Military tourism in Chiang Mai & Northern Thailand

Come play with our privates and get on the army tourism buzz. Local army bases become unlikely sightseeing spots for visitors to Northern Thailand.

By | Thu 1 Mar 2012

01 Army helicopter at Khao Khor Memorial ‘Taan Krungthep’, Phetchabun
02 War bunkers, Petchabun
03 Military jump, Huay Tung Tao
04 ATV ride, Huay Tung Tao
05 Children enjoying horse rides at the Royal Thai Army Taksin base, Mae Rim
06 The 32nd Royal Military Circle Museum, Lampang
07 Baan Pong Nak, Lampang

Come play with our privates and get on the army tourism buzz. Pull on your combats, slap on some camouflage, polish your rifle, and hut two, three, four to some of the local army bases come tourism spots in the north of Thailand. After a comprehensive guidebook of Thai military sites open for visitors landed on the Citylife desk, we thought it might be time to try something different, get macho and check out some of these khaki adventures.

Khao Khor Memorial ‘Taan Krungthep’ and weapon museum, Phetchaboon

The first stop was a monument of sacrifice, ‘Than Krungthep’, which is positioned on the top of Khao Khor, a mountain in Phetchabun. It was built to commemorate the bravery of civilians, soldiers and police from 1968 to 1982, who sacrificed their lives to protect the borders of 3 provinces; Phitjanulok, Petchabun and Loei, whilst fighting communism. On the marble monument individuals names are carved into the sculpture. As well as this being a historic place, there is also a beautiful aerial view of the winding roads and rolling green hills of the surrounding countryside.

On the peak of Khao Khor, near the memorial, visitors can go inside well-preserved war bunkers to see what the site was like as an army base.

About one kilometre away from the monument there is a weapons museum also known as Itti Base. In 1981 this area was the base for artillery who helped support the flight against communism. The museum is named after Colonel Itti Simalax, the military leader who declared Khao Khor’s independence from communism. The museum is open from 7a.m. to 5p.m. and costs only 10 baht per person. If you are coming in a group you may get the chance to have a tour around, be given a talk and shown a short film about the area’s history by one of the resident military guards. In and around the grounds you may like to try your toughest poses with some of the old helicopters, planes, guns and weapons on show. Don’t worry, they aren’t loaded!

Por Khun Par Muang Base, T. Saduang, Muang Phetchabun, 056-21934-6 # 70120 Fax: 056 711 100, 056 712 492.

The 32nd Royal Military Circle Museum

The 32nd Royal Military Circle Museum is located a short drive away in Lampang. The museum is housed in Baan Pong Nak, the northern name for a house with many windows, and that it did have. The house is built using a combination of classical Greek and Thai styles of architecture, the windows and shutters are used as a ventilation system. The museum contains an interesting collection of army paraphernalia such as antique guns and canons. There are also other items of interest such as old Thai typewriters, with no English letters, and old radios and transmitters. The upstairs of the house exhibits the living and sleeping quarters of Rama the IX who once stayed at the military base. The museum also displays black and white photographs of local events and places, such as the laborious creation of the Khun Tan train tunnel and ancient cave paintings in Lampang province.

If you inform the centre of your visit first you may be able to have a short guided tour of the house and museum by a soldier.

Royal Thai Army Surasakmontri base, T. Pichai, Muang Lampang 52000, 054 225 941-3#72318

Huay Tung Tao

Many readers will already know this reservoir for its many hutted restaurants and waterside leisure space. Others may not know that the area is cared for by the Thai army. There are various activities on site some hosted by the Thai army and some owned privately. So if you fancy a little more exertion than just grazing on somtam while sipping a cold Chang, go check out the local area. If you are not afraid of heights you may want to attempt the parachute drill and encounter a 34 foot jump, using ropes of course and under the supervision of experienced soldiers. There is also an assault course with rope swings and climbing fences, the army promotes these activities to groups as team building exercises, though you can also come individually.

Fancy an off road thrill? At Huay Tung Tao you can rent your own 4 wheel ATV and drive on off-road trails and back country roads up to Mae Rim. Those who like to stretch their legs and struggle to find good running space in the city may like to know there are two 5 km long paved paths, one from the Irrigation Canal Road, the other around the lake, you can use to jog, walk, cycle or skip along. There is also a full sized football pitch, volley ball court and takraw pitch.

On the reservoir itself you can take a pedal boat or dingy out, swim and even fish. For those looking for something more tranquil at the calmer north-west side of the water there is a standing Buddha image, where visitors can stroll around or do a spot of meditation. And if it’s all just too much for you local villagers offer massages at very reasonable prices.

After such an action packed day why not stay the night? There is a large camping area, where you can rent a tent for 150 baht per night per person, or bring your own gear. For those needing something more substantial than a tent there are also a handful of small huts and houses which are available to rent, costing around 1000 baht per night, with two bedrooms we are told the little cottages can sleep up to and over eight people, depending on how much you like being a sardine.

Huay Tung Tao, T. Don Kaew, Muang, Chiang Mai, 053 121 119 or 053 249 345

Royal Thai Army Taksin base Mae Rim

At the Royal Thai Army Taksin base in Mae Rim the Royal Thai army offer morning horse riding session for children with autism (on Wednesdays) and for children with other disabilities (on Fridays).The sessions are free, anyone wanting to join in needs to phone the centre to arrange their first session. There are around 15 horses, some smaller like ponies and others slightly bigger, all well groomed and trained. Each child is guided by two to three soldiers who help the children sit up on the horse and guide the horse around the riding arena. There are also small activities for the kids to stretch and exercise such as hitting suspended balls and riding with their arms out-stretched. The activity is open to children of all capabilities. The kids seemed to enjoy the whole experience such as the feel of the horse’s fur and mane, the movement of the horse walking and the ride itself, as the horses did figures of eight and stepped over small obstacles.

Royal Thai Army Taksin Base, T.Don Kaew, Muang Chiang Mai 50180, 053 120 069-70 #71201