5th ASLE-ASEAN Ecocritical Conference
Posthuman Southeast Asia
23-25 November 2023
Inside MFU Campus
- Sirindhorn Chinese Language and Culture Center: Established through the cooperation of Mae Fah Luang University and the People’s Republic of China, the center was built as a memorial to honor the Princess mother as a symbol of friendship between the two nations. The center's design adheres to Chinese principles. The architecture replicates the Suzhou Chinese structure, building decorations and the garden ornaments by complying with the design layouts and using authentic materials shipped from China. The roofing tiles, the doors and the marble tiles laid at the entrance are all examples of a few of the materials brought from China.
- Mekong Basin Civilization Museum: This is a small on-campus museum that showcases the arts and cultures of the Greater Mekong Subregion. Contact staff before visiting: Tel. +66(0)5391 7067 / email@example.com.
- MFU Botanical Garden: The whole MFU campus is conceived as a botanical garden managed by the team of university gardeners. The landscape gardens are open to visitors and feature various thematic areas, such as a Medicinal Plant Garden, Buddhist Garden, Ethnobotany Garden, Flower Garden, etc.
In the City
- Munniti Chiang Rai: Across from Sammakkhi Wittayakhom School on Banpaprakan, this Taoist and Mahayana Buddhist temple is a rare sight in Theravada Buddhist Thailand. There is a Shan house and a temple dedicated to to the Chinese Goddess of Mercy featuring a large statue. In the Ban Kheck area, there is another Goddess of Mercy temple.
- Wat Klang Wiang: Dating back to 1432, this is an excellent but little-visited temple showcasing exuberant Lanna-style decorations. Noteworthy are the colorful guardian statues, the elephants in the back and the "No Killing Area" admonition at the entrance.
- Wat Ming Meuang: At the intersection of Banphaprakan and Trairat Rds, this small temple houses the spirit of the city (ming meuang) in an exquisitely carved and decorated Lanna-style, almost Laotian wiharn.
- Wat Phra Kaew: This beautiful Buddhist temple on Trairat Road is famous for having housed, in the 14th century, the Emerald Buddha, one of the most famous Buddha images in Thailand. According to legend, the statue was (re)discovered when a bolt of lightning hit a chedi (stupa) on the grounds, cracking it open and revealing the Buddha inside. The temple grounds are lush with greenery and house a compact but excellent two-story air conditioned museum, with a near-exact replica (1 mm shorter!) of the Emerald Buddha. The original is now housed in Bangkok in the temple of the same name, on the grounds of the Royal Palace.
- Wat Phra Sing: Located near the townhall, this temple used to house a major Buddha statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing, which is now enshrined in Chiang Mai. The temple now houses a replica instead. A special feature is the Lanna-style Ubosot and the wooden door panels carved by Chiang Rai contemporary craftsmen.
- Wat Phra That Doi Chom Thong: Located on Doi Chom Thong on the banks of the Kok River, this temple contains what is believed to be the oldest holy relic in Chiang Rai. The chedi containing the holy relic was probably renovated at the same time the town was being built. It was from here that King Mengrai spotted the strategic location on which to establish the city.
- White Temple: Located at Ban Rong Khun, Tambon Pa O Don Chai, along Phahonyothin roadside, approximately 13 km from the city center, this unique modern temple was designed and built by artist Chaloemchai Khositphiphat starting in 1998. A beautiful white ordination hall (Phra Ubosot) is decorated with silver glittering pieces of mirrors. There are large mural paintings of the Lord Buddha in different gestures. A gable is decorated with a gable apex, a leaf-shaped gable-edging in the shapes of Phya Naga, dragon and mythical creatures, which are entirely made of white stucco. There are viharn, small halls for recitation surrounding the ordination hall, museum, and reception pavilion. The gallery exhibits paintings of Chaloemchai Khositphiphat. Work on the temple continues, and it is not expected to be completed for the next few decades. It opens daily between 8 am and 5 pm.
- Baan Dam Museum (aka Black House or Black Temple): Not far from MFU campus, on 414 Moo 13 Nanglae, this museum opens between 9 am and 5 pm. It was created by Thailand national artist Thawan Duchanee. The grounds include nearly 40 small black houses made of wood, glass, concrete, bricks, or terracotta in various unique styles and design scattered around the temple area. The cluster of houses accommodates Thawan’s collections of paintings, sculptures, animal bones, skins, horns, and silver and gold items from around the world. Several of the houses exhibit Balinese and Burmese architecture and art dating back to the Ayutthaya Period. The artist uses bones as a source of inspiration to paint. There are also various kinds of baskets and drums from many regions and countries on display. Not all exhibits are open to public.
- Chiang Rai Cultural Center: This center is located north of the airport, to the other side of the highway, near Chiang Rai Rajabhat University.
- Cultural Hall Museum: Near the TAT building on Singhaklai Rd, this large white building has a large statue of King Mongkut at the main entrance. Visitors can find prehistoric tools, two medieval cannons, costumes, ancient pottery, and examples of ancient Lanna literature in the Dhamma script. There are also videos available, a model of the city and a display of five major areas of Tai culture.
- Haw Shan Art Gallery: Out NongBua Rd, across from Family Bakery, in a large, dark-wood, Shan-style pavilion.
- Hill Tribe Museum and Education Center: Situated in the center of town (620/1 Tanalai Rd), it is aimed at promoting a better understanding of hill tribes and their cultures. The dusty low-key displays include housing styles, tools, utensils and traditional hunting, fishing and agricultural equipment, but it's worth a visit for a view of how the hill tribes are exploited by the tourist industry.
