Along with the Lanna Folklife Centre, the excellent Chiang Mai Historical Centre is another brand new museum in the northern capital. Here’s a rundown on what goodies to expect inside.
Chiang Mai and the North’s history is a long one. The Lanna and Thai period dates back a mere 700 years or so, but before that the region was home to a network of Mon settlements and prior to that evidence of pre-historic occupation goes back several thousand years. This museum gives you a brief walk through on all eras, though with an understandable bias towards the Lanna period.
We’ve already covered the Chiang Mai National Museum and a worthy establishment it is too, though the Historical Centre has the advantage of being purpose-built and does have a much more modern feel to it. Perhaps taking into account a decline in visitors’ attention spans, explanations are brief and light on text, with plenty of back-up maps and images. It’s generally somewhat less stuffy and as such a better bet to keep smaller kids and general museum detractors happy.
There are also plenty of dioramas and waxwork displays although much of the interactive elements weren’t working too well. Pressing the French language button gave us a Chinese commentary and while we couldn’t work out what the German one was it certainly didn’t sound like German. There is of course a lot of overlap with the National Museum out on the superhighway and we suspect visitors to the latter may drop off considerably with this brand new, centrally-located rival.
Explanations otherwise, as with the Folklife Centre, are good and generally well translated, and displays are nicely laid out. Unlike the Folklife Centre and Arts and Culture Museum, the Historical Centre building is brand new and what you might call ‘modern Lanna’ style. Rather aptly, during construction of the new building, remains of an ancient temple were discovered underneath and these have been preserved as an exhibit in the basement. The former palace is thought to have been located close by and these are probably remains of the old royal temple.
It’s not a large museum so an hour should do the trick; as we mentioned earlier you can buy a week-long pass valid for all three museums for 180/80 baht for adults/kids.
Finally if you are doing the three and need a break, we came across an excellent cafe, The Sitting Room, directly opposite the museum entrance.
By Mark Ord.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.