning in 1894 by a Thai Lue artist named Thit Buaphan, who was well known for painting the murals at Wat Nong Bua (also in Nan Province). He had many assistants and the work continued into the 20th century.

The main story represented here is a story of one of the Buddha’s past lives – one of the so-called Jâtaka stories. There are roughly 550 “official” stories and, in addition, another 50 or so stories about previous lives that are included in a collection called the Paññâsajâtaka, known mainly in Burma, Northern Thailand & Laos.

Mural #2

Mural of the main story

At the time the murals were painted, Nan was a separate kingdom that was a vassal-state to the Kingdom of Siam. In 1893, Siam made Nan give half of its kingdom to the French to become part of French Indochina, in order to appease the French. One of the reasons that Thailand was never colonized was because, on several occasions, they made gestures such as this to appease the western powers. Obviously, this move was not popular in Nan.

The main story depicted at Wat Phumin is a story that (according to David Wyatt) is found in just a few manuscripts and most likely only published in Laos. Wyatt knows of no other temple where this story is portrayed. The story concerns an orphan, Gaddhana, who went searching for his absent father (said to be the god Indra, disguised at an Elephant). As Wyatt says (on page 21):

. . .The theme of orphanhood thus is repeated, acted out in the panels of the mural at Wat Phumin, though the orphanhood is the condition of lacking a father and not lacking a mother.

The message that viewers were reading off the walls was from a cautionary tale of persistence through adversity, in a world suffused with evil in which virtue was rewarded eventually.

Mural #3

Woman weaving

Wyatt says the story was chosen as a subtle criticism of Siam’s actions in giving Nan’s land away, chosen because more overt criticism was impossible.

Along with another Jâtaka story on the walls, and interwoven as part of the stories, we see the portrayal of ordinary, day-to-day life in the late 19th century; it is these depictions that set the murals apart and account for their fame. Amongst numerous individuals in the midst of daily activities, we also see representations of Europeans, hill tribe people, animals and lovers, both heterosexual and transgender. It is a marvelous celebration of life.

Slideshow – Murals at Wat Phumin in Nan

Rather than point out slides and themes, I’m going to insert below a slideshow of some of the wonderful images that you can see at Wat Phumin. Where I’m able, I will point out what is being portrayed (often relying on David Wyatt); otherwise, I’ll let the slide speak for itself.

Rather than setting the slideshow to run by itself, you may want to simply click on each picture to see the next image, so that you can go as slowly as you might like to enjoy the images.

Click on “Play” below to begin a slideshow.

Clicking on a slide will take you to the next image.

Mural #1
Mural #2
wat-phumin-08
wat-phumin-09
wat-phumin-10
wat-phumin-11
wat-phumin-12
wat-phumin-13
Mural #3
wat-phumin-14
wat-phumin-15
wat-phumin-16
wat-phumin-17
wat-phumin-18
wat-phumin-19
wat-phumin-20
wat-phumin-21
wat-phumin-23
wat-phumin-24
wat-phumin-25
wat-phumin-26
wat-phumin-27
wat-phumin-28
wat-phumin-29
wat-phumin-22
wat-phumin-30
wat-phumin-31
wat-phumin-32
wat-phumin-33
wat-phumin-34
wat-phumin-36
wat-phumin-37

According to local tradition, the rightmost figure is the artist, Thit Buaphan

Gaddhana asking his mother who was his father

Gaddhana and his mother. The 2 boys above are playing a game

Close-up of Gaddhana and his mother

Transgender couple

Women going to market

Men & women flirting

Woman at spinning wheel and an aggressive musician

Mural showing a woman weaving

Hilltribe people with a dog barking at them

Elephant and soldiers

The Buddha and disciples

The artist, Thit Buaphan, and his lady companion

Europeans at a dock

According to Wyatt, a Nan monk

"Helping seek the Lord Buddha" (Wyatt)

Serpents; perhaps a depiction of the Buddhist hell realm

Europeans unloading a ship with (apparently) 4 London bobbies

Close-up of Europeans unloading a ship

"People entering a city" (caption says)

"Escalator" picture; caption says they are on their way to heaven

Mural #1 thumbnail
Mural #2 thumbnail
wat-phumin-08 thumbnail
wat-phumin-09 thumbnail
wat-phumin-10 thumbnail
wat-phumin-11 thumbnail
wat-phumin-12 thumbnail
wat-phumin-13 thumbnail
Mural #3 thumbnail
wat-phumin-14 thumbnail
wat-phumin-15 thumbnail
wat-phumin-16 thumbnail
wat-phumin-17 thumbnail
wat-phumin-18 thumbnail
wat-phumin-19 thumbnail
wat-phumin-20 thumbnail
wat-phumin-21 thumbnail
wat-phumin-23 thumbnail
wat-phumin-24 thumbnail
wat-phumin-25 thumbnail
wat-phumin-26 thumbnail
wat-phumin-27 thumbnail
wat-phumin-28 thumbnail
wat-phumin-29 thumbnail
wat-phumin-22 thumbnail
wat-phumin-30 thumbnail
wat-phumin-31 thumbnail
wat-phumin-32 thumbnail
wat-phumin-33 thumbnail
wat-phumin-34 thumbnail
wat-phumin-36 thumbnail
wat-phumin-37 thumbnail

Written by Michael Babcock, July 2014