As a major cultural centre and a place where the past and present meet, it's no surprise that Chiang Mai has a number of interesting museums. These museums preserve the art, culture and history of the Lanna (northern) Kingdom as well as the northern hilltribes and make excellent rainy day excursions. Chiang Mai's museums are certainly worth a visit, if only so you can sound authoritative while showing off your photos back home.
Chiang Mai National Museum
Located near the historic Wat Jet Yod, this is the main museum of northern Thailand and is under the patronage of Their Royal Majesties, the King and Queen. It was renovated in 1996 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the founding of Chiang Mai and now features a larger and better organized exhibition. The museum is housed in a large, two storey traditional Lanna style house, complete with the signature roof design, reminiscent of a bird's spreading wings. Visitors to the museum pass through six sections of exhibits, which constitute a journey from Chiang Mai's prehistory to its present and future course.
The museum begins with the natural and cultural background of the region, including the ecology and geography of the north, as well as information on prehistoric settlements. From there the museum tells the history of the Lanna Kingdom from the founding of Chiang Mai in 1296 through its sacking by the Burmese in 1558 until it was again liberated with the aid of the King of Siam in 1769. The next section deals with the short period of time during between the city's liberation from the Burmese to its re-establishment in 1782, during which period the city was under control of the King of Siam. Ascending to the second floor, visitors will find an exhibit hall devoted to the trade and economy of the Lanna Kingdom until its integration with Thailand in 1939. The next section displays photographs and artefacts showing the modern life of Chiang Mai - its agriculture and industry, and its relation to the national and global community. The final exhibit focuses on the unique art style of the Lanna Kingdom, displaying numerous distinctive artefacts from the 13th century all the way up to contemporary pieces.
- Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 09:00 to 16:00
- Location: On the Highway (Northwest) next to Wat Jet Yod
- Price Range: Admission is 30 Baht
Dara Phirom Museum
This unusual museum provides an excellent insight into the life and times of Dara Rassamee, a consort of King Chulalonghorn (Rama V) and half-sister to the (then) Prince of Lanna. Dara Rassamee lived over 100 years ago and during her life she was instrumental in uniting the Kingdoms of Siam and Lanna, as well as being a great preserver of art, furniture and clothing from the traditional northern culture. Much of her collection is now displayed in her former home, almost all of which is open to the public.
- Opening Hours: Open from 09:00 to 17:00 Tuesday to Sunday
- Location: The Dara Phirom Museum is located on the Mae Rim road, about 30 km (19 miles) north of the old city.
- Price Range: Admission is 20 baht
Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders
For some creepy crawly fun, head over to this museum of the oogie, run by Manop Rattanarithikul, an eccentric entomology enthusiast and his wife Rampa, a PhD in the field. Manop, nicknamed "The Mosquito Man", has been studying and collecting insects for most of his life and he and his wife have travelled the world studying and working with bugs. They founded the museum together in 2002 and have been giving visitors the willies ever since. Manop himself will guide you through exhibits that run from massive beetles than look like something out of the movie Dune to almost invisible little gnats. Anyone who's spent time in Thailand will get a feeling of deep satisfaction from seeing an example of all 422 species of Thai mosquito dead and impaled in a glass case. But don't be surprise if you get bit by some of Manop's enthusiasm for the little buggers.
- Opening Hours: Open daily from 09:00 to 17:00
- Location: Located on Srimankalajarn Road, soi 13 (midway between Suthep and Huay Kaew roads near Suan Dok Hospital.
- Price Range: Admission is 300 baht + 100 baht to take photos
Tribal Museum of Chiang Mai
Can't tell an Akha from a Hmong? Do you think that Yao is just a big guy who plays in the NBA? Then you need to pay a visit to the Chiang Mai Tribal Museum. Recently moved from its location on the Chiang Mai University campus, this museum is now housed in a modern, three storey building in Ratchamankla Park. Anyone planning on paying a visit to the many hilltribe villages around Chiang Mai will definitely benefit from a visit to this museum. On display here are costumes, tools and art from all of the major northern hilltribes, as well as daily slide shows which tell the stories of these colourful and unique peoples.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 to 16:00 Monday to Friday with daily slide shows at 10:00 and 14:00
- Location: In Ratchamankla Park, at the intersection of Mae Rim Road and Chang Puak Road.
- Price Range: Free