Chiang Mai has only a few parks where you can have a rest from the city’s hustle and bustle. There is for example Suan Buak Haad in the southwest corner of the old city or Kanchanpisek Park not far outside the square. But there is also the lesser known Huay Kaew Arboretum next to Chiang Mai Zoo. An Arboretum is like a park but without all the flowers or bushes – simply put, it is a collection of trees only. As a Luk Krueng spending most of my lifetime in Germany, there are barely few places in Chiang Mai I remember – but the Huay Kaew Arboretum is one of them. Actually it is a nice place to get a tiny impression of Thailand’s huge range of exotic trees and hide under their protective shades. That’s why this location was quite popular in the past. Even now local people like to go there especially in the mornings or evenings, mostly to get in a bit of exercise.
Speaking of exercise, I don’t really remember the Arboretum as a place to cool down, sit-back or enjoy the natural beauty of the trees. I rather remember it as a place to sweat and get sore muscles. That’s because between all the trees, you can also find a paved trail to walk or jog/ run on. Then along the trail there are also exercise machines you can train your muscles with. This “keep-fit-trail” was the main reason my dad and younger brother went there and it still is the main reason I remember this park. While my dad is a fitness trainer and former bodybuilder and my brother has always been super active, the “athletic-gene” somehow skipped me. I became that kind of person that does two sit-ups and waits for the six-pack just to happen, which unfortunately won’t. One day, a long time ago, I decided to join them – I honestly don’t know what has come over me and I even believe that my aversion to running and jogging was enhanced from that very day. Well, now after almost a decade I am going to give it another try and face my fear of actually running more than 15 metres.
I arrive at Huay Kaew Arboretum at 5:30pm to avoid the roasting sun and find a neat park and a pleasant temperature. Inside the Arboretum in between all the huge trees you quickly get an idea of the keep-fit-trail and its exercising machines. After cheering on me for actually not doing a runner – I take on the first lap. Throughout the run I don’t even hear the cars that are passing the Arboretum on the busy Huay Kaew road, because the bugs hiding on the trees are so much louder. The 500 metres of the first round already got me sweating like a pig and realising I still don’t like jogging. But the worst of all are the countless mosquito bites on my legs! How I hate these blood sucking creatures – but lesson learned: always use mosquito repellent!
All the itching won’t stop me from my mission. The next round I take on the exercising pit stops that you can find right along the trail. The exercising stops definitely have seen better times and as far as I remember there had been more of them, but I guess there are still enough to torture your body. There are logs on which to do sit-ups, bars to lift and an assortment of old and cranky rocks and stubs, with instructions next to them to tell you what to do. Although it’s getting quite dark, it’s not too scary as the Arboretum is close enough to the road. Nevertheless I won’t recommend going here after 7 p.m., because pitch-black woods are absolutely creepy especially when you are as jumpy as me.
Imagining all the noise as bugs sitting on the trees and cheering me on, I force myself to a third and final round. I must admit that this “keep-fit-trail” indeed makes fun. The mere run would just kill me but doing outdoor exercises in this beautiful surroundings is very enjoyable, even though my all over bitten legs, sore shoulder and thigh muscles won’t agree.
So all in all whether you are looking for some place to relax under the trees (on the lawn or in one of the pavilions) or to do some outdoor exercise you should pay the Huay Kaew Arboretum a visit. It definitely pays of, since it is free and you get your daily amount of “fresh” air. If you go there:
• Don’t forget to use mosquito repellent! There is just no such thing as running away from those little blood sucking monsters!
• Bring something to drink and a new shirt so you won’t become sick on your ride home!
Now I am just going to lay on the lawn, rest my sore muscles and whine a bit. Or a lot. Bye.
Huay Kaew Arboretum
Huay Kaew Road next to Chiang Mai Zoo and University
Open daily 8am – 7pm
No entry fee