If you are visiting Chiang Mai, then a trip to the beautiful grounds at Bhuping Palace (also written as Phuping) is highly recommended. Built in 1961, the palace itself is typically understated in keeping with the modest style of the present Thai king. Bhuping Palace is located in the mountains to the west of Chiang Mai city and can easily be combined as part of a day trip or half-day trip to the nearby temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, the holiest temple in the north of Thailand. Bhuping Palace has become known as the winter palace because members of the royal family stay here when they visit the north of Thailand during the cool season when the mountain air is cool and clean and the flowers are in full bloom. The palace is also used for prominent State visitors from overseas. The king and queen of Denmark were the first foreign royals to stay at Bhuping Palace when they visited Thailand in January 1962.
Bhuping Palace was built in northern Thai style and sits on stilts. Foundation stones were laid at the auspicious time of 10.49 on August 24, 1961 and five months later construction of the palace was complete. All of the other buildings in the grounds were added at later dates.
Ruen Rab Rong (Royal Guesthouse)
The Royal Guesthouse is used for royal visitors, senior palace aides and members of the royal entourage. Built in modern Thai style, the guesthouse also acts as a waiting place and meeting room for visitors attending royal banquets or a royal audience.
Royal Log Cabins
In amongst the Thai-style buildings, the grounds have been given a distinctly Alpine presence with the construction of three different log cabins. Two of these cabins (built in 1991 and 1993) have been made with eucalyptus wood under a building project directed by H.M. Queen Sirikit. The log cabin known as Phra Tamnak Payak Sathit was built as a seasonal residence for HRH Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn.
Royal Shrine (Hor Phra)
Hor Phra is the private royal shrine housing a Buddha image for royal prayer. Constructed in modern northern Thai style, the shrine is on stilts just as the main palace is.
Providing a scenic backdrop to the log cabins, the fountains and water reservoir are as practical as they are attractive and provide the water used in the palace grounds.
The collection of royal buildings are attractive in their own right, but it is the gardens which make Bhuping Palace such a beautiful place to visit. Even if you are not into gardening or horticulture, the gardens and grounds make for a wonderful way to relax and spend a few hours. One of the rose gardens, Suan Suwaree, commemorates the former lady-in-waiting, Thanpuying Suwaree Taepakam. The garden was planted under the instruction of Queen Sirikit in 1999.
Entry and Etiquette
Entry to the buildings themselves is prohibited, but you are free to explore the grounds and take photos. When visiting any royal grounds in Thailand you should dress and behave respectfully. At Bhuping Palace you are not allowed to wear shorts or skimpy clothing. Shoulders must be covered. At the entrance to the grounds there is a clothes rental service for visitors who arrive without suitable attire.
The grounds are open daily from 08.30-16.30 but tickets can only be purchased from the ticket office from 08.30-11.00 and 13.00-15.30. Tickets are priced at 50 Baht for non-Thai nationals and 20 Baht for Thai people. The grounds are closed when the royal family is in residence which is usually sometime between January and March.
The grounds are quite large, but can still be covered on foot via the well-laid out paths and trails. If you aren’t up to walking around the gardens, a trolley car service with driver is available. The cost is 300 Baht for a maximum of 3 people.
Bhuping Palace is located approximately 1 hour’s drive from central Chiang Mai. The road has plenty of bends which can be accentuated if you are sat in the back of a songthaew, so keep that in mind if you are prone to travel sickness. Any tour agent in Chiang Mai can arrange transport for you, but cost will depend on whether you want to go on a private tour or part of group tour. This will normally mean going by air-conditioned mini-bus which will be more comfortable if you do suffer from travel sickness. Alternatively, you can hire a songthaew and driver for half a day which would cost approximately 500-700 Baht. This is a good option if there are a number of you in your group because the cost of hire is for the vehicle and not on a per-person basis. Try the songthaews that line up in front of Wat Phra Singh or pop into nearby Sabai Tour (next to 7-Eleven) who will be happy to arrange it for you.
You can also take a songthaew from outside of Chiang Mai zoo on Huay Kaew Road. Songtahews here stop first at Doi Suthep before going on to Bhuping Palace. The cost to Doi Suthep is approximately 40 Baht per person and another 20-40 Baht to Bhuping Palace (one way fares). However, you will have to wait until there is a minimum of 8 passengers otherwise you may end up having to negotiate a price with the driver. This can be fun if you are with somebody who can speak a bit of Thai, but if not you probably won’t end up saving too much money compared to a private tour and will it also be a lot more hassle.
photos © thaizer.com
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