Chiang Mai’s new museum district — as we’re calling it — offers not only the new Lanna Heritage Centre and the Chiang Mai Historical Centre but also the freshly upgraded Arts and Culture Museum. The museum is located in the splendid setting of the old provincial hall on Phrapokklao Road right behind the Three Kings Monument (this Chiang Mai landmark, known to all tuk tuk drivers, represents the city founder King Mengrai, his friend King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Phayao). The Lanna Heritage Centre is opposite while the Historical Centre is directly behind.
One of the best exhibits is actually the building itself and it’s good to see the old hall, abandoned in favour of a new purpose-built site at Mae Rim, put to good use. The building hosts exhibition rooms on several floors and it’s quite fun just exploring the corridors and coming across hidden courtyards. Indeed whereas most museums would locate the gift shop and coffee bar by the entrance these are both well hidden too, and we’re sure some visitors have wandered the museum for hours without ever having discovered them. They’re actually located on the ground floor at the very rear of the building and very good the coffee is too!
There is a considerable overlap in terms of the displays with both of the neighbouring museums and in fact most items could have been placed in either one of the sites. Expect to find plenty of information on aspects of Northern Thai daily traditional life as well as plenty of exhibits of a historical nature. We reckon anything that didn’t fit into the two smaller museums went into this spacious one.
This isn’t to detract from the site, which does have plenty of interesting exhibits too. As with the other locations they’re a mixture of original items in showcases and dioramas showing aspects of culture or local history. Again most are well done and come with good English language explanations plus again there’s some interactive stuff to keep kids amused.
By Mark Ord.
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