Have you ever heard of Thailand’s Royal Projects? Before I travelled to Thailand last week with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, I’d never heard the term before. I’m willing to bet that you haven’t either! The Royal Projects are initiatives developed by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Over the duration of his reign, the King was involved in creating over 2,159 such projects, all aimed at improving the living conditions of the Thai people. The projects can be found throughout Thailand, and commonly tackle eight areas: Agriculture, Environment, Public Health, Occupational Promotion, Water Resources, Communications, Public Welfare and Others.
The Chang Hua Man Royal Project, established in 2009, is one of the newest. Its aim is to demonstrate that economically viable crops can be grown without chemical fertilisers. It functions as a learning centre for local Thai farmers to learn about organic farming, dairy farming and harnessing wind energy. However, with rolling green rice fields, a scenic lake and an organic supermarket, the Chang Hua Man Royal Project has become an attraction in its own right. The Royal Projects aren’t widely known outside of Thailand, but that will make this visit off the beaten tourist track all the more rewarding!
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Enjoy the view across the lake
Upon arrival, you’ll find yourself treated to a view of the lake that feeds the Royal Project. You can also see the residence of the late King across the water. His Majesty the King frequently visited the Royal Projects scattered throughout the country, often spending more time out of the palace in Bangkok than in it. He was the most-travelled Monarch in Thailand's history, and was involved in the Royal Projects on a first-hand basis. Chang Hua Man was a private project of the Late King, and a quick stroll through the project will take you past many displays and memorials in his honour.
Take a leisurely tram ride through the project
The entrance fee to the project is a mere 20 THB (0.5 USD). Once you’re in, visitors are free to wander about the project to visit the fields, gardens and soil museum. You can head over to the main building to hop onboard a tram that will take you through the fields. A demonstration video is screened on a loop here, but it is only shown in Thai, so unless you’re fluent or have an interpreter, you might want to give this a miss.
The tram ride will take you past the towering windmills, the dairy farm, composting area and rice fields. You’ll also have an interpreter on the ride to keep you informed about what’s going by.
Or get active and hop on some bicycles
Alternatively, you can borrow one of the project’s bikes and enjoy a leisurely cycle through the project. We suggest first going on the guided tour so you gain an understanding of the project before cycling or walking through it on your own. The project is 250-rai, roughly the size of 40 football fields. You can spend a few hours strolling past the fields, visiting the cows or admiring the windmills. Visitors are also welcome to get their hands dirty, so don't be afraid to put on some boots and help with gathering crops or wading through rice paddies.
Stop by the organic supermarket
If you’re dying to take home some of the fresh produce that you’ve seen growing, you can stop by the Golden Place supermarket – it sells a variety of organic food, vegetables and products. Even if you can’t take home fresh produce, you can stock up on dried foods, handmade biscuits or even some organic spreads to take home.
A self-sufficient economy
Besides just being a place to enjoy nature, the Chang Hua Man Royal Project is also an authentic way to experience the Thai ideal of self-sufficiency, which was suggested by the King after the economic crisis of 1997. The key idea of a self-sufficient economy is for people to first respond to their needs by growing and consuming what they need, and only selling surplus if they have it. It might seem backward or idealistic in the modern world today, but that kind of mentality does lend the Royal Project a sense of tranquility and dignity that is hard to find in cities. The Chang Hua Man Royal Project is a powerful reminder that our lives are connected to the land and the food that grows on it.
How to get there?
However, do note that everything here, except the guided tour, is in Thai. If possible, try to find an interpreter to bring you around the project so that most of what can be learnt doesn’t go over your head. It’s also hard to find, especially if you can’t read Thai road signs. We would recommend arranging transport and a guide with your hotel’s tour desk.
Alternatively, you can also contact the Tourism Authority of Thailand to arrange for a tour.
International Public Relations Division
Tourism Authority of Thailand
Email: [email protected]
Contact: +66 (0) 2250 5500 ext. 4545-48
Spend a day with mother nature
So whether you’re looking for knowledge to bring back home or just want to spend a day in nature, the Chang Hua Man Royal project is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. It's located just an hour's drive away from Hua Hin, making it the perfect place for a day trip.