- Lanna Museum: At Rong Rian Ban Sang Khong Yai, just southwest of Chiang Rai Hospital, it is opened by request.
- Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park: Located 5 km west of town, it has lovely two lakes, a barge and several large Shan-style small ponds. There is interesting Haw Kam Golden Temple with two Shan halls containing accoutrements collected by Princess Maha Chakri and examples of Lanna craftsmanship: seven-armed candelabra, Buddha images, wooden alters, embroidered cloth for wrapping Buddhist scriptures, carved wood screens, swords, and monks' fans.
- Oub Kham Museum: On 81/1 Na Khai Rd, near Den Ha Market, the collection embraces objects used in the royal courts such as Lanna, Khum Chao Phare and Khum Chao Chiang Mai. Some exhibits are from northeast Myanmar, southwest China, and Vietnam. Visitors can admire 120 year-old ancient fabrics, Sin Mai Kham-golden silk skirt-from the Mandalay, the golden throne, king’s golden costumes and silver ornaments.
- Princess Mother Museum: This is a sizeable fascinating pavilion dedicated to the life of the Princess Mother (grandmother of the present king, King Rama X). On display are fine collections of lacquer boxes, wooden pulleys, pottery, weaving equipment and some old handwritten folded texts with drawings.
Outside the City
- Doi Tung: A mountain not far from MFU campus. At its summit, there is a beautiful floral park and a royal villa. The flower garden was designed according to the wishes of the Princess Mother (Mae Fah Luang) to give Thais the opportunity to enjoy a garden of temperate flowers. Blooming all year long, it is probably most beautiful during the winter months, November to January. The Royal Villa is a Swiss-style chalet where the Princess Mother (Mae Fah Luang) used to reside when visiting Chiang Rai. It is open for visitors. The Doi Tung Development Project is a charitable organization initiated by the Princess Mother that continues to work to promote sustainable development and the welfare of the local communities.
- Kok River: This is the 130 km long river flowing through the town of Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai Beach lies on its banks and is a popular picnic spot in the hot season. Long-tailed boats can be hired to travel from town along the river, with stops at Akha, Lisu, Lahu, and Karen villages.
- Gate of Siam: On the border with Laos, with views of the Laotian mountains and the river Mekong.
- Phu Chi Fah: A popular mountain not far from the city, with camping facilities and great sunrise views of the region.
- Namtok Khun Kon Forest Park: The highest and most scenic waterfall in Chiang Rai, Khun Kon is some 70 m in height. Along the route to the site, there are cool, shady natural surroundings suitable for relaxation and nature walks. The walk from the parking area is quite steep.
- King Mengrai Stupa: In front of Wat Ngam Mueang, atop Doi Ngam Mueang, this stupa was built by King Chaisongkram to contain the remains of his father (King Mengrai).
- Doi Wawi: A Chinese community living north of Mae Suai. Wawi is one of the biggest tea-producing areas in Thailand. You can visit the village, taste, and buy some tea. It is also possible to visit the tea plantation.
- Golden Triangle: The point where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos meet. It used to be notorious for its drug trafficking until the Thai government cleaned up the area and turned it into a tourist destination.
- Chiang Saen: Once one of the major cities of the Lanna kingdom, it was originally called Wiang Hiran Nakhon Ngoen Yang and served as the capital before King Mengrai established Chiang Rai in 1262. The town was captured by the Burmese in the 16th century and sacked by King Rama I in 1803. Left a ghost town for a hundred years, it was repopulated around 1900, but still hasn't really staggered to its feet. On the bank of the Mekong river, traces of old double city walls and many other antiquities still remain in and outside the town. Interesting historical and artistic exhibits are kept in the Chiang Saen National Museum.
- Choui Fong Tea Plantation: For half a century, Choui Fong Tea has been well-known for the highest quality traditional tea cultivated in its own gardens in Chiang Rai. The plantation is located in Mae Chan District, Chiang Rai Province, not far from MFU campus.
- Doi Chaang Coffee: Great coffee grown and roasted in the mountains. The plantation is organic and the farmers own 50 percent of the company. They also make the Wild Thai Civet Coffee. Next to the coffee company there is a cafe where you can order a cup of coffee and also buy a bag of coffee beans.
- Doi Nang Non: In Mae Chan District, not far from MFU campus, the silhouette of the mountain range takes the shape of a reclining woman with long hair when seen from certain angles. There is a viewpoint at Mae Chan from where the "sleeping lady" can be observed in good weather. There are a number of caves and water courses in these karstic hills. Tum Luang and Khun Naam Nang Non have been developed as tourist attractions.
Outside of Chiang Rai city, visitors can expect to see splendid mountains and valleys. November is one of the best seasons for trekking, being generally dry, sunny, and cooler than the central Thai plains. Many travelers choose to spend some of their time in Chiang Rai visiting ethnic groups living in the hills (so-called "hill tribes") such as the Akha, Lisu, Hmong, Lahu, Karen, Mien, and Yao. Many visitors go trekking with a certified guide, but others simply hike on their own. It is possible to stay overnight with the villagers. Travelers going without a guide should stay with the village headmen. A small donation is welcome. Sadly, some opportunists exploit hill tribe people to extract money from tourists, so you should check that your guide and the places you are visiting are genuine, so that the money you spend benefits the local community. When trekking off the beaten track and away from hill tribes, it is possible to sleep at any temple, but again a little donation is appreciated.