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Chiang Mai University a whole lot more than a seat of learning!

Sure, it was founded over half a century ago under a Royal Charter. Yeah, it was the very first provincial university in Thailand. Okay, it’s the biggest education hub and boasts the largest teaching hospital [Maharaj Nakorn on the Suan Dok medical campus] in the region. And you bet it’s a world-class research facility. But Chiang Mai University offers a heck of a lot more than lectures, textbooks and exams! So whatever floats your boat, we’ve gathered together just a few of CMU’s more offbeat attractions:

FOR HISTORY BUFFS

Anyone with the faintest curiosity about the Chiang Mai of old shouldn’t miss the chance to step back in time at the Lanna Traditional House Museum. You’ll discover a colonial style residence plus a huddle of stilted wooden dwellings and rice granaries all looked after by Chiang Mai University’s Centre for the Promotion of Arts and Culture. Even better, admission’s a paltry 20 baht and the museum rarely features on the average tourist’s radar so you’ll usually have the place to yourself!

Whereabouts: on Canal Road just ahead of the junction with Suthep Road.

Opening Days & Times: 8:30AM to 4:30PM Monday to Friday and 9AM to 4:30PM on weekends.

FOR ART AFICIONADOS

From the weird to the wonderful, those with an eye for visual creations should absolutely stop by the Chiang Mai University Art Centre. Whether you wanna check out the aesthetic handiwork of local students or international talent, the free contemporary displays change often so no two months’ exhibitions are ever the same! As an added bonus, the attached auditorium plays host to art workshops, musical performances and even screenings of foreign films.

Whereabouts: on Nimmanhaemin Road near the intersection with Suthep Road.

Opening Days & Times: 9AM to 5PM Tuesday to Sunday.

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FOR ONLINE WORKAHOLICS

It’s not be the most modern of its kind in town, but the five-floored air-conditioned Chiang Mai University Main Library is still kitted out with a shedload of tables/desks, free-to-use computers and AIS WiFi. Not to mention seeing pretty few folks so blissfully quiet. Best of all, knuckling down at CMU’s central library won’t cost you a bean once you’ve filled in a short visitors form and shown some ID.

Whereabouts: on Phitsanulok Road (next to “ITSC Corner”) in CMU’s main [Suan Sak] campus.

Opening Days & Times: 8AM to 9PM Monday to Friday and 10AM to 6PM on Saturday and Sunday during term time; 8:30AM to 4:30PM Monday to Friday between semesters.

FOR ASPIRING ASTRONOMERS

If celestial objects are your thing, you can freely gaze the night skies at Chiang Mai University’s Sirindhorn Observatory. As well as holding regular planet, moon and stargazing bashes for the general public, you can schedule a slot with staff for an individual or group visit.

Whereabouts: two-thirds of the way along the main road [Sriwichai Alley] to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple.

Viewing Days & Times: 18:30 to 21:00 daily throughout October to March though, of course, weather permitting!

FOR LINGO LEARNERS

As Chiang Mai University’s motto goes “The Wise Cultivate Themselves” so if you’re itching to pick up some of the native tongue, head back to school at CMU’s Centre for Thai Studies. An intensive 15-day Thai for Beginners course goes for 6000 baht while, for long termers under 56 years young, a 12-month Thai Language and Culture programme with Non-Immigrant Education Visa will set you back 35,000 baht.

Whereabouts: the CMU Language Institute on Chiang Saen 201 Alley in CMU’s main [Suan Sak] campus.

Course Dates: new classes start almost every month.

FOR FOODIE FANATICS

Because it’s a residential uni, Chiang Mai University’s Suan Sak campus is dotted with more than a dozen cafeterias and canteens. So if you’re in the mood for some good, honest Thai nosh at prices tough to beat anywhere else in town, simply swing by any of them. Opening days and times vary, but you can safely count on them being available between 8AM and 4PM Monday to Friday.

Believe it or not, CMU was actually the birth place of the locally famous Fai Hin salad dressing. You can sample this “delicious and nutritious” sauce and, for the princely sum of 30 baht, enough pick and mix fruit, veg and toppings to satisfy even the emptiest of bellies at the salad bar inside Rom Sak “Night Market”. You’ll find the food court near the very end of Phitsanulok Road and open from 4PM to 9PM every evening.

And did you know Chiang Mai University grows its own crops? For those hungry to stock up on their pesticide-free seasonal produce, call in on the CMU Farmers’ Market from 6AM to 11:30AM on Wednesdays across from the Royal Project shop on the Suan Sak campus and on Saturdays right next to the Mae Hia Agricultural Research Station and Training Centre.

FOR NATURE LOVERS

If you’re after a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city, Chiang Mai University’s main [Suan Sak] campus is just about the leafiest spot in town. After taking a leisurely stroll around the lushly wooded grounds, make a beeline for CMU’s scenic highlight, Ang Kaew lake – plonk yourself at the water’s edge with a picnic and await the kaleidoscopic sunset against a backdrop of the forested Doi Pui mountain.

It’s not officially open to visitors, but the paddy fields, grassland, scrub and ponds around Chiang Mai University’s Mae Hia Agricultural Research Station is one of the top bird watching venues in the country. For the best sightings of our feathered friends, mind, you’ll have to pitch up at the crack of dawn!

You can’t come to Thailand’s Northern Rose and not set foot in the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park! But before you venture into the great outdoors, why not get clued up on the reserve’s animal and plant life, habitats and hilltribes at the freebie multimedia displays at Chiang Mai University’s Doi Suthep Nature Study Centre.

Whereabouts: on Huay Kaew Road between Huay Kaew Arboretum and Chiang Mai Zoo.

Opening Days & Times: 8:30AM to 4:30PM Monday to Saturday.

Fancy chipping in with any other places of interest under the Chiang Mai University umbrella? Feel free to enlighten us in the comments section underneath!

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