Run for the hills

Enjoy the cooler temperatures at these winter fests

With Thailand's scorching heat almost all year round, there's never been a better time to take a break away from the hustle and bustle of the city and meander through verdant fields in 20+C weather. Looking for a place to soak in winter breeze? We've got you covered. From the leafy northern province of Chiang Rai to mountainous Loei, Guru has collected eight blooming flower gardens and exciting winter markets, which are open only for the next couple of months.

Winter Flower Gardens

@ Phu Ruea National Park

The period: Until the end of February

Standing at 1,365m above sea level, Phu Ruea mountain in Loei is renowned for its sweeping views of verdant grasslands and dense sea of fog during Thailand's winter months. In early October, the temperature was reported to have dropped as low as 15C at night and early in the mornings, with a high of 26C during the day. To mark the arrival of the cool weather, Phu Ruea National Park has opened its annual festival showcasing winter flower gardens. Visitors can find delight in the forest's vivid coloured orchids, including several rare genus, and many wildflowers in full bloom. If you're lucky, there's a chance you might spot a few wild animals, who inhabit the surrounding forests like wild boars, barking deer and various migratory birds who visit from China. At the campground, visitors can rent a tent nestled amidst a pine forest for B150 a night, or go for the fancier option of a large wooden cabin that can fit up to four people for B1,400-3,000 a night. The 8km drive to the mountain's peak is through steep and narrow roads, so park officers suggest visitors to leave their cars at the park's entrance and use the car service that they provide to go up the mountain.

Photo: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Entrance fee: For Thais, it's B40 for adults and B20 for kids. For foreigners, it's B200 for adults and B20 for kids.

5am-8pm / Phu Ruea National Park, Tambon Nong Bua, Phu Ruea, Loei / Visit bit.ly/2MUcWXR, 042-810-965, 088-509-5299.


Farm Festival on the Hill 2019

@ Singha Park Chiang Rai

The period: Nov 27–Dec 1

The Singha Park Chiang Rai's annual farm festival offers so much more than just the endlessly stretching beautiful scenery that the event's name suggests. There is also a strong line-up of artists this year such as Thaitanium, Lomsonic and Season Five, in an act featuring The Parkinson. In addition, a caravan of giant air balloons are set to launch from the grounds.

The park, previously called Boonrawd Farm, was reopened in 2013 after a 2 million baht renovation. Now, the 8,000 rai land boasts well-manicured, lush parks that are neat and sleek-looking while still providing the feel of being amidst nature. In the fields, you will find an oolong plantation and various fruit gardens that grow delights like organic strawberries and jujubes. Visitors can take a daily farm tour that runs between 9am-4pm for B100 for adults and B50 for kids. But if you're eager to explore the farm at your own pace, you can rent a bike and pedal your way down the park's 8km long bike trail. Besides fun activities, the festival brings together street food vendors who deliver quick and easy bites, to make sure no one goes hungry. And if that isn't enough, there is an on-site restaurant and café and also a shop selling fresh produce and farm products.

Photo: Singha Park

Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

Entrance fee: The five-day pass is B400 per person, while a one-day pass is B100 per person (tickets can be purchased at the festival).

8am-midnight / Singha Park Chiang Rai, Mae Kon, Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai / fb.com/SinghaparkChiangrai


Jim Thompson Farm

@ Jim Thompson

The period: Dec 7 to Jan 5, 2020

Spending a day in Nakhon Ratchasima is a splendid way to escape the city's heat. With its lush, green fields, Jim Thompson Farm offers visitors pleasant spots to roam freely. Since its opening in 1988, it has been considered a solid day-out option. One rather unfortunate fact about the farm, however, is that It opens to the public for only one month a year. The 600-rai/960,000m² property is divided into five zones: the vibrant cosmos field, which grows varieties of organic vegetables and fruits, a blooming sunflower garden, a giant pumpkin patch, an organic market and a replica of Isan Village, where visitors can learn about the northeastern way of life, cultures, and traditions. While enjoying the scenic views of the Payaprab Mountain and Lam Samai Reservoir, you can have fun joining in on silk-making processes and learning age-old techniques of reeling, dyeing and silk-weaving. There will also be art installations displayed throughout the fields from a famous Thai conceptual and contemporary artist, Pinaree Sanpitak and a Chiang Mai artist, Mitr Jai-In, giving you plenty of shots for IG. On your way out, make sure to stop at the market for some pesticide-free produce and fine textiles to take home with you.

Photos: Jim Thompson Farm

Entrance fee: B150 for adults, B100 for kids on weekdays; B180 for adults, B140 for kids on weekends.

9am-5pm / TamboN Takob, Pak Thong Chai, Nakhon Ratchasima / www.jimthompsonfarm.com, 044-373-116 / Tickets on www.ticketmelon.com/JimThompsonFarm/jimthompsonfarmtour19.


The Flora Festival 2020

@ The Royal Park Ratchapruek

The period: Until Feb 29, 2020

Since its opening in 2006, the Royal Park Ratchapruek has been a keen example of the country's love for greenery. With green mountain ranges as a backdrop, the park attracts many visitors throughout the year with its sprawling verdant fields that are beautifully adorned with diverse botanical specimens from 21 countries that lie in three of the world's continents.

