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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
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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
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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
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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

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Websites for Further Information and Visit Planning


Written by Michael Babcock, January 2018

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