The Royal Projects, initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, are famous in Thailand for helping grassroot communities to thrive and for preserving ecosystems for future generations.
Now the Projects have become attractions in themselves, visited by thousands of tourists, local and international, seeking to learn a little about Thailand’s rural communities and to experience a different side of the kingdom.
Many of the better-known Royal Projects; such as, the royal agricultural stations in Angkhang and Inthanon in Chiang Mai, are in the northern region of Thailand. So tourists who are short of time may miss out on experiencing some of Thailand’s most unique attractions.
Luckily, one of the most recently initiated Royal Projects isn’t too far from Bangkok, near enough for a day or weekend trip. The Chang Hua Man Royal Project is in Phetchaburi, a short drive from the seaside resort of Cha-Am and encapsulates everything the Royal Projects are all about.
Initiated in 2009 on 250 rai (99 acres) of land, the Chang Hua Man Royal Project is an experimental farm where a range of experimental crops are being tested, not only to help the local people of the Phetchaburi area, but farmers around the nation.
Getting to the Project is a pleasure in itself. The road from Cha-Am winds its way into the green hills past picturesque paddies. If you really want to get into the eco-friendly spirit of the Royal Project, get on your bike and take the newly-constructed cycle path, alongside the road, that goes nearly all the way to Chang Hua Man.
There are many different crops grown here with fruits including bananas, papaya, limes and pineapples; over 40 species of vegetables as well as rice and rubber. And all these crops are grown organically without chemicals – sustainability and environmental protection are a large part of all the Royal Projects.
The Chang Hua Man Royal Project takes full advantage of its position in the hills with a small wind farm to produce clean electric power. The impressive windmills can be seen from miles away and produce enough energy to power the Project with the excess being fed back into the local grid. Also a dairy farm has been added that uses free range techniques, so the Holstein Friesian cows have lots of space to wander. There are nearly 40 cows and the milk they produce can be brought in the Chang Hua Man shop and local markets.
On arrival at Chang Hua Man, take one of the informative bus tours. These show the most important parts of the Project and the open-sided buses allow you to enjoy the sights, sounds and scents of the area. The buses don’t stop though, so for a closer look at any of the crops and orchards, you should grab one of the free bikes for a more leisurely cycle around. Don’t miss seeing the King’s car and the wooden villa where he used to stay when visiting.
One of the main exhibitions is about Thai soil types. Most of us give soil very little thought and presume it is much the same wherever you are in the world. But actually soil changes not just from country to country but from region to region, and farmers need to know the exact makeup of the soil and its minerals so that can plant suitable crops. It’s an exacting science of one of the reasons why the work being done at Chang Hua Man is so important.
But all the Royal Projects give us a vital insight into where food comes from and the effort that goes into growing crops. And as our climate changes and we face an uncertain future, the Royal Projects are becoming more important than ever.
The Chang Hua Man Royal Project also offers a fun and informative day out to families where they can spend time in the fresh air, get their hands dirty and be more in touch with rural Thailand.
And before you leave, stock up on fresh fruits, milk or vegetables at the Golden Place shop. You can taste the hard work of Thailand’s farmers and appreciate the countryside in a whole new way.
- Location: The Project is around an hour’s drive from Cha-Am Beach and clearly signposted.
1 Ban Nong Kho Kai, Khao Puk Sub-district, Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi 76130; Tel: + 66 (0) 3247 2700
- Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday from 08:30 – 19:00 Hrs. Entry is 20 Baht per person.
- Tours: Buses tour the Project throughout the day. Be warned though that bus tours are conducted in Thai – if you don’t speak the language, talk to one of the guides who can explain some of the crops and exhibitions.