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Huay Teung Thao park, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, is an oasis for the weary traveller. Here, among some eighty acres of wooded parkland surrounding a large lake, one can kick off the shoes, lay back and spare a thought for those poor slobs hard at work back home.

The park, which lies about two and a half kilometers beyond the 700 Year Sports Stadium on route 121, is a prime example of a Royal Project at work. Operated by the 33rd military circle, under the watchful eye of colonel Kamol Permkumlungpol ( Daeng to his friends), Huay Teung Thao boasts manicured lawns surrounding a cluster of red-roofed buildings at its entrance. Here, after paying the ten Baht entrance fee, one can hire a bicycle on which to tour the grounds, or a tent, if you wish to spend a night under the stars by the lake.

Most visitors, both local and overseas, will opt to spend at least a few hours in the park, where they can hire a bicycle, or use their own vehicle to circle the lake. The more hardy may opt to walk ,(Don't forget the hat!). The road circling the lake is just over three kilometers in length, and is tarmacked for most of the way.

A string of salas cling to the shore, providing shelter from the sun to those who choose to dine at one of the score or more restaurants operating along the water's edge. The cuisine is local, cheap and cheerful: a meal of Dtom Yaam Goong (soup), stir fried chicken and vegetables with rice, washed down with a cold beer, came to less than 160 Baht per person. You can, if you wish, bring your own food, but half the fun of visiting Huay Teung Thao is in sampling local dishes such as "dancing shrimp" (Goong Dten) freshwater shrimp dished up live in a sauce of Northern Thai spices and lime juice.

There are small boats, or pedaloes for hire, should you choose to spend part of your day on the water. The rate, at time of going to press: 40 Baht per half-hour 60 Baht for an hour. Windsurfing equipment can be rented for 150 Baht per hour, and if you get really hot, take a swim. Fishing, from the banks of the lake is also permitted.

There are designated camping sites where you can pitch your tent for a fee of 100 Baht per night, or hire one from the park authority for 150 Baht per night. Colonel Daeng's people can even arrange for barbecued food to be supplied at reasonable cost.

For those who wish to relax and be entertained, local musicians perform on weekends and on public holidays, with bands taking to the stage from two in the afternoon until seven in the evening. The more intrepid can hire an expert guide and trek through the forest to the Taad Mok waterfall, high in the hills en route to Doi Pui; I'm told it takes about forty minutes each way.

Getting to Huay Teung Thao. There are several ways by which to reach the park. I chose the following: Leave the city via Huay Kaew road, heading for Doi Suthep. Upon reaching the intersection with Canal Road, with the Chiang Mai Phucome hotel on your left, turn right at the traffic lights. Continue on this road until you reach the 700 Year Sport Complex on your left hand side. At approximately three kilometers past this point look out for the sign saying "Huay Teung Thao". This will be on your left, where a small bridge rises from the main road to the park entrance. After crossing this bridge, you can make use of the free jogging and cycling trail on your right. Bikes can be hired at this point. If you choose to hire your bike in the park itself, carry on for one kilometer to the entrance, and look for the "bicycles for hire" signs thereafter.

Huay Teung Thao opens seven days a week, from six am until seven thirty pm. The entrance fee is currently ten Baht per person; this will rise to twenty Baht per person as of January the first 2005.

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