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The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun
The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun is a coffeeshop annex restaurant on a very large compound containing terracotta statues and structures. It is about 7km from Lamphun, not far from the Ping River. I have passed the garden numerous times on my bicycle rides but never noticed it because the garden is more than a km from the main road.
The Terracotta Garden (สวนไม้ไทยบ้านพ่อเลี้ยงหมื่น) at Lamphun is a project of the Maiwan family, who own the company Phor Liang Meun (Thai:พ่อเลี้ยงหมื่น) Terra Cotta Arts. The company specializes in terracotta products, inspired by Khmer and Chinese design. These products can be found at hotels and private residences around the country. By the way, “Phor Liang” means “stepfather” in Thai. “Muen” means “ten thousand”.
Ban Phor Liang Muen in Chiang Mai
I remember bumping into this place many years ago. Ban Phor Liang Muen was a shop and showroom, close to the Chiang Mai Gate market, where they sold terracotta statues inspired by Khmer temple architecture and religious images. Opposite the shop was an enclosed area with lots of terracotta statues and items, exhibited in a rather unorganized manner. As far as I know, it was the only place in Chiang Mai that specialized in this kind of terracotta art. Later on, the owners of Phor Liang Muen established a restaurant in the enclosed area: The Faces Gallery and Gastro Bar.
Phor Liang Muen Terracotta Arts Hotel
In 2015 the owners of Phor Liang Muen built the Phor Liang Muen Terracotta Arts Hotel, which has become quite popular due to its unique design and central location. Even during the Covid pandemic, this hotel boasted high occupancy. Then in 2021, the family opened the Terracotta Arts coffee shop and restaurant at its base near Lamphun.
This is the compound where the Maiwan family resides. It is also the production facility of the company. Within a short time, the Phor Liang Muen Terracotta Garden has become quite popular. During my visits, there were always guests, mostly local people and foreign residents.
A new attraction in Lamphun
The Terracotta Garden is a great new attraction in Lamphun but it is not finished. Most structures such as the Khmer-style chedi and the pond must have been there for a longer time. If you wander away from the coffee shop you can cross a pond by a bamboo bridge, which will bring you to the most spectacular structure: a Khmer-style chedi which could have been in Cambodia or Northeast Thailand. Statues, ornaments, and construction material are strewn about.
At the time of my visit, there were no workers around. Not far from this chedi is a pond with lilies and a statue of an ox. Around the pond is a built-up area in Khmer style. Close to the pond is the residence of the family with quite a few dogs. The grounds of the garden are very extensive, which will need a lot of maintenance. Over time this “historical” park has great potential.
The Terracotta factory
Wandering around I bumped into the production facility which is in a covered area. They have two kilns. The staff was working on very thick tiles to surface a path on the compound. Close by a man was working on two statues, which looked in the beginning phase. I will drop by regularly to watch the progress. He showed me a magazine with photographs that show the statue he wants to copy. I found this one of the most interesting places in the Terracotta Garden.
The garden is well worth visiting but don’t be surprised when you start roaming around. Don’t expect this to be a historical park. It is far from the finished product but it has the potential to become a very popular and unique attraction of Lamphun province. It is wonderful to witness the conservation of an ancient handicraft.
References for the Terracotta Garden at Lamphun
The Terracotta Garden at Lamphun is less than 10km from my house. I visited the garden several times and will go there regularly to check on the progress of the garden and the statues. The website of the Phor Liang Muen Terracotta Arts Hotel provided some information on the history of the Maiwan Family and of the company.
How to get to the Terracotta Garden at Lamphun?
The Terracotta Garden is in a rural area about 7km from Lamphun. There is no public transportation available so you will have to get there on your own or join a tour that features the garden. There is no entrance fee to the garden but I recommend having a coffee or enjoying lunch at the restaurant. The prices are reasonable.