For the festival, 800,000m² will feature the aptly named international gardens, in which 30 countries will present their signature floras and architecture. Other highlights include the Orchid Pavilion, which has more than 300 pure and hybrid orchid species, and the Tropical Dome, in which you can see ancient ferns growing. Besides flowers and plants, there will be a demonstration of modern Thai agriculture that focuses on the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej's self-sufficiency concept and a market offering fresh produce grown by highland communities every Saturday from 9am-5pm.

Photos: Pattarapong Chatpattarasill

Entrance fee: B100 for Thais, B70 for children B200 for non-Thais, B150 for children.

8am-6pm / The Royal Park Rajapruek, Moo 3, Mae Hia, Chiang Mai / www.royalparkrajapruek.org, 053-114-110-5.


Harvest Fest

@ Coro Field

The period: Dec 1 to the end of February

Coro Field, Ratchaburi's Japanese honeydew farm, will be celebrating Thailand's cherished winter weather again this year by holding its annual harvest festival, inviting all city folks for a day out amidst nature. This year's highlights will be the "Forget Me Not" and "Key O Me" flower gardens, and a special GIY cafe, where afternoon tea will be served with edible flowers featured in baked goods and beverages. Also check out Coro House, which will be filled with ripened sweet melons, only to be opened between Dec 25 and Jan 5. Guests will be allowed to harvest their own melons right off the ground and also learn techniques on how to grow them. Other activities include a greenhouse tour and various handy workshops, like the GIY (grow it yourself) workshop, where you can get your hands dirty decorating plant pots with dried flowers.

When you get hungry from all that activity, head to Coro cafe. Their kitchen busts out colourful, healthy dishes, featuring the farm's star ingredients: Tomi melons and Japanese sweet potatoes, along with various vegetables plucked fresh from the onsite garden. Oh, and don't be surprised to see people dressed in yukatas, as the event rents them out to guests who wish to stroll in style and fit in with the farm's theme.

Photos: Coro Field

Getting to Coro Field is a breeze-it is a mere two-hour drive from Bangkok. This is why we think Coro Field is, by far, the best spot to go to, if all you've got is a two-day weekend, or even one day off from work.

Entrance fee: Free of charge!

9am-7pm / Coro Field, 117 Ratchaburi-Pa Pok Road, Suan Pheung, Ratchaburi / fb.com/corofieldTH.


Sunflower Field

@ Rai Manee Sorn

The period: Around the mid or end of November to Jan 31, 2020

After a temporary closure of 10 months, Rai Manee Sorn has announced its return with an annual sunflower blooming festival. Expect to gaze in wonder at a vast sunflower field that covers a 540-rai area. This sunflower garden is much larger than the one in Jim Thompson Farm. In the afternoons, the place gets scorching hot and there are no shady areas you can find refuge in. So we highly recommend a visit in the morning (around 8-10 am) but if you're planning to be there in the afternoon, make sure to bring along an umbrella. There will be a few farm stands selling roasted sunflower seeds, various types of crackers and small bite items to snack on while wandering through the vivid field. Children can also enjoy feeding baby chicks and piglets at the "mini-farm" or enjoy a pony ride.

A side note: as of now, there has been no announcement of a specific start date for the festival since the farm is still waiting to see when exactly the flowers would bloom. But they have confirmed that it will either be in the middle or end of November. So keep yourself updated on the farm's Facebook page.

Photo: Rai Manee Sorn

Entrance fee: B40 for Adults, B20 for kids and B80 for foreigners.

7am-6pm / Sunflower Field Rai Manee Sorn, Mu Si, Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima / fb.com/manesornsunflower, 086-244-5336.


Winter Flower Garden

@ The Bloom By TV Pool

The period: Jan 31, 2020

Covering an area over 100 rai, The Bloom By TV Pool boasts vast botanical fields in the heart of Khao Yai National Park. Six floral gardens will feature scented roses, brightly coloured daisies, forget-me-not flowers, tulips and lilies, cherry blossoms and a green garden. In all, there are about 30 breeds of winter flowers and plants. Early in the morning, the area is hugged by a misty sea of fog, so best to pack your clothes with you and spend at least a night at the resort so that you can wake up to this. There are many types of accommodations on offer, from ordinary guest-rooms to lakeside villas to rustic wooden huts. Rate starts at B1,687 a night.

Photo: The Bloom by Tvpool

Entrance fee: B100 for Adults, B50 for kids.

7am-8pm / The Bloom By TV Pool, 357 Moo 5 Pak Chong District, Khao Yai National Park, Nakhon Ratchasima / www.thebloom.co.th, 092-279-1222.


The Mew Hill Market

@ The Mew Khao Yai

The period: Nov 30–Dec 1, Feb 1-2 and Feb 8-9, 2020

The Mew Khao Yai will be hosting its fourth series of an outdoor market set amid a green oasis. The event will be held on three weekends in the months of December and February. Expect row upon row of eco-friendly vendors, offering organic produce and handcrafted goods, ranging from clothing to homeware to natural beauty products. When feeling a little peckish, take delight in sampling an array of creative dishes and homemade baked goods on offer, while collecting bags of pesticide-free veggies to take home with you. There will also be a few workshops for children and adults.

Photo: The Mew Khao Yai

Entrance fee: Free of charge! 

10am-8pm / The Mew Khao Yai, Thanarat Road (km 12), Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima / fb.com/TheMew.KhaoYai, 098-382-5433.