By The Nation
Visitors to the North can enjoy the green landscapres of Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden and Ob Luang National Park as the heat gives way to rain
WITH THE end of summer rains turning the rice fields and pastures green, there has never been a better time to experience the stunning beauty of the Chiang Mai highlands.
Once place not to miss is the 6,500-rai Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Mae Rim district, home to Thailand’s biggest glasshouse complex that showcases several kinds of plants and flowers all the year round.
Opened in 1993, this was the first botanical garden of international standard in Thailand and focuses on maintaining biodiversity while promoting environmental conservation.
The Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden is home to Thailand’s biggest glasshouse complex, boasting several kinds of plants and blossoms.
The modern complex features 12 glasshouses, each displaying a wide range of rare plants, Thai endemic species and other plants from around the globe. Spread over 1,000 square meters, the Tropical Rainforest conservatory is home to a long wooden walkway, imitation waterfall and tropical palms, banana trees and the various ginger varieties found in Thailand and around Southeast Asia.
The Arid Plant House brings visitors into the desert in a dizzy display of succulents, cacti and agaves from the US, Mexico, Peru and Brazil growing alongside euphorbias and aloes from Africa.
The Orchids and Ferns House resembles a paradise on earth, adorned with epiphytic and terrestrial orchids and ferns – most of them native species. Thailand boasts some 1,200 species of orchids like Dendrobium and Bulbophyllum, which have been threatened by over-collection and deforestation.
The Arid Plant House combines succulents, cacti, agaves, euphorbias and aloes from around the world.
Opened in 2016, the Canopy Walks is the latest addition to the botanical garden and offers picturesque views of Doi Mon Kwham Long. Standing 20 metres above the ground, this 500-metre bridge is assembled from quality steel and safety glass to offer visitors a smooth walk and a bird’s-eye view of the garden and pine forest from the treetops.
The botanical garden also offers visitors a selection of trekking trails, based on the routes once used by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit to survey the land. Visitors of all ages can enjoy an easy 45-minute stroll through the lush jungle, which is home to magnolias, bananas, palms, pines, cassias, cycads and ferns to learn about ecology and the life cycle of pill millipedes.
The Canopy Walks is the latest addition to the botanical garden offering a bird’s eye view from the treetops.
From the botanical garden, it’s a couple of hours by car to Hot district, home to the Ob Luang National Park with its beautiful landscapes and limestone mountain ranges.
Surrounded by a verdant bamboo forest, the long walkway leads visitors to the popular vantage point overlooking the Mae Chaem River, which has carved out the two-metre-wide Ob Luang canyon.
The canyon formed in an uplifted rock layer of the earth’s crust and consists of Metamorphouf Rock, the oldest type in Thailand and these days is crossed by a sturdy wooden bridge.
The park also houses the Grave from the Bronze Period, which was discovered in 1985 by a group of Thai and French archaeologists, namely Sayan Prishanchit, Dr Marielle Santoni and Dr Jean Pierre Pautreau.
It contains an incomplete skeleton of a young woman, featuring her head, 32 teeth, legs and arms with nine seashell bracelets on the left and other five on the right. A collection of beads made from seashells and carnelian stones was also found near her body alongside broken pottery vases and bowls, now on display at Chiang Mai’s National Museum. All the finds bear witness to the community that lived in this spot 7,000 to 8,000 years ago.
Ob Luang National Park has a narrow limestone canyon carved by a river stream.
Pa Chang Cliff displays a series of ancient paintings on its wall. This area is believed to be a camp and ceremonial site for nomadic hunters during the late Stone Age and early Bronze Age, making it the oldest archaeological site in the North of Thailand.
Sayan discovered these ancient mural paintings, stone utensils and animal bones during a survey in 1984. The faded paintings illustrate an elephant, humans and other symbols using a pastel palette of dark reddish, black and white to conduct the age-old rituals.
Just five minutes from the national park is Suan Son Bor Kaew. Popular with local residents, it’s the perfect picnic spot with a picturesque backdrop of towering pine trees. And if the packed picnics fall short, food stalls opposite the garden have a great selection of local delicacies, coffee, teas and fruit juices.