Greater Chiang Mai weighs in these days with a good million inhabitants (the exact figure varies according to where one draws cut-off points), and it has most of the attributes a modern city aspires to have. It has whopping shopping malls and chic boutiques, a Chinatown, a professional football team (albeit an embarrassingly bad one), historic monuments, university, famous zoo, vibrant cafe/bar/restaurant scene but there’s something missing: for a city of its size and pretensions there are just no decent parks!
There are pleasant parklands and green spaces out in the suburbs, but they belong to the zoo, university or city arboretum — Huay Tung Tao Lake as another example is army owned. Yes, the excellent and lush Doi Pui/Doi Suthep National Park is a mere 20-minute drive from the centre of Chiang Mai, but the city itself completely lacks a proper municipal park in its downtown area.
Until relatively recently Chiang Mai was a small and green city and surrounded by plenty of open spaces so parks, we guess, weren’t really an issue. But with its rapid urbanisation, many gardens have been lost to condo construction and surrounding green areas have been snatched for new highway projects. Parks, it seems, have been forgotten about amid the concrete onslaught.
Tiny Suan Buak Hat, located in the southwest corner of the old town at the corner of Bumrung Buri and Bunreuang moat roads, is in fact the only offering Chiang Mai municipality has seen fit to make to its public. (You can just make out a tiny green triangle on our city map here.) It’s better than nothing and it is a cute enough park, though a very small one.
We’ve put it in our hikes and walks category though a walk in this park isn’t going to last very long. There’s a series of small ponds and bridges interspersed with lawns, a basic playground for kids at one end and the usual snack and drinks stalls, but even if you walked really slowly you could still do the entire park in less than 10 minutes — Lumpini it is not!
It’s a pleasant enough place to hang out: you can feed the pigeons, feed the catfish, have a drink by the pond, sit under a tree and read a book. If you sit on the far side of the park you can almost not hear the traffic though be warned at weekends it can get pretty full and noisy with picnicking families.
Warning: if you don’t like our feathered friends, then this probably isn’t a good place for you since feeding these feathered rats/charming little birdies (delete as applicable) is a popular local pastime in the absence of ducks. (Hyde Park this is not!)
They’re also rather tame and will even eat out of your hand if you like that sort of thing.
Suan Buak Hat is open daily during daylight hours — enjoy!
By Mark Ord.