Mae Fah Luang Art & Cultural Park is a large landscaped garden and museum set in the city of Chiang Rai, known for its mature trees, a botanical collection of indigenous plants from the northern region, and its large collection of Lanna artifacts.
Originally known as Rai Mae Fah Luang, Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park started first as the office of the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation. Through purchasing and marketing handicrafts, the Thai Hill Crafts Foundation helped preserve the traditional skills and support the livelihoods of ethnic minorities. The late Princess Mother then established the Youth Leadership Project, and Rai Mae Fah Luang became a ‘home’ to hundreds of youths from remote areas with limited access to schooling. The area had lodgings for the ethnic minority youths who came to attend schools and also learn about living in urban areas, among other aspects of modern life in Thailand. These young people were from the immediate vicinity of Doi Tung and neighboring areas such as Payao province. In addition to textbooks or classroom lessons, the Princess Mother believed in acquiring skills from actual experiences. Students learnt how to live as a community, developing their social skills. Having shared responsibilities, they cared for the younger, learnt about time management, worked in shifts to clean their lodgings, farmed, gardened, and tended vegetable plots. The goal was that this training would help students grow into dedicated, hard-working, ethical leaders of their communities.
Following the establishment of the Doi Tung Development Project, students had access to schools located closer to their village homes, and the role of Rai Mae Fah Luang as an educational institution for ethnic minority youths came to an end.
Today, the Mae Fah Luang Art and Cultural Park houses the region’s largest collection of art items from the Lanna culture or Tai culture (the minorities in northern Thailand, China’s southwestern region or Yunnan, eastern Myanmar or the Shan States, northwestern Vietnam and western Lao).
Haw Kham (Golden Pavilion)
The Haw Kham pavilion is an example of traditional Lanna architecture with a tiered roof covered with wooden tiles inspired by Wat Pong Sanuk in Lampang province. It was built in 1984 by the people of Chiang Rai and presented to the Princess Mother to celebrate her 84th birthday. The wood used in the construction came from the Forest Industry Organisation, as well as from dismantling 32 old wooden houses in Chiang Rai. In 1988, a special concert of Lanna music was held to raise funds to buy derelict Lanna artifacts including wooden Buddha images, scripture cabinets and candle holders which are now housed within the Haw Kham pavilion. The main Buddha image set on a raised pedestal in the centre of the pavilion is the Phra Phrah Toh, a Lua-style image said to be carved with a machete.
The Haw Kaew pavilion houses a permanent exhibition on teak artifacts: Buddha images, religious objects, architectural items and traditional household utensils, as well as revolving exhibitions.