A Sydney landscape gardener friend of mine who has a Thai partner put me onto this and it was an excellent day out. We paid a meter taxi driver 1500 THB (about $A50) for the whole day. This was arranged by our hotel front desk (Rimping Village Hotel, Chiang Mai) and the driver was happy to take us anywhere en-route and wait as well. Travel time to the botanic gardens was a bit over one hour or so.
The gardens themselves are beautifully maintained and offer some rare, wide open space amongst the crowds of Chiang Mai and the dense jungle in which they are set. For the botanists, there is a vast range of species to explore and for those more inspired by aesthetics the flowers and layouts are beautiful.
Entry fee was 200 THB for me and free for my 10 year old. You can either walk or drive around the 4km road that loops the entire place. We chose to walk and it was steep but you do see more. The highlight is not until you reach the top - the gardens are set on a hillside - when you discover the 7 or 8 large greenhouses, each displaying a different range of plant life from aquatic plants to cactus. The ultimate greenhouse is home to a mini tropical rainforest and it's glass roof soars almost 40 or 50m. It would be quite at home on an Attenborough documentary!
A cafe and gift shop, also at the top, offer terrific views and snacks to suit both Thai and western tastes. We spent a total of about four hours and didn't see everything, so make it a half day trip at least. On the way back to Chiang Mai we stopped at Tiger Kingdom, about which I'll write a separate review.
We visited on a weekday and almost had the entire place to ourselves, however a US expat I chatted to there said it can get very busy on public holidays.
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