Thursday, 6 January 2011

Aunchan's angels and devils, flower gardens and fire lanterns.

Aunchan's The Heritage House & Garden, Chiang Mai
Aunchan Tanampai seems so peaceful and so at home, literally, in her sprawling French-English style gardens of her Chiang Mai property it seems she's been here for ever. But the surprise is that she's only been living in the northern capital for six years.

"I was born in Bangkok and grew up in a large wooden house in a garden located off Chan Road located one block from Charoeng Krung Road and the Chao Praya River." The serene setting of The Heritage House & Garden (, nestled in the foothills of south-west Chiang Mai, is a far cry from her previous high-octane life in Bangkok with IBM, but she's made the adaptation all too easily. 

"Bangkok is the 'city of angels' and a few devils too," she laughs.  "It is truly amazing and is justifiably ranked as one of the world’s top tourist destinations.  It is a historic city, featuring a beautiful Royal palace complex, many ancient Buddhist temples, and interesting art and cultural museums.  Bangkok is also a modern city offering world class shopping in air conditioned malls, a diversity of hotels including some of the world’s best, and an incredible number of excellent restaurants serving Thai or international cuisine. Bangkok is a marvelous gateway to the 'Land of Smiles'."

Aunchan with her nephew at Doi Tung.
In the bed-and-breakfast house she established with her husband, she's tapped into the passion of her hobbies. "My hobbies are gardening and collecting quilts, tea cups and antiques. I also enjoy visiting beautiful gardens, historic homes, fine art museums and experiencing the local culture and cuisine." The Heritage has been tastefully curated and artfully decorated under her keen collector's eye. 

Now she's in the north to stay. "I particularly enjoy the slower pace of life, the cooler weather, the lower cost of living, the overall lack of traffic congestion and the abundance of scenic natural beauty wherever you go.  Life is also less formal here and it is very easy to make friends in Chiang Mai, the former capital of the Lanna Kingdom." She points out the "many wonderful things for tourists to see and do" here, including adventure tourism such as white water rafting, bicycling and motorcycling tours, trekking, rock climbing, bungy jumping etc.  "I always advise visitors to stay at least a week to enjoy what Chiang Mai and the North of Thailand has to offer."

True to her word, she's now off to enjoy a short post-high season break viewing the Mae Fah Luang Gardens in Chiang Rai. Again.

Aunchan's Top 5 Thailand travel tips:

1/ The Jim Thompson House, Bangkok: "I suggest to all first time visitors to Bangkok that they should visit this amazing place.  Jim Thompson was the founder of the world renowned Jim Thompson silk company.  The house, set in a beautiful garden and overlooking a klong (canal), is a complex of six traditional Thai-style houses, teak structures.  These were purchased from several owners and brought from various parts of Thailand and assembled in 1959 at the present central Bangkok location.  There is also an excellent Thai restaurant and retail outlet on the property"

2/ Doi Inthanon National Park, Chiang Mai province: "Doi Inthanon is the tallest mountain in Thailand and visitors can drive to near the top, park and easily walk to the peak.  Major attractions include Royal Pavilions honoring the King and Queen of Thailand, several waterfalls, nature trails and camp grounds.  Bird watching is popular.  In the winter season, take a sweater or jacket with you as the temperature falls 10 degrees Celsius as you drive from the foot of Doi Inthanon to the top."

3/ Khum Khantoke, Chiang Mai: "Dine on northern Thai food while enjoying the atmosphere of a Lanna Khantoke.  Enjoy a colorful  and musical cultural show celebrating dancing styles from every part of Thailand. Afterwards, launch a floating “Fire Lantern’ into the sky. Near Chiang Mai city, off Route 11."

4/ Patara Elephant Farm, Chiang Mai: "Historically, the elephant has played an important role in Thailand’s history, both as a working animal and as transport.  Unfortunately, modern technology has made elephants too slow and expensive and their numbers have plummeted, with relatively few remaining. Spend a wonderful day up close with an elephant: feeding , washing and riding him in a humane, caring rural setting.  This is one of Chiang Mai’s most loved attractions and well worth visiting if you want to know what wonderful creatures elephants are." (Located southwest of  Chiang Mai city on Hang Dong – Samoeng Road - Route 1269 near Belle Villa Resort.)

5/ Doi Tung Mae Fah Luang Flower Garden & Royal Villa, Chiang Rai: "The Princess Mother, HRH Princess Srinagarindra, created the Doi Tung project in 1988 by leasing over 90,000 rai of land in the Mae Chan and Mae Sai districts from the Thai government with the intent of assisting the development of northern Thailand to better the lives of  local villagers and the hill tribes.  The development programs continue to this day and tourists can visit the beautiful garden and the nearby Swiss-style Royal Villa."    

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