The museums of Chiang Mai

887 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

January, 2019

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Reasons for trip

Whilst staying in Chiang Mai, we wanted to visit the Arts and Cultural Centre.

We found the cream colonial style building behind the Three Kings Monument which is roughly at the centre of the square walled city. The kings, Mengrai, Ramkamhaeng and Ngam Muang, were the founding fathers of Chiang Mai.

Tickets were 120 Baht/£3 but for an extra £1.30, we could buy a ticket which allowed us to visit two other sites within seven days and we went for the latter.

A map in English of the layout of the two-storey building appeared unnecessary as red arrows on the floor steered us through the various rooms via ‘in’ and ‘out’ curtains. A 10-minute film told us about Chiang Mai today and we followed each room in turn which led us through the history of the city including how it was constructed using astrological and religious beliefs to secure the location.

Having gone up to the second floor and through Life along the Mao Ping River, with depictions of the various traders that would have lined the river, we lost our way and ended up in the gift shop and exit rather than ‘Life in the City’. We tried to retrace our steps, but the layout was designed not to let you re-enter and although we found ‘Life on the Hill’ and ‘Agricultural Life’, Buddhism defeated us!

However, there were some interesting and unusual pieces in the gift shop, a small café and plenty of loos.

The second site was the smaller Lanna Folklife Museum which had the same set up of interconnecting rooms and red arrows on the floor. It took us through various aspects of the Lanna community including how they worshiped, textiles they created, music and lifestyle etc. There were some stunning colourful wall murals and stained glass paintings. Again, it was a beautiful building and located in the old provincial courthouse. There was a small café and loos just to the side.

A sign pointed us to the Chiang Mai House of Photography behind the museum and having taken off our shoes, we entered what was more like a furniture show room with a few old black and white photos on the walls.

Before the third site, we stopped for a break at the lovely, tree-shaded café run by women prisoners who also provided massages: the latter appeared to be very busy as a prison officer stood in the doorway bearing a ‘full’ sign. Ironically, a gentleman left his wallet on a table and ‘staff’ and customers all rushed to return it.

The Chiang Mai historical Centre was the third venue and the smallest. This time, there was no map but it was easy to follow. The first section told of Chiang Mai legends, with lots of maps showing the trading routes and goods traded. Then two interactive screens with films were unfortunately too close and competed with each other. We finished by walking through two sets of architectural ruins.

All three museums provided a good introduction to the city and its history, but more importantly, they kept us cool during the heat of the day.

Helen Jackson